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Race fans turn out big for Petit Le Mans anniversary
Road Atlanta celebrates 20 years of signature road race with new attractions
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Fans turned out on dreary day for the 20th annual Petit Le Mans road race at Road Atlanta in Braselton. - photo by Kaylee Martin
The Tequila Patron ESM Racing Nissan DPi driven by Scott Sharp, Ryan Daziel and Brendon Hartley was the overall winner Saturday, Oct. 7, in the 20th anniversary Petit LeMans road race at Road Atlanta. - photo by Douglas Chellew

BRASELTON — Despite a rainy start to the day, more than 130,000 race fans turned out this weekend for the 20th anniversary of the Petit Le Mans road race.

Spectators took part in activities that includes autograph sessions, fan grid walks and paddock access, plus an all-new fan zone with interactive displays and simulators. A 90-foot Ferris wheel paid tribute to Petit Le Mans’ French origin, and a 20th anniversary booth displayed historic race cars and memorabilia.

While the rain didn’t slow things down on the track, it didn’t stop fans from supporting their favorite drivers.

Like many attendees, David Echols of Athens enjoyed the action from Spectator Hill.

“I’ve been coming to Petit Le Mans for six or seven years now,” Echols said. “I’ve been a car enthusiast ever since I can remember, and now I currently work in the motorsport field. I’ve worked for smaller race teams in the past, and to see the difference between the levels of competition is amazing. These cars are so technologically advanced with the engineering involved in building them, and the drivers are some of the best in the world.”

Caley Stokes and her fiancé Matthew Brueck of Winder were also there to watch the event, from Turn 3. The long-time race attendees host their own automotive events locally through iTrack Motorsports.

“This is my seventh year at Petit Le Mans,” Stokes said. “I love the whole atmosphere, and just being able to come hang out, camp and relax. It’s a great way to catch up with people you haven’t seen in a long time. A lot of my friends from back home in Florida come up to visit and watch the race.”

Others were newer to the event, but enjoyed it just as much as the regulars. Zachary Gamber of Hull has been coming to Petit Le Mans for three years.

“While I love the race itself, one of my favorite parts is the very beginning, before the race,” he said. “From a cultural standpoint, I think it’s interesting that they play the national anthems of all the countries represented in the race before the race actually begins. This is truly an international event, considering it pays homage to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, plus there are so many competitors from other countries.”

The four-day event at Road Atlanta concluded with a 10-hour endurance race Saturday. The race serves as the season finale of both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Patrón North American Endurance Cup, with over 35 cars and teams from across the globe competing for the top spot.

About 15 manufacturers were also represented, including series regulars and all-new prototypes.