"Pre-Petit" testing is under way this morning at Road Atlanta, exactly a week prior to the green flag for Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6. And Mazda is a great place to start as one of the most anticipated entries in this year's endurance classic took to Road Atlanta for the first time.

B-K Motorsports' Mazda MZR-R-powered Lola LMP2 coupe is one of two closed- top prototypes entered for the annual 1,000-mile/10-hour race (Peugeot's diesel-powered 908 HDi being the other. Ben Devlin made the initial passes in the Lola B08/80 coupe, which got its first shakedown a couple of weeks ago at Road America.

"We really didn't do anything at speed. We just did a few laps there to make everything worked - gear shifts and things like that," said Gerardo Bonilla, who will drive the Lola-Mazda with Devlin and Raphael Matos. "Hopefully the next two days will be beneficial in that regard.

Bonilla admitted it was a bit strange being in a closed-top car after piloting the open-cockpit Lola B07/46. "The front view is actually better without the hump in front of the cockpit," he said. "But the view out of the sides and mirrors are a bit tighter. The tub and suspension feel different and some of the geometrical aspects. It'll be fun."

The car attracted attention throughout the paddock. Even some members of de Ferran Motorsports and Corsa Motorsports, which are pitted on either side of B-K, shot an admiring glance or five at the Lola coupe as it entered pit lane and went out for its first lap.

Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 is the 10th round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Saturday, October 4 from Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED will televise the race live with XM Satellite Radio airing live race coverage throughout the day on Channel 166. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio will be available at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.

-credit: alms