The end of an era and the beginning of a new one: Petit Le Mans 2013

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Petit Le Mans will never be the same after this year, will you be there?

If you haven’t been, you’re missing out. With no shortage of on;off track action, the historic setting of Road Atlanta and fans by the tens of thousands, it’s an event not to miss.

"Something for everyone" is a perfect way of describing Road Atlanta's 16th Annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, set to wrap up the 2013 North American sports car racing season on Oct. 16-19.

Petit Le Mans, scheduled for 10 hours or 1,000 miles, is what many have called the sport's "third major" alongside the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh from Florida.

It's also the last event for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. ALMS and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, which earlier this year ran its inaugural event at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course in Braselton, Ga. just north of Atlanta, will combine in 2014 under the United SportsCar Racing banner.

Green flag for the 2007 Petit Le Mans
Green flag for the 2007 Petit Le Mans

Photo by: Tom Haapanen

"GRAND-AM fans saw one half of the sport's future in April," said Geoff Lee, Road Atlanta's president. "Now they get a chance to see the other half."

Fans also will witness NASCAR's return to Road Atlanta for the first time since 1987. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East cars will run their penultimate event of the 2013 season on Friday, Oct. 18.

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama, Cooper Tires Prototype Lites powered by Mazda and Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup events also will be on the event schedule. Practice and qualifying begin on Oct. 16.

Fan activities include a Kids Zone open Friday and Saturday, ALMS autograph session on Friday, all-welcome open paddock, grid walk before the start of the Petit Le Mans and vendor village.

Children 12 and under are free to all events with a paid adult.

Road Atlanta, a 750-acre park-like facility opened in 1970, offers a variety of viewing areas for fans.

"It's akin to a Kentucky horse farm with while picket fences," said Lee. "It's something the whole family can enjoy."

Families can park and picnic in one area then move around the facility for up-close viewing or enjoyment of sweeping panoramas.

The Petit Le Mans itself annually attracts competitors from more than 20 different countries. Also scheduled to compete is actor Patrick Dempsey, a longtime GRAND-AM and ALMS driver. Dempsey is scheduled to participate in the Friday autograph session.

Patrick Dempsey, Andy Lally
Patrick Dempsey, Andy Lally

Photo by: Martin W. Spetz

Sports fans who previously haven't attended a Petit Le Mans or GRAND-AM event are amazed at being able to walk among the race cars and meet drivers, engineers, crew members and others just before the race is scheduled to begin.

There's nothing like it in major professional sports, according to Lee.

"You can't go into the (Atlanta) Braves dugout before the game," he said. "Every year I'll see someone stop, take out their cell phone, make a call and say, 'You won't believe where I am.'"

Additional information about the Petit Le Mans weekend and advance tickets are available at www.roadatlanta.com or by calling 1.800.849.RACE.

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