Petit Le Mans Guide by Wolf Feather

Version: Final | Updated: 05/05/02 | Printable Version



Wolf Feather/Jamie Stafford

Current Version:           FINAL
Final Version Completed:   May 5, 2002
Initial Version Completed: December 25, 2001


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Spacing and Length
Comparison with Le Mans 2000
Time Compression
Suggested Car Set-ups
General Tips
Circuit Overview
Circuit Details


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The Petit Le Mans is held annually in October at the full
2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit.  The race itself ends after a
car has achieved 1000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes
first.  The 2002 incarnation of Petit Le Mans will be the
fifth such race; according to the Road Atlanta official Web
site, it 'will again be the season finale for the American Le
Mans Series, and takes on added importance since the race
winners earn automatic bids to the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans.
...  The Audi presents Petit Le Mans ranks among the most
important sports car races in the world, joining the ranks of
the legendary 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le

While I have written a general guide covering virtually all
aspects of Le Mans 24 Hours, I am submitting this race-
specific game guide to delve even more into one of the rising
jewels of endurance racing.  Some of the information provided
herein comes from my Le Mans 24 Hours Game Guide.  Also,
whereas LM24H has several modes (including Quick Race and
Time Trial), this guide focuses specifically on the longer,
100-minute and 10-hour Petit Le Mans races at the full Road
Atlanta circuit.


The 24 Hours of Le Mans, held annually in July, is the other
major endurance race included in Le Mans 24 Hours.
Personally, I far prefer Petit Le Mans for two reasons: 1.)
The Road Atlanta circuit is FAR shorter, with lap times
averaging about 1:10.000 in a Prototype car; 2.) Since the
Road Atlanta circuit is far shorter, there is A LOT more
passing involved - rarely does a lap go by without making at
least one pass, and usually three or more passes are common
per lap.  These two points converge to make Petit Le Mans a
much more intensive race on the brain, thus helping to keep

Le Mans 2000, on the other hand, is not nearly as intensive
on the brain.  At over 8 miles in length, the Le Mans circuit
is so long that it is quite possible to drive for several
laps without needing to make a single pass.  Second, the
first four-fifths of the circuit is constructed primarily
with super-lengthy straightaways, lulling the mind into a
state on numbness by the time you reach the highly-technical
final stage of the circuit.  If nothing else, a full 24-hour
race at Le Mans is a test of extreme concentration.

Inclement weather aside, the other major point of comparison
is the psychological impact of the two races due to daytime
and nighttime conditions.  Petit Le Mans begins at 12:30PM
and ends at 10:30PM the same day, so the amount of time spent
in nighttime driving is essentially minimal.  Le Mans,
however, begins at 4PM on Saturday and ends at 4PM on Sunday,
so a significant portion of the race (approximately 10 hours)
is held at night; even though I personally prefer nighttime
to daytime in the real world (I generally do the bulk of my
work late at night), I find that racing through such an
extended period of darkness is mentally taxing; even worse is
the seemingly-interminable period of approximately 10 hours
of daylight before the end of the race.  Even though a trip
to Pit Lane allows each race to be saved at that point, long
breaks between game sessions still do not help to alleviate
the mental destruction resulting from a full race at Le Mans.


Players can compete in the Petit Le Mans at four different
time increments: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 100 minutes, and the
full ten-hour race.  At each time increment, the race begins
at 12:30PM and ends at 10:30PM, including the appropriate
transition from daylight to darkness.  Except for the full
ten-hour race, this means that time must be compressed.  For
those interested, the time compression works in this manner
(if my math is correct):

Time Interval:  10 minutes  30 minutes  100 minutes  10 hours
1 second =      1 minute    20 seconds  6 seconds    1 second
1 minute =      1 hour      20 minutes  6 minutes    1 minute
1 hour =        N/A         N/A         6 hours      1 hour


Le Mans 24 Hours provides three car classes for Petit Le
Mans: Open Prototype, Closed prototype, and GT.  A suggested
car set-up is provided for GT class cars, and both Open and
Closed Prototype class cars combined (as I find very little
difference between Closed prototype and Open Prototype cars
in terms of handling).  These suggestions are for dry-
conditions racing; wet-conditions racing requires Wet Tires,
and a raise in downforce if needed to suit your personal
driving style.  First, however, an explanation of the set-up
options is needed.

