Saturday, September 26, 2009

Petit Le Mans Running this weekend

Seemingly arriving earlier every year, the American Le Mans Series is running their crown race at Road Atlanta called the Petit Le Mans. Close to the American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz's hometown of Atlanta, the Petit Le Mans competitors have been tempted by the additional incentive since the races inception through a guaranteed spot at the next 24-hour Le Mans race in France.

With the flag having dropped at 11 am Saturday morning, this race runs 1,000 miles or 10 hours (whichever marker comes first). Remembering the race having been initially run during the second week of October, the first time of the race being run on September 26 would likely have caught a lot of sports car fans off guard. While running earlier this year, the 2009 Petit Le Mans is racing around a misfortunate scene caused by widespread flooding in the state of Georgia which has been estimated to cause up to $500 million dollars in damage. Nonetheless, as the American Le Mans Series most significant event on the schedule, the 2009 Petit Le Mans started under cloudy, ominous conditions.

Having taken the overall win in a thrilling 2008 Petit Le Mans race, Audi Sport held off a strong Peugeot as well as a LMP2 Penske Porsche with the now obsolete R10 prototype. This is only one of two occasions to see the radical Audi R15 prototype racer in North American sports car competition following the earlier season win at the Sebring 12-hour event. However, as the flag fell today on the Petit Le Mans 2009, French automaker Peugeot took the pole with one of their 24-hour of Le Mans winning 908 closed cockpit sports cars. Having previously taken pole in 2008, the Peugeot 908 competes as a stronger car manned with a more experienced, seasoned team of crew members and drivers.

In the P2 class consisting of slightly detuned prototype racers, the Porsche RS Skyder returns with Team Cytosport, not with Penske Racing. Lowes Fernandez Acura and the pair of Dyson Mazdas are going to be firm challengers for the 2009 P2 win.

In GT2, the league of Porsches will attempt to take their 9th category win in 11 previous Petit Le Mans races. Defending their 2008 GT2 win will be the #62 Rizi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT racer with Mika Salo rejoined Rizi's Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer. Worth honourable mentioning is Rahal/Letterman Racing's BMW as well as the pair of C6R prepped by Corvette Racing.

As of the 4 hour mark, the Peugeot 908 prototypes hold both first and second overall with the #2 Audi R15 on the lead lap in hot pursuit. The Dyson Mazdas handily holds onto P2 top positions with fellow P2 competitors struggling around the wet Road Atlanta circuit. GT2 is being led again by the Ferrari F430 GT fielded by Rizi Comptizione by a full lap over a heat consisting of two Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, a BMW M3, and a Chevrolet Corvette C6R.

As 4:09PM, the Petit Le Mans has been red flagged due to continuing harsh rainfall. Putting a damper on the race, this precipitation is likely to rage hard on the already disaster-struck areas in the United States. More than an hour later, racing activities for the American Le Mans Series are still halted by the rain adding to record-setting levels.

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