Road Atlanta Newbies: What To Bring and Do at Petit Le Mans

Road Atlanta Newbies: What To Bring and Do at Petit Le MansRoad Atlanta

First time coming to Road Atlanta to attend Petit Le Mans?  Well you are in for an experience.  I think Road Atlanta Facebook fan Jeff Banker  said it best:

1st timers! Remember this ain't NASCAR! Cars go left and right, as well as uphill and downhill! Take in all the sights, sounds and smells you can!  If you love fast cars and being up close then Road Atlanta and Petit is for you.

I attended Petit last year for the first time.  To tell you the truth, I wasn’t prepared to get the best experience that I could have had.  This year is going to be different.  So I polled Road Atlanta Nation on Facebook for tips and advice on what you should bring, what you should experience and how I could leave with another unforgettable memory for the bucket list.

I have done some editing, but for the most part, these are word for word tips from veteran Road Atlanta attendees.  I haven’t always gave credit to everyone who helped put this together, but there are some quotes here.  So let’s get started!

 Let’s talk about the gear you need!

The best thing about Road Atlanta  is that you can walk the entire track and sit/stand at every corner.  

  • Arrive early and make your base camp.  There is a reason that everyone involved at Road Atlanta sings this mantra.  Don’t kid yourself and think you are just going to pull in 30 minutes before race time.  Besides, as you will see below, there is a lot more than just the race to take in.  Whether it is the day or the week, you need a place to work from, for family and friends to rendezvous at.  So, come early and find your place!
    • Along with that, Lin Curtis mentioned: If you are camping, shade is at a premium. Plan ahead.  Bring an EZ-up canopy tent.  Or you could go with a 10x10 overhang.  Either way you want some protection from the elements (Be it rain or sun J)
    • Bring a camp chair, grill, and a coolers filled to the top of your favorite beverage!
  • Rain gear! Bring a rain coat, umbrella, and boots for the mud.
  • Bring disposable rain ponchos!   Weather is unpredictable.  Having a poncho available will take some of  the feeling of being uncomfortable of walking around after a rain more likely!
  • Ear plugs are a must!  Ear plugs come in handy when standing near the track. The normally aspirated V 8s can do more than just wake you up.  If you don’t think you want/need them, think about them for the kids. The noises might be overwhelming to them.  You can buy them at the track if you want, but they can be pricey!
  • Bring plenty to eat and drink.  You are in for a lot of walking.  And that is going to build up some hunger.  When it is hot, it is easy to become dehydrated.  So, also bring a water bottle that you can carry with you as you traverse the circuit before, during and in the evenings.
    • Bring some food and drinks specifically for after the race (traffic can take a while).
    • Clothing do’s and don’ts!  Don't bring white socks or white shoes, or you will leave with red socks and red shoes, especially if it rains!
      • Have layered clothing! Jeff Hancock advises that it can be hot in the day, and very cool after dark, so bring layered clothing. Have clothing that can accommodate both.  And remember, it has been known to rain.
      • A tip from Lois Martin: Wear extra-comfy shoes and walk around for the full experience -- plus to find your favorite spots to watch the race next year. And yes -- don't forget your earplugs!
      • Bring a change of clothes/shoes you plan on leaving the track in (not the ones you attend the race with). 10.1/10.2 will never get old.
      • Sunscreen!  Voice of experience (and others it seems).  Lack of sunscreen may cause you to have less than fond memories over the days after Petit.  Don’t underestimate how hot the sun beats down on you during the race and walking around.  Keep a bottle with you and don’t forget that kids need it probably more as they are running around.
      •  Camera and batteries!  If bringing a camera, bring lots of batteries if it uses them...if you think you have enough, bring more  You are probably going to need an extra memory card as well. 
        • Telephoto lens for the camera.  You can get close at Road Atlanta, but not that close to get the pics you see J
        • Headsets!  Jefferey Garrett advised fans to: Bring (or rent if it is your first race) your race headset to listen-in to the drivers/teams. Be sure to grab a race brochure so you'll learn about the diff class/cars.

Getting around Road Atlanta

Road Atlanta is 750 acres.  That is a lot of space to get around in.  So if you are truly wanting to take it all in, think about the following:

  • GET THERE EARLY! PARKING IS LIMITED!!!!!!   Noticing a theme here???  But rest assured there is a reason this advice is given.  There aren’t a lot of options coming into Road Atlanta, so traffic tends to get bottled up.  Getting there early will insure that you have a great experience.
  • Walking is ok, but there are better options!  Kim Ellis may have said it best:  Bring any easy means of transportation, golf cart, bike, pit bike, scooter, something, anything!!
    • You can bring a golf cart if you have one.  Or you can make arrangements to rent on.   Call Road Atlanta for details   Barring that expense, Bring your bike
    • One fan wrote: I brought my RZR last year and got to experience a lot more being able to zip around everywhere!
    • If you are going to do a lot of walking… Wear 2 pair of socks, 1 thin pair under a thicker pair to prevent blisters from all the walking you will be doing.