   Fuel:        Lower fuel loads will provide a faster
                overall top speed initially due to the lesser
                overall weight of the car.  Conversely, a
                higher fuel load will slow the car initially
                while allowing the car to stay on the circuit
                for a longer period of time.  Unfortunately,
                it is impossible to adjust initial fuel load
                for the races :-(   In a four-hour race at
                Petit Le Mans, each lap will consume
                approximately four percent of the fuel load;
                each lap in a full ten-hour race requires
                two percent of fuel.
   Downforce:   Low downforce provides a faster top-end
                speed while making cornering more difficult.
                High downforce gives easier cornering while
                lowering overall top-end speed.
   Tires:       Soft Tires provide the most grip of the
                pavement, but wear out faster than other
                tires, resulting in more trips to Pit Lane to
                change tires.  Hard Tires provide the least
                grip of the dry-conditions tires while
                lasting the longest, resulting in fewer trips
                to Pit Lane.
                   Should the track become damp or wet,
                'slick' (Soft and Hard) tires quickly become
                useless.  Wet Tires are for very wet
                conditions, when your car emits a 'rooster
                tail' of spray at high speeds.  If it has
                been raining or has just started to rain and
                there is no 'rooster tail' behind your car,
                Intermediate Tires are a good choice;
                however, do not waste the time changing to
                and from Intermediate Tires unless your
                opinion of the clouds is that Intermediate
                Tires will be needed for more than one or two
   Gear Ratio:  An Acceleration setting will provide maximum
                acceleration for the car.  Top Speed provides
                slower acceleration, but the car's top-end
                speed will be much higher.  Balance is the
                'middle ground' setting.
   Engine:      A Sprint Engine will help boost your car
                through the field in shorter races, and can
                be useful in the 10-minute, 30-minute, and
                100-minute Petit Le Mans race.  However, for
                the full 10-hour race, only an Endurance
                Engine will provide the long-lasting power
                required to finish the race.  Balance is a
                'middle ground' position, and is also a good
                choice for the 100-minute race at Petit Le

Open Prototype Class AND Closed Prototype Class
   Fuel:        50%
   Downforce:   Low
   Tires:       Soft
   Gear Ratio:  Top Speed
   Engine:      Sprint for the 100-minute race; Endurance for
                the full 10-hour race
   Notes:       Prototype cars are inherently faster than GT
                cars.  The suggested settings will help to
                quickly pass the Prototype cars as well,
                especially when taking on only a 50% fuel
                load.  The low downforce setting will provide
                excellent top-end speed through the S curves,
                and down the 'back side' of the circuit
                toward the chicane.  The 50% initial fuel
                load fits well with Soft Tires, as Soft Tires
                will start giving out about the time you will
                need to return to Pit Lane to refuel anyhow.

GT Class
   Fuel:        80%
   Downforce:   Low
   Tires:       Hard
   Gear Ratio:  Top Speed
   Engine:      Sprint for the 100-minute race; Endurance for
                the full 10-hour race
   Notes:       In general, see the notes for the Prototype
                Class, above.  However, I find that GT cars
                have better handling with more fuel, thus
                making the car a bit heavier and the back end
                less likely to slide around on cornering at
                high speeds.  Hard Tires will then allow the
                car to stay on the circuit longer, as the car
                will begin with a heavier fuel load; however,
                Hard Tires provide the least amount of grip,
                so more care must be given, especially when

Note #1: It is not impossible for a GT Class car to win a
full Petit Le Mans race outright, beating even all the Open
Prototype Class AND Closed Prototype Class cars.  This will
depend upon the settings selected for a GT Class car, pit
strategy, and the game parameters (in terms of driving aids
and AI Skill).

Note #2: Cars in all classes do tend to fishtail; this is
especially significant in GT Class vehicles.  As such,
heavier fuel loads tend to reduce the fishtail effect.
Unless extreme care is afforded the tires, the rear tires
will wear out faster, which can itself aid the fishtailing
effect.  Be especially wary of fishtailing when running over
rumble strips while turning (and when cornering at fast
speeds, especially in wet conditions).


ALWAYS keep an eye on your fuel usage.  If you run out of
fuel somewhat early in a lap, you may not make it back to Pit
Lane without placing yourself just right to be bumped from
behind or making use of a downhill slope to help gain speed.
Pit Lane is at the lowest elevation on the circuit, which
keeps climbing uphill all the way to the Pit Lane (not used
for Petit Le Mans) on the opposite end of the circuit.

Petit Le Mans features both full-throttle straightaways and
S-Curves tempered with tight technical corners and slopes.
As such, tire wear is a critical issue, especially in wet
conditions - poor tire grip means sliding off the pavement in
tight corners or driving too fast through the S-Curves for
the tires to adequately grip the pavement.  For more specific
tips on tire usage, please read the full Le Mans 24 Hours
Game Guide, and/or also look at my Gran Turismo 3: Tires

To pass, use the draft; this is especially effective in Open
Prototype and Closed Prototype cars.  The best place to draft
other cars is along the 'back stretch' of the circuit, from
the alternate Pit Lane (not used in Petit Le Mans) to the

If you do not choose to qualify, you will automatically start
in last place; therefore, you have nothing to lose and A LOT
to gain by qualifying.  If you can qualify on Pole, that can
mean twenty-three FEWER passes you will need to make as a
race progresses.  In the longer (100-minute and 10-hour)
Petit Le Mans races, this could become a significant factor,
especially in relation to Pit strategy.

