ROAD ATLANTA BACKGROUND: Dirk Mueller made his racing debut in America at the Grand Prix at Road Atlanta in April, 1999, taking the GT pole and finishing second in class. The German-born driver who now resides in Monaco swept all GT honors at the...
ROAD ATLANTA BACKGROUND: Dirk Mueller made his racing debut in America at the Grand Prix at Road Atlanta in April, 1999, taking the GT pole and finishing second in class. The German-born driver who now resides in Monaco swept all GT honors at the 1999 Petit Le Mans taking the pole, class victory and setting GT Fastest Lap of the 1,000- mile endurance event. Road Atlanta is literally the backyard for Mueller's team, Dick Barbour Racing as the recently built 85,000 sq. foot facility sits just outside Turn 1 on the 2.56-mile circuit. Mueller, the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans GT winner, will return to Road Atlanta to try and defend his title at the September 30 Petit Le Mans Presented by Audi, the ninth stop on the 2000 American Le Mans schedule.
A LAP OF ROAD ATLANTA
by Dirk Mueller, Porsche factory driver
INTRODUCTION: Road Atlanta is a real nice track, one of my favorites in the world. It's actually the first track I raced on when I came over to America. It was in 1999 in a Porsche 911 RSR. I really love the track and am looking forward to the 1,000 miles at the end of this month.
Coming down the front straight to Turn 1, it's real important to get the right entry because it is very wide. It's going up, up to Turn 2 so you need to carry all your speed. It's a fourth gear right-hand corner. Then you're going uphill in fifth gear.
Now, you come to the little esses, Turns 2, 3 and 4 (a right-left-right combination). You're using Turn 2 just to brake down. It's a little narrow there. Then for Turn 3, you're using gear three. Just at the exit and at the curbs, you're shifting to fourth gear. The esses are really, really quick and you need a good car there. You need to be fit, I mean physically as well as having a mechanically sound car. It's taken in fourth gear, nearly flat. Maybe for one qualifying lap, it will be flat out.
At the bottom of the esses, you're shifting up to fifth gear. Then for Turn 5, you have to brake hard in fourth gear. This left-hand corner is quite important because after that, you have a long straight where you can lose or gain time. You use all the room you have in Turn 5.
Then, shift up to fifth gear, braking down to fourth gear in Turn 6. Turn 6 is a nice, little right-hander with a lot of run-off so there's no problem at all. You drive that corner from the outside of the track to the inside and back to the outside.
The most important corner is Turn 7 (the slowest corner at around 100 kilometers -- 62 miles an hour) because after this right-hander, there is the longest straight. You need to carry all your speed and take care that you have no oversteer. It's taken in second gear, then third, fourth, fifth and sixth.
The long straight is one of the biggest advantages for our GT3 R car. I mean the really good straightaway speed. The top speed here will be maybe around 286-287 kilometers (177-178 mph).
Then it's hard braking down to Turn 10A, a left-hand, third gear corner. At the end of Turn 10B, which is a right-hander, you shift to fourth gear. Then you have to concentrate on the bridge (Turn 11) to be at the right position for the really uphill part. Going up, you shift to fifth gear.
Turn 12 is the final corner, a right-hander that is taken totally flat-out until the end of the stint. Just after the curbs, you have to shift into sixth gear heading towards the Start/Finish line.
This is one lap of Road Atlanta with me and my Porsche 911 GT3 R. Honestly, my favorite parts of the track are Turns 11 and 12, the fast section as well as the esses. The GT3 R has an advantage on the straightaway and on the fast corners that don't have any big bumps. And there are many places around the circuit to overtake cars - at Turn 1 and before Turns 5, 6, 7 and 10.
My fitness training is about the same in comparison to a "normal 2-hour, 45-minute race." I mean, I have to be fit for all the races but for sure the 1,000 miles at the Petit Le Mans. It will be much more strenuous there since Lucas (Luhr, teammate) and I are racing alone.
A lot of things can happen during the long distance and therefore you have to take care of the traffic and of the GT3 R. You have to watch the mirrors for the traffic and you have to take speed out to save the reliability of the GT3 R. Generally, you have to be more careful during the race. Traffic is about the same as the shorter races but the one difference is that you're driving towards the night and this is not so easy. The pit stops are important as well. We are supposed to have around eight stops during the 1,000 miles and each stop is very important not to lose time.