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Monday, October 6, 2008

One Hell of a Race This Weekend

I don't mean that demolition derby in Talladega. I'm talking about the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Ten hours of furious driving and non-stop action from start to finish. Sometimes endurance races like this are won by a margin measured in laps. This one was won by less than five seconds. It took a thousand miles to get there.

I have to say right here that if they want to capture an American audience, giving it a poofy French name won't help. But let's try to overlook that. Some of the best drivers in the world went down to Georgia, looking for victory. The best automakers in the world sent their best cars, seeking bragging rights. Audi, Acura, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Peugeot, and Porsche were all there. Thirteen automakers in all, from six countries: Germany (2), France, Japan, USA (4), UK (4), and Italy.

In the LMP1 class, Peugeot sent a great car, seeking once again to break Audi's dominance. Just like Le Mans in July, they won the pole and led many laps, but were passed by an Audi late in the race and went home in frustration. The real winner was us, who got to see the good stuff. This was the kind of racing I live for.

Chevrolet, having chased away all competitors in GT1, had only themselves to beat. They sent two evenly matched Corvettes and left them to fight it out. Fight they did, with more of the fender-banging that's become customary between the teams at Corvette Racing.

Acura squared off against Porsche in the LMP2 class, but a series of mishaps left Acura's hopes dashed. Roger Penske's Porsche teams pulled off a 1-2-3 finish.

The GT2 class was another classic Ferrari-Porsche slugfest. Just like Sebring was in the spring, with the Ferrari F430 GT of Risi Competizione battling the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR right down to the wire. Back in the spring, they had an incredible fight to the checkered flag at Sebring, trading paint and leaving dents. Petit Le Mans was incredibly close too, with Ferrari winning by seconds.

For race fans that really get into the dirty details of why and how race teams put cars on the track, this is the best thing going. And for those of you who just watch for the wrecks, there were several of those, too. Look on YouTube.

You've got one more chance to catch these cars this season, at Laguna Seca. It'll be broadcast October 19th on NBC. Check your TV guide for the exact time, or go to

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  • The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson

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