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‘Petit Le Mans’ Coming to Atlanta

January 26, 1998

BRASELTON, Ga. (AP) _ A shorter version of France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s most famous endurance race, will be held in October at Road Atlanta.

Track officials announced Monday that the ``Petit Le Mans,″ a 1,000-mile race, is part of an exclusive five-year agreement between the L’Automobile Club de l’Quest (ACO), organizer of the 24-hour race, and Panoz Motor Sports, owner of Road Atlanta.

The 2.52-mile road course, located about 45 miles northeast of Atlanta, has undergone extensive renovations since being purchased by racing enthusiast Don Panoz, who also hopes to lure both CART Indy-car and Formula One events to his facility.

``Le Mans is the greatest endurance race in the world and has caught the imagination of every sports car racer and manufacturer,″ Panoz said. ``We’re thrilled to be part of this historic agreement which the ACO _ and Le Mans _ to America. We intend to revitalize the appeal of endurance racing by increasing American participation in the sport.″

Three classes will be run in the Petit Le Mans _ Prototype, GT-1 and GT-2. The winners of each will be exempt for pre-qualifying for the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, while second-place finishers will be invited to pre-qualify. Panoz said he intends to enter his namesake Panoz GTR-1 cars in the French race next year.

``We hope the coming event is a success for both parties,″ ACO president Michel Cosson said. ``We think this agreement will allow us to begin close economic and human relationships between the city of Le Mans, the Sarthe district, the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia.″

ACO delegate Alain Bertaut said his organization has been searching for a North American partner for several years. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, which attracted top American stars such as A.J. Foyt during his heyday in the 1960s, has drawn little interest in this country in recent years.

The Petit Le Mans will last anywhere from nine to 12 hours, depending on how race officials set up the track.

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