After a good clean start to the 19th running of the Petit Le Mans from Road Atlanta GA the first 30 minutes saw Oliver Pla leading the field from pole in the #60 Michael Shank Racing. Robert Alon led the PC’s in the #52 PR1 racing, with GTLM being led by Richard Westbrook in the #67 Ford GT40 and Jerome Bleekamolen heading up the GTDs in the #33 Viper.
The PC #7 Starworks car suffered several off track excursions eventually retired with too much damage to the car to make it safe to continue. The #67 Ford had problems in its first pit stop with a wheel locking issue on the driver’s front right, this would continue to cause them trouble throughout the race. The car also an issue with a door not closing late on.
Tomy Drissi spun the #63 Scuderia Corsa into a gravel trap bringing out the first full course caution for the recovery. There were electrical problems for both Mazda Racing cars, each having to be recycled whilst out on track, and the #55 spent a considerable amount of time behind the wall putting them 74 laps before eventually being retired.
Another car to retire from the race was the fan favourite Elan engined #0 Panoz DeltaWing entry, the team sighting a timing chain failure on the engine.
With 5 hours 45 minutes remaining on the clock a full course caution was thrown to enable repairs to the broken track surface at T2/3, this took 1 hour and 5 minutes to complete. With just under four hours remaining the racing begun once again. It would not be too long until the yellows were out again. This time it was for contact between the #911 GTLM of Nick Tandy and the PC of Johnny Mowlen which saw Tandy rearwards in the the wall just after exiting the pits. This caused substantial damage to the Porsche North America car which would not re-join the track until the closing stages of the race some 183 laps down.
Drama in the pit occurred as the sun was starting to set over Road Atlanta - during a routine stop there was a scary incident with the #68 when fuel was ignited during the refuelling process engulfing one crew member in flames. Thankfully he was unhurt and the car re-joined the race 2 laps down after clean-up.
With 80 minutes remaining Spencer Pigot in the #70 Mazda had worked his way up to 2nd place and with the ESM Ligier in 3rd would this mean a first all LMP2 podium?
Sadly not! Only 13 minutes left to go and the #70 Mazda suffered a fiery exit from the race, Joel Miller managing to get the the last running Lola in sportscars to a fire truck on pit lane where it was quickly extinguished. This marked the end of an era in sportscar racing for Lola and that of the Mazda 2016 campaign.
As the chequered flag fell on the 19th running of the Petit Le Mans race Olivier Pla brought home Michael Shank’s Honda HPD Ligier 3.5 seconds in front of Johannes van Overbeek in the ESM, and 11.7 seconds in front of Ricky Taylor in the Wayne Taylor Corvette DP; to take the overall win. In Prototype Challenge Robert Alon took the win over Kenton Koch and Chris Miller. In GTLM the top 3 cars finished on the same lap with Toni Vilander taking the win with the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 15 seconds in front of the #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand with Tommy Milner in the #4 Corvette C7-R taking 3rd just 2.8 seconds behind Hand.
In GTD Andy Lally in the Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS crossed the line in front of Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Riley Motorsports Viper after passing him on the penultimate lap. However this was to be short lived as the officials decided prior to the podium that John Potter, as one of the full season drivers, had not completed his minimum drive time during the race and so the car was moved to the back of the results. This promoted the Viper into 1st place in class followed by the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 and #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488.