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Petit Le Mans brings technology

A Peugeot chases an Audi at turn 10 at Road Atlanta.

A Peugeot chases an Audi at turn 10 at Road Atlanta.

Despite one of the most impressive international driver lineups ever assembled in one place, the 13th annual Petit Le Mans Race at Road Atlanta this weekend will be just as noteworthy for the unveiling of some phenomenal innovations.

One of the most intriguing is the new Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid that has two electric motors on the front axles, which support the normal gasoline engine. This setup, which reduces fuel consumption and increases the distance between pit stops, will be the first application of this race car in competition on American soil.

Another historic war between cutting-edge diesel-powered race cars that began a couple of years ago will be resumed this year at the Braselton track. The French Peugeot and the German Audi have dominated international prototype sports car racing for several years and have had some epic battles at Road Atlanta and around the world. This year, the Peugeot won at the 12 hours in Sebring, Fla., and the Audi took the top three places in the Le Mans 24-hour race in France. The showdown will continue this weekend at Road Atlanta in the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans, the showcase event of the American Le Mans Series.

Though the prototype championship is paramount for all involved, other classes have plenty at stake as well. A total of seven racing series and 11 races will be run in just four days to decide the American Le Mans Series in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites, the Star Mazda Championship, the Patron GT3 Challenge, The SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series, the US F2000 National Championship and the Skip Barber National Championship. Petit Le Mans is also the only North American stop for the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, which is a global sports car championship.

No other series or venue offers fans as many options to see the drivers and cars at such close range, and the entire four days of the Petit Le Mans at the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta complex offers so much more. Activities include driver autograph sessions and chats, tech talks, a grid walk before the race, night practice on Thursday and an open paddock throughout the week. Also, if relaxation is needed during or between races, you can visit the Vendor Village and expo area to see many exotic cars and accessories, sit back at Club Patron or the Road Atlanta Sports Bar.

Among the best places to see plenty of action during any race at Road Atlanta are as follows:

* Turn No. 10 (10A and 10B) complex at the end of the long back straightaway. Huge braking and plenty of passing is done in this area, and it's fun to see the disc brake rotors glow brightly during any night sessions.

* Spectator Hill at Turn No. 5 is popular because you can see all the way from Turn No. 3, through the famous downhill S-shaped curves, Turn No. 5, and into Turn No. 6.

* The stands on the front straightaway also gives a unique viewpoint. You can see the start/finish line and flag tower, the busy pit areas across the track, and both the downhill Turn No. 12 and the uphill Turn No. 1.