Petit Le Mans – Prep before the race

In this week’s blog post we will take a look at pre-race prep.  The majority of the information will be of use if you are planning on camping at Road Atlanta for race week. But, if you’re planning on just visiting during the day and plan on grabbing a hotel room in the evenings, there are probably a few nuggets in here for you too.

For me planning for Petit typically starts in late July or early August.  It all starts with putting out an electronic party invitation to the usual group of friends that have turned up in years past or shown an interest in attending the race.  The numbers have varied from year to year.  Last year there was a total of about 18 people that camped out over the days leading up to the race but that was a big number.

The first task that needs to be completed is to purchase tickets, camping passes, and parking passes.   For first timers exactly what to purchase can be a little confusing.   Road Atlanta offers four, two and one day passes for admission into the event.

If you are planning on camping at the track, Road Atlanta offers two options.  The first option is to purchase reserved RV spots.  These spots are primarily located in the infield around the Turns Six, Seven and Eight and outside the back straight and the Turn 10 complex.  Typically these spots are where you will find the big motor home rigs. 

The second option is non-reserved tent and RV camping. Non-reserved sites are located throughout the Road Atlanta facility (See track map for locations http://www.roadatlanta.com/fan-guide/trackmap-fan).  All of the non-reserved sites are first-come, first-serve basis, so the best plan is to get to the track early if you want to have a chance at a good site.  If you are planning on bringing a RV, travel trailer or ‘pop-up’ you will most likely need to be at the track no later than Thursday afternoon to find a spot.  Tent campers have a little more time since tents can be setup in areas inaccessible to RVs.

When purchasing non-reserved camping tickets you will need to purchase a camping pass (Tent $50/RV $100) too. You will also need to purchase an infield parking pass, which will allow you to drive your vehicle into the facility.  A motorhome requires only the camping pass, but if you are towing a trailer into Road Atlanta you will need to purchase a parking pass for the tow vehicle andcamping pass for the trailer. 

If you are tent camping Road Atlanta offers free parking outside the track so you can avoid the parking pass but you will have to hike your gear in… I would not recommend it! Remember, what you pack in, you have to pack out after a few days of serious but tiring racing.  Make this as enjoyable and as easy as you can. No reason to come to have a great time and have the little things get in the way.

Another important thing to remember at Road Atlanta is that there are no hookups for water or electricity so you have to be prepared to be completely self-sustaining.  You will have to bring with you the water you will need! Finding water at the track is difficult at best so if you run out you will most likely need to travel offsite for more. So, again, a little planning now is better than being frustrated later!  If you are camping in a trailer and have access to a generator, that can be useful.  However, do the rest of us a favor… if you have a generator that sounds like a locomotive would you please not run it all night to charge your smart phone?  Your fellow campers might plan and execute a midnight raid to silence it.

Road Atlanta has a couple of locations where you can get a shower located on the property for campers.  However, only the one in the support paddock behind the Tower Media Center has hot water.  It can be a long walk in shower shoes for hot water. Just plan on wearing lots of deodorant and not worry too much about a shower.   If you’re one of these people that “must have a shower” everyday. Well, get used to being cold or, better yet, maybe the Chateau Élan is a better bet for you.

With this year’s race being nearly a month later in the year than last year’s race, be prepared for cooler temperatures at night.  Late October in Georgia can easily see temperatures drop into the low 40’s to high 30’s at night, so be prepared to keep warm.  The upside is that day light hours during the race should be quite comfortable.  Layered clothing is probably a good idea.

In closing, I thought I would provide a list of items that I consider essential to camping and/or attending Petit Le Mans.  These things are in addition to the normal items you would bring on a multi-day camping trip.

All attendees (Whether Camping or Not)

  • Old shoes – The famous red clay around Road Atlanta will absolutely ruin a good pair of shoes.  New white sneakers beware.
  • Comfortable shoes - As mentioned in my first blog, being able to walk around the track to view the action is a great part of Petit, but Road Atlanta is extremely hilly.  Make sure to have well worn comfortable shoes if you are planning on hiking.
  • Bike – If so inclined bikes are allowed on the property
  • Golf carts, etc are allowed as well.  See www.roadatalanta.comfor details on what is permitted.
  • Ear plugs
  • Radio/Scanner with noise canceling headphones – This is the best way to keep track of the race.  Note - Road Atlanta has a radio signal that carries the race commentary 97.9 FM so if you don’t have a scanner, bring an FM radio. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Camera 
  • Rain Gear – Just in case…

Campers

  • Levelers – Road Atlanta is a lot of things, but level ain’t one of them.  If you are camping in an RV be prepared to use a fair amount of leveling blocks to get your rig even close to level.  Best rule of thumb… bring more than you think you could possibly need. If you don’t need them, a neighbor will.
  • Fire Ant killer – Welcome to the South.  The fire ants at the track can be vicious.  We have been bringing fire ant granules for several years and it makes a big difference.
  • Orange traffic cone – As race day approaches, parking in the infield becomes difficult.  If you have to run off site to pick up supplies, a well placed traffic cone will help ensure you have a place to park when you get back to your campsite.
  • Corn Hole Boards, Ladder Golf, or other tailgating games – An extra something to do in when a break from the on track action is needed.
  • Awnings/EZ-up – With a few exceptions you are pretty much camping in an open field, so you will need to create your own shade.  Last year my group used five EZ-Ups but that may have been overkill.
  • Straw – If God forbid there is rain, throwing some straw down will reduce the mud and mess. You’ll still have red clay everywhere but it will make you feel like you at least tried.

Next week’s blog will be about the days leading up to the race.  Practice and qualifying, some thoughts on night practice, and camp set up.  As always I hope this blog is somewhat useful to you. Until next week, Cheers. 

By Dean Richardson, longtime Petit Le Mans spectator

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