The P-1 and overall winning Lotus at the Petit Le Mans.
Petit Le Mans is a magical happening at the end of each international racing season that brings more than 100,000 fans from all over the world to the hilly, fast and highly technical 2.54-mile Road Atlanta race track to prove their racing endurance for 10 hours.
It also beckons some of the fastest and latest international road racing cars with champion drivers from 15 countries.
Though the yearly battle between the diesel-powered Audi Team from Germany and the super-fast French Peugeot Team was missing this year, every major racing brand was represented in the GT field, including Ferrari, Corvette, Viper, BMW and Porsche. Both prototype (P-1 and P-2) were highly contested by Lotus, Lola, Oreca, Mazda and Honda, and a great show was put on by the radical Nissan Delta Wing in its American debut.
One of the P-2 entries had every lady’s heart pumping wildly, and that was the No. 27 of actor Patrick Dempsey, who stars in the TV series "Grey’s Anatomy." One of his co-drivers, however, was well-known local driver Joe Foster, a Lawrenceville resident who taught at the Road Atlanta Panoz Driver’s School.
After the fireworks, the tour of celebrities, and Army skydivers bringing the flag, the 10-hour race began with a fierce battle between the pole sitting No. 12 Lotus/Lola Toyota of Swiss driver Neel Jani and the Muscle Milk No. 6 Honda of German Lucas Luhr. After a couple of hours, that battle ended when Luhr collided with a Porsche near Turn 3. From that point on, the No. 12 of Yani, Prost and Belicchi dominated the rest of the field to win the 2012 Petit Le Mans overall.
The GT field, however, became a race to the finish between the Corvettes, BMW and the Ferrari of Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Toni Vilander, who won with less than a gallon of gas left in the tank. The Corvettes had already won the points championship for the year, but battled to the wire for the Petit win.
In the Prototype P-2 Class, Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut, and Luis Diaz drove a flawless race to finish first in the class and second overall in their Honda powered car. This was also Dempsey’s class, but sadly he crashed midway through the race and was unable to finish.
One of the most interesting cars seen during this Petit Le Mans was the Nissan Delta Wing driven by Gunnar Jeannette and Lucas Ordonez. Because the radical design had no designated class, the Delta Wing started at the back of the grid. Nevertheless, it worked its way up to as high as third place during the race, and finally finished fifth overall.
Despite the absence of Audi and Peugeot, it was a very exciting race, especially in the GT Class.