BRASELTON — This year’s running of the Petit Le Mans was anything but normal.
Audi’s reign of titles this year came to an end in the LMP1 classification in the 12th year of this race on the American Le Mans circuit, just as Peugeot became the first car made by a French manufacturer to win a North American endurance race.
However, the dominating storyline of Saturday’s race at Road Atlanta was the fact that rain forced the 10-hour endurance race to be cut short. The team of Franck Montagne and Stephane Sarrazin made up a two-lap early deficit in the fifth and final hour to capture the title for Peugeot.
With a four-hour delay due to heavy rain at the course in South Hall, the race was officially called at 8 hours and 44 minutes and with 184 laps completed by the winners.
“I don’t think we won the Petit Le Mans today,” Montagny said. “We won the mini Le Mans.”
The team from Peugeot has rocketed up the American Le Mans standings quickly this season, winning in only the pair’s third race. They finished second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the summer.
After the win, Sarrazin saw no need to speculate whether the team would have held on for victory had it gone to the 1,000 mile or 10-hour limit against the Audis. Sarrazin and Montagny now have a combined seven victories in the American Le Mans Series.
“We did the best we could in the time we had and our team did a remarkable job to bring this victory,” Sarrazin said.
Dyson Racing also earned its first Petit Le Mans victory after taking the title in the LMP2. Mario Franchitti, Butch Leitzinger and Ben Devlin won the race after picking up three laps late in the race to gain the lead before the red flag came out.
“When we picked up those three laps late it was basically two laps with the pace we set and one lap on strategy,” Franchitti said. “This is a real thrill to win this race and the buzz behind it gets bigger and bigger each year.”
Despite the unfortunate decisions that had to be made concerning the duration of the race, participants raved about the atmosphere created by the race at Road Atlanta.
“This race has the right composite, the right drama and the right track,” team owner Rob Dyson said. “This is a real car race.”
Even with the outcome of the race, Acura owns the team title in the LMP2 and Porsche is the points champion in GT2. Flowery Branch’s Johnny O’Connell placed sixth overall in the GT2 for Corvette.
Ferrari won the GT2 title behind Risi Campetzione, Jaime Melo, Pierre Kaffer and Mika Salo, winning the team’s fifth straight endurance race, and second consecutive season at Petit Le Mans.
The team went from sixth place to first when it made the decision to change to tires designed for wet conditions.
“We didn’t want to take any risks as a team early, and our strategy to change tires on the car really paid off,” Salo said.
The Ferrari team in now in second place and 19 points out of first place.
The ALMS season finale at the Monterey Sports Car championships Oct. 11.