ALMS: Soggy end to a terrific weekend at Road Atlanta

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The Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta was supposed to be 1,000 miles long but four hours after the start, the race was stopped. It was the right call. Audi’s Allan McNish echoed the decision in our podcast interview and most everyone who braved the elements did as well. The conditions were torrential and while fans typically want to see a race, everyone I spoke with understand the dangers presented and were thankful for a terrific weekend at Road Atlanta…including myself.

The truncated race was officially called leaving Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin and their Peugeot #08 car the winners. Audi had experienced defeat for the first time at the Petit since 2000 with a third and fourth place finish. It was shaping up to be a good battle and it looked as if the Audi’s had the pace on the intermediates tires while Peugeot dominated on full-wets.

The LMP2 category saw equally good racing with Dyson Racing Team winning their second race of the season with the #20 Lola-Mazda of Marino Franchitti, Ben Devlin and Butch Leitzinger.

The GT2 category was won by Risi Competizione Ferrari who lead Rahal Letterman Racing’s BMW’s and Farnbacher-Loles Prosche.

There were many stories from the weekend and perhaps the most critical moment was Scott Sharp’s violent crash during Thursday’s practice session. Sharp walked away from the heap of metal that used to be an Acura ARX-02a and the teams set about rebuilding. They did a yeoman’s job of it to.

On Friday, September 25, at 9:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time, a new tub arrived from the Honda Performance Development Center in Los Angeles. The Highcroft Racing team then spent the next 24 hours rebuilding the car, getting some assistance from archrival de Ferran Motorsports The team only used 10 percent of the parts from the original car, and were forced to start the race from pit road.

Road Atlanta, near Braselton Georgia, is a fabulous circuit. The staff, amenities and vistas are fabulous and even with the rain; the dedicated fans were entertained and provided for by the entire Road Atlanta crew. It’s the first time I have been to Road Atlanta and I was very impressed. As I walked back to the parking lot, I interviewed several fans for my own personal edification. A rain-shortened race must surely have dampened their spirits and perhaps brought some criticism to the ALMS for calling the race? Not at all. Each fan had a terrific time and the circuit is a fabulous place to watch a race or not watch a race.

As we move on to Laguna, Sebring and other venues to cover the ALMS series, I will certainly mark my calendar for a return trip to Road Atlanta. If you’re looking for a race to attend, make sure this one is on your calendar too.

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