On the 14th July 2018 CFEG hosted its first ever Petit Le Mans at the circuit of Road Atlanta. 33 teams all consisting of 2-3 drivers took up the challenge in a bid to tame this race course over a grueling 10 hour test. As drivers sliced through traffic while managing changing track conditions, it became clear that very few would have the opportunity to make it to the chequered flag that would be waved during the hours of darkness. This article highlights the best moments of the event.
The qualifying session certainly separated the teams, with experience showing from the likes of Black Hawk Racing, Poland Sim racing, New comers Pjama Racing and others. Sectors times were split but just a few tenths in places, indicating that this race was going to be close if left down pure race pace alone. The #44 Team Grasso secured the overal top spot in their Grey camouflage themed LMP2, with the #6 Black Hawk Racing car alongside for the green.
In LMP3 is was once again the #77 Driven by Poland Sim racings S.Kosmala taking pole position alongside the #11 of SRF Alusimium, a rivalry that was still present since the 12 Hours of Le Mans a few months back. GTE was tamed by the lone Ferrari of PMK Racing in the hands of T.Hakkinen. However they would need to defend from the green from the #84 Speedymite Aston Martin who qualified just a few tenths of the pace.
Of course in an event like Petit Le Mans, qualifying isn't truly that important, however what it did display was the teams really didn't have much of advantage over another. No clear winner emerged, creating a great atmosphere before the start.
The die was cast then for a great race at Road Atlanta, Several teams showed similar pace as the safety car completed its warm up lap before allowing all three classes to erupt into a wave of Metal and Noise.
The LMP2 were the first to get underway. The #44 led the way quickly followed by the #13 of Speedymite racing who demoted the #6 Black Hawk Racing car down into 3rd in class at the end of turn 1. Further bad luck would emerge as the two Pyjama racing cars made a move down the inside towards the chicance at turn 10, the #6 out-braking itself and sending it into the gravel, allowing both Pyjama cars along with the sister #7 Black Hawk car to move up the order.
The LMP3 order was fairly relaxed at the start of the race, with the #77 retaining the lead as well as the #11 and #31 Viper Racing car in pursuit after the first couple of laps. Team RSI would be the first car to suffer from a collision as the LMP3's went two wide into turn 3. Team RSI ending up with the less favourable outcome.
In GTE the Speedymite car, driven by L.Berk took away the lead from the #12 PMK Racing Ferrari before turn 1. The Aston Martin team would great an incredible gap of 60 seconds in the first hour alone, the rest of the GTE cars left to battle for the remaining podium positions.
The leading #44 car would make a mistake at the start of lap 4 after carrying too much speed into turn 3. the driver C.Rigo would take a detour into the grass, allowing the #13 Speedymite Racing car into the lead. The #44 would rejoin in 6th place with a long recovery drive ahead.
In GTE it was the #28 CFEG car driven by D.Boon who made up the most ground. As the LMP2 traffic intervened the bright blue Corvette C7 dived through the ranks, making his way up into 2nd in class. It was not to last however as the #77 LMP3 took the inside line at turn 1, resulting in the #12 PMK racing retaking the position, with the #73 Rookie Monster car exchanging paintwork on the entry to turn 3, sending the CFEG car spiralling down the GTE field. Further battles would rage on in the next few hours as teams try to gain control of the last two available podium spots.
The first casualty of the race would be the leading LMP3 car. S.Kosmala suffered a very strange bug which resulted in the car being ejected off track limits where he got the view of a trackside spectator. The car had been rolled several times and was in no shape to continue the race, retiring on lap 22. This would in turn give the #11 SRF Alusimium car the lead in class for the foreseeable future.
As the race progressed several teams in the LMP2 class would take the lead of the race. Pyjama racing, Black Hawk Racing, Team Grasso and Speedymite all entered a frenzied battle in and out of the pit lane to try and control the lead of the event. No clear winner was emerging after several pit stops and driver changes.
In LMP3 however the lead was handed over to the #17 Schubert Motorsport car. N.Newcombe along with his teammate would crawl their way to the front as the #11 and their sister car ran into issues forcing them to retire. The #17 would battle with the #72 Team RSI car, who themselves made a fantastic recovery after their earlier troubles, but the #17 would take victory in the end come the chequered flag.
Due to the nature of the circuit, it was clear that whoever could survive Petit Le Mans would still be a winner in their own right. As we entered the last few moments of daylight several teams retired due to technical issues or by crashing into something. Road Atlanta took no prisoners and showed no mercy to even the most experienced teams, the dark bringing new challenges and problems for the teams.
Several hours of traffic management, pit lane strategy and outright speed left two LMP2 cars out at the front. The #44 and the black Hawk #6 car would give us a almighty show in the last few remaining rays of sunshine. Several time the two teams would take the lead of the race as they battled on the circuit as well as in the pit lane.
With the help of lapped traffic the Black Hawk Racing car would gain the advantage, their car faster in a straight line compared to the #44. F.Grasso fought back with everything he had, only to misjudge the entry into turn 3 which cost the team more time. However as the race entered the last remaining hours the #6 would receive a drive through penalty after an unsafe rejoin into the track limits. The penalty proved vital to the end result as team Grasso were able to gain a lead of around 30 seconds at the last round of pit stops. The #22 Pyjama racing car would hold onto the third place slot in lmp2, several issues took them out of the running for the overall win, however a strong performance made them the best of the rest.
In LMP3 it would still be Schubert Motorsport in the #17 who took victory, they maintained a comfortable lead over their rivals Team RSI, with the last of the podium finishers being the #31 Viper racing Team, their best result to date.
Finally in GTE it was a commanding drive from the #84 Speedymite racing Aston Martin as they led the race from start to finish. Behind with a deficit of one lap, the #110 Poland Simracing car had made its way into second place after outlasting the competition. consistency truly was the key to their success at RA. Finally it was the #12 PMK Racing Ferrari who rounded out the podium spot. A long recovery drive would see off the Schubert #66 Aston who fought fiercly for the position, they would sadly run into issues in the later stages, forcing them down into 4th in class.
This race truly had it all. Road Atlanta was an amazing challenge for the teams. Allot of familiar faces joined us from our 12 hours of Le Mans not but a few months ago and they all commented on how different the experience was. In the true spirit of multiclass racing Petit Le Mans has left its own unique mark on the teams, giving them an experience they won't soon forget. Don't change a bit RA, we will be back next year for more.
We hope you all enjoyed the race, join us again soon for more multiclass endurance action!