Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Day 3-10 (the Petite Le Mans):

Finally…. a day to rest and relax a bit. This past week has been a blur. Very long days and very short nights. We just about exhausted ourselves. We departed North Carolina early on the 2nd and arrived at the Ft. Yargo State Park campground just before noon. Trip went well without incident. Got set up and explored the park a bit. We knew we must be at the Road Atlanta track early so we hit the hay by 9 PM.

Road Atlanta is situated on GA Rt. 53 between Braselton and Gainesville. We were not expecting the geography of the track to be what it was. Most tracks are flat and, occasionally, some have small hills in the course. Road Atlanta is all hills with very few flat sections. This made it difficult for us to walk around for we were constantly going up and down these hills. After doing that several times we decided to stay put and watch the racing from the bed of our truck. That worked very well. Our own box seat.

Wednesday thru Friday was testing, practicing, and qualifying. Also, there were several races of different classes on Friday afternoon. The Petite Le Mans, itself, is a 10 hour/1,000 mile race, which ever comes first. It begins at 11:15 AM on Saturday and finishes at 9:15 PM that evening. The cars are in four classes: LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype Class 1), LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype Class 2), GT1 (Grand Touring Class 1), and GT2 (Grand Touring Class 2). Our Corvettes run in the GT1 class. For more information on these classes and the American Le Mans Series, go to www.americanlemans.com.

Our main interest was to watch the Corvettes racing in the GT1 class. We have been following this racing team since Chevrolet re-started its racing efforts with the Corvette about 8 years ago. Since then, they have dominated their class in almost every race.

Of particular interest was the pit or paddock area. This is where the teams set up their shops. It is a hustle-bustle area and there is so much to see. On Friday afternoon, the teams all set up tables and all the drivers were present for an autograph session. I did not find a picture or anything that I wanted to frame with the drivers autographs so I spent all afternoon Thursday taking pictures of the Corvettes as the made their practice runs. I was using my Canon Powershot 80 (4 mega-pixel) and was skeptical of the quality of the pictures taken at high speed. I used the high-speed continuous frame setting and I was very pleasantly surprised at the outcome. We took the final selections to Wal-Mart that evening and printed two 8x10 pictures of each of the Corvettes. There are two that race with the numbers 3 and 4, respectively. I matted the pictures and each of the drivers signed them on Friday. What a treasure.

On race day we arrived at the track very early so we could get the same parking spot that we were using for the three previous days. That meant getting up at 2:30 AM and getting to the track by 4 AM. We were successful in getting our spot. Perfect view of the straightaway leading into the chicane (turns 10a and 10b) and its exit under the Suzuki bridge to the finish line.

The race started on time and within just a few laps the Number 3 Corvette, driven by Jon Mangussen (Denmark) wrecked. At that point in time, he was in the lead of the GT1 Class. The damage was too severe to get back into the race. Mangussen was not hurt, but was taken to the hospital for observation. He left the track and hit a tire barrier at over 150 MPH. That left the Number 4 Corvette to take over the lead. And that is where it stayed to the finish.

We departed the track just as the race finished. This allowed us to beat the terrible back-ups that followed after the race. All in all, the 4 days at the track were very enjoyable. It was a new experience for us.

We left Ft. Yargo yesterday (8th) morning and made the 2 hour trip to Ft. Gordon Recreation Facility with ease. We are using this time for some house cleaning, re-supply, and down time. Tomorrow morning we head back to Concord, NC and Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Bank of America 500 on Saturday night. Four days of tailgating with the race fans. This will be very interesting and physically draining. I will update as soon as I can since there will be no Internet access there.

Post Script: I want to congratulate my adopted son and close friend Hector De Valle on successfully gaining his professorship at the university he is teaching at in Puerto Rico. WAY TO GO, Hector!!!!!!!!!


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