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Road Atlanta prepares for upcoming Petit Le Mans
Annual event brings in more than 100,000 spectators
1020lemans 3
Rebellion team members talk just prior to the start of Petit LeMans in Braselton in October 2013. The P1 Lola-Toyota finished six laps ahead of the second-place Level 5 Motorsports’ P2 car. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Petit Le Mans

What: The inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup season finale, 10 hours or 1,000 miles

When: 11:15 a.m., Oct. 4, with multiple events held Oct. 1-3

Where: Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway, Braselton

How much: A four-day superticket is $80 in advance or $90 at the gate; a one-day superticket is $60 in advance or $70 at the gate. Other ticketing options are available.

More info: www.roadatlanta.com

A prominent worldwide event is set to once again take place in South Hall County.

The 17th annual Petit Le Mans sports car endurance race is at Road Atlanta on Oct. 1-4, culminating with the main event at 11:15 a.m. Oct. 4.

“It’s the beginning of a new era where we bring in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship,” said Road Atlanta President Geoff Lee.

Practices and qualifying sessions are scheduled in the days leading up to the race; fans from around the world flock to the venue for opportunities to interact with drivers.

The 10-hour Road Atlanta event gets its name from the 24-hour sports car race hosted annually in the town of Le Mans, France. “Petit” is French for “small” or “little.”

The upcoming race was the main topic at a Tuesday meeting of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s South Hall Business Coalition.

Braselton resident Bryan Sellers, the 2013 Petit Le Mans GT Champion, has both inside and outside perspective of just how the event, and the Road Atlanta venue, affect the community.

“I’ve been able to watch the race grow over the years,” Sellers said. “I have to say the last five years have been significant growth from the outside looking in. I’ve been here to see the increase in the economy, to see the new hotels ... that have gone up in the past few years because of the racetrack.”

Information in Road Atlanta’s presentation at the breakfast said more than 131,000 guests attended the 2013 Petit Le Mans. A 2005 economic impact study by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce listed Road Atlanta as having the second-largest economic impact to the area, with Lake Lanier coming in first.

The venue brought in $53.5 million according to the 2005 study; out of $196.3 million, that comes to 27 percent of total tourism dollars.

“I like to say that we’re the perfect storm,” Lee said. “Everybody comes in and they spend their dollars in the restaurants, they stay in the hotels, they shop in the malls and they go away.”

Road Atlanta brings in around 350,000 guests annually, according to Lee.

There’s also a lot of outside exposure during Petit Le Mans. The race will be livestreamed online, and a condensed two-hour version of the event will air on the Fox television network Oct. 5, following NFL football.

“It’s pretty big exposure for this area,” Lee said. “If the weather’s nice, it’s literally a video postcard (sent) internationally.”

Last year, the event said goodbye to the American Le Mans series, making 2014 the inaugural year for the race’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

“As a driver, as team owners, as mechanics, it’s a race that’s coveted to win in the U.S.,” Sellers said. “I would say it’s one of our ‘triple crown’ races. It’s one of our three biggest sports car races, and I’d say one of the five (top) sports car races in the world.”

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