Food and Protection

Whether you are coming for the day or for the week, you are going to build up some hunger.  Either that or your nose will attract you to some amazing food being cooked by food vendors and others who have been coming to Road Atlanta for years.  Some things to think about:

  • A grill and a cooler!    Yes, we said it above, but unless you are going to leave Road Atlanta to get something to eat at a restaurant, you are going to want to experience the camaraderie of other race fans.  Oh yeah, make sure that those coolers are filled to the top of your favorite beverage!
  • Generator exhaust!  Whether you are camping or just spending race day at the track, things can get cozy.  Even though you are outside, be aware of the exhaust coming from being in tight spaces.  A couple of motor homes parked close can create a deadly hazard.  As such…TURN YOUR GENERATORS OFF AT NIGHT!  Besides the exhaust issue, they are just loud and you won’t make any friends if you leave them running all night.

The Road Atlanta Experience

Have I said:  GET THERE EARLY! PARKING IS LIMITED!!!!!!   Well then, don’t blame me if you are caught in traffic.  I got there at 9 on race day last year and the place was packed!

Besides, Cobb Barksdale ?makes a great point:  Get there EARLY!! Remember, the race STARTS at 11:30 but there is lots to do and see before.

  •  Bring all your friends!  The whole race week is going to be an experience that you will have lifetime memories of.  But memories are best when shared with friends.  I know it sounds like I am a shill for Road Atlanta.  But more than one person mentioned this.  Road racing is not to be enjoyed by yourself!
  •  Find a place to watch the race!  There are a lot of things to do when you are at Road Atlanta. Just remember that the crown jewel is the race itself.  We are going to cover this in another post, but some suggestions:
    • Jim O'Brien offered:  Seating at 10a and 10b are the best seats in the house. ;-)
    • Watching the S's offer a great view of the elevation change. Go to as many views as you possibly can just to get a feel for the track.
    • Paul Spencer  said: After dark go down to the end of the straight to watch the cars brake as they head into the chicane. The glowing discs will amaze you.
    • Go down to the skidpad and watch the heavy breaking and listen to the cars go flat out down the back stretch. It's awesome.
    • Be aware!  When walking through the paddock/garage areas, be aware of your surroundings. There are cars and support carts coming in and out of there, and they have to get to where they are So please move out of their way as fast and safely as possible.
      • Rob Nowakowski makes a great point: Be alert when walking through the pits. Cars, emergency vehicles, and others have to drive through there. By not being aware of what’s around you, you may be delaying a car getting back to the track or an emergency vehicle responding to an emergency.
      • Experience the paddock during practice, and stand around pit exit. Do not pass up a visit to the paddocks.
      • The Friday Autograph Session is really something to witness. 
      • Bring plenty of stuff to get autographed!  The racers and crews will sign anything and everything. They are great! 
        • Bring your own pen (Sharpie) for autographs. Don't expect the drivers, etc. to have one or use theirs.
        • Attend the Thursday practice session!   Lin Curtis said: One of the greatest events of the week is the Thursday night practice session. It is a "must see". It's much easier to get around the track than on race day.
        • Learn the classes before the race!  There are 4 classes of races going on at the same time.  Take a moment (blog coming later) to learn the different classes, one of which will hook you on racing!
          • Talk to the corner workers you will learn a lot about the cars/classes/ and drivers.
          • I thought Tod Davis had a great idea!  Choose a driver or car in each class and keep track of how they are doing in the race. Friendly bets with friends or neighbors will keep you interested.
          • Have a headset?  If you either rented or have a headset… Tune into Road Atlanta Radio 96.7 FM for the race broadcast!!
          • Visit the car corrals! Dont be afraid to walk around the Corvette/Porsche/Audi parking areas(corrals).  Just be mindful of the tents that are for the people who parked there, and please respect their cars. Car corral veterans wrote: Some of us love for people to come and ask us about them, so walk through and take some pics...just dont mind how dirty our Corvettes are compared to the Porsches because we aren't afraid to actually drive them ;)

Some things to consider…

Not exactly don’ts, but afterwards you may have done differently

Well, hopefully, this will get you going in the right direction.  Is this an all inclusive list?  Probably not. But if you have most of the above, you are going to have an unforgettable experience to share with your friends and family for years. 

If you have some other tips, add them here.  We will try to build this list each year.  So, if you have been helped by this, pay it forward and provide some insight that others can have the great Road Atlanta experience you currently enjoy.

See you at the race!

John Panico
Guest Blogger 

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