Fun at the Track….(“Race? What race?”)
By James Edmonds - Guest Blogger - Winner - Third Place - Road Atlanta Blogging Contest
It’s that time of year again….no, not Thanksgiving or Christmas, but Petit Le Mans!!
For those who have been coming for years, or for those who are starting a new tradition; whether coming with old friends or new, one thing is for sure….you will make life-long memories and will be back again. This event, like its namesake big brother at La Sarthe has that effect on people.
Although the primary focus is on the Big Race, there is plenty to do while you’re here, and it would be a shame to miss out on some of the other fun stuff. For many of us this makes up for at least half of, if not more of the weekend’s fun.
If you’ve thought ahead and rented a golf cart (or better yet, brought your own), this is a great way to get around the huge facility. If you want to watch the start of the race from turn one, then shoot down to 11 for a few laps, it’s a drag (literally!) if you’re hoofing it. Those hills are steep! After the support races are over, lots of the teams turn in their carts and are gone by Friday night. If you go behind the ticket offices to the rental area, you might get lucky! A word of warning though….John Q Law frowns upon the practice of “hootin’ and hollerin’” after midnight – there’s a noise ordnance you know!
If you are there for the duration, camping is always fun. Cooking out and sleeping under the stars (if you are fortunate) is one of the longest standing traditions in endurance racing. If you are a grill master, you never know which personality or team member will pass through your camp and share a laugh or a lamb chop!
The Friday autograph session is not to be missed if you enjoy getting up close with the teams and drivers. Unlike many other race series you may have been to before, all ALMS paddocks are open to general admission ticket holders, which means you can go right up to your favorite team’s garage and have a chat with the crew or drivers. If you are nice enough, you might even get your picture taken with the car – or if your kids are with you, a pic of them in it! Most teams love coming here and seeing the all-American enthusiasm, which greatly endears them to the fans.
After practice or qualifying, the souvenir hunters are on the prowl. Any cars that may have had a shunt or other contretemps during the session will have been brought back to the paddock for repair. The teams toss broken bits into the trash all the time, and these make great trophies for the seasoned ‘souvey’ hunter. Be polite and ask though! Take it to the aforementioned autograph session and get a driver’s signature on it to make it that much more personal for you.
Vendor row….my favorite! Get this out of the way early, then you can roam all weekend relatively unencumbered. There is always a hive of activity here ahead of the race with all sorts of personalities doing talks, autograph sessions or tech talks.
No matter what you are looking for here – rare books, models, stickers, shirts, artwork – you name it and you’ll likely find it here. Bring lots of green with you and if you are funding a particular vendor’s mortgage, make sure you give him a bit of a haggle. They generally are willing to help you if you are helping them.
There is so much to do, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Let us know what you did, who you saw, what you found and above all, how much fun you had. Enjoy the races here at Road Atlanta!