If you are in first place and begin lapping other cars, those
cars one or more laps behind you will have blue indicators on
the track map.

If at all possible, do not go to Pit Lane with a pack of
competitors.  If there is another car directly in front of
you, the CPU will slow you to a near halt while that car
slots into its Pit Stall.  Similarly, once your Pit Stop has
been completed, if there are any cars passing your position,
the CPU will hold you there until they ALL pass, even if it
appears that there is plenty of room for you to slot into the
line of cars.

The CPU-controlled cars can and DO make mistakes.  In their
battles against each other for position, they often trade
paint, and sometimes even run each other off the track.  The
most common area for this latter is the top of the circuit,
between Turns 9 and 10; this is especially important to
remember at night, when visibility can be tricky.


The full Road Atlanta circuit combines long fast segments
with technical corners and slopes.  Part of the mystique of
the circuit is its construction; similar to A1-Ring in
Austria, Pit Straight is the lowest elevation of the circuit,
with the beginning and end of the circuit both on steep
slopes.  The first twenty seconds of a hot lap are spent in a
forested area; the rest of the lap features rather open space
to the inside of the circuit, providing plenty of natural
light on a cloudless day or a moonlit night.  However, the
forested section can also produce some nasty shadows, making
the nearly-blind corners even more difficult to spot if there
is no traffic just ahead.

In a rainstorm, whether during the day or at night, the
circuit can quickly turn into a sheet of ice.  The trick in
wet conditions is to expertly regulate the use of both the
brakes and the accelerator, especially on the steep slopes.
Just as important is pit strategy to change to/from Wet or
Intermediate Tires; therefore, if playing with Weather set to
Random, always keep an eye on the sky, especially at the
upper and lower ends of the circuit, to better anticipate how
the weather may change.


The Road Atlanta circuit - host circuit of Petit Le Mans - is
perhaps most famous for its final turns, a blind right-hand
corner on a severe downhill slope beginning just as the cars
pass underneath Suzuki Bridge, followed by a fast right-hand
corner onto the Pit Straight.  Good speeds overall can be
obtained at Road Atlanta, but there are still a number of
challenging corners to tax the drivers and their cars.

Pit Straight:  This is the point of lowest elevation on the

Turn 1: This seemingly-neverending J-turn begins the
circuit's long uphill climb; the first two-thirds of the turn
is rather significant, with the radius slowly increasing for
the last third of the corner as the course climbs steeply
uphill.  Light braking is suggested here, and perhaps even
moderate braking will be preferred by many players, but it is
possible to speed through Turn 1 at top speed with NO braking
at approximately 140MPH.  However, with little or no braking,
if you do not have sufficient tire grip, you will definitely
slide out into the grass and bang the barrier on the outside
of Turn 1.  If you have an oversteer condition, expect to
spin right at Pit Exit (at the end of the significant portion
of the turn), and just hope that no one is coming out of Pit
Lane at that very moment!!!  If competing in the Petit Le
Mans during the nighttime stage of the race, the light on the
inside of Turn 3 ahead can overpower the glare from
competitors' taillights as you climb the steep hill out of
Turn 1 and into Turn 2, thus causing you to misjudge the
distance to the next vehicle in front of you and potentially
contributing to an incident, so exercise great caution here
(moreso than usual) when racing at night.

Turns 2-4: At a momentary plateau in track elevation, the
left-right-left semi-chicane can be a surprise.  The apex of
Turn 2 is unsighted on entry.  Turn 2 requires at least light
braking to keep on the pavement.  Turn 3 requires moderate
braking, although light braking is possible if you drop the
right-side tires in the small patch of sand on the inside of
Turn 3.  Turn 4 can often be taken at top speed, although
light braking may be necessary to stay on the pavement.  With
fresh tires and excellent reflexes, this complex can be taken
at top speed, but be ready to countersteer and/or slam on the
brakes, especially when exiting Turn 4.  This complex is also
one of the areas where CPU-controlled cars are likely to spin
out or otherwise run off-course and throw a lot of vision-
obscuring dust into the air, so be constantly wary here.

Turns 5-7 (S Curves): The course begins a gentle downhill
slope just before the entry of Turn 5, a right-hand corner
which can be taken flat-out.  Turn 6 begins the next uphill
stage as the pavement turns to the left; again, this can be
taken at top speed.  The right-hand Turn 7 can also be taken
at top speed, however, it is best to begin braking for Turn 8

Turn 8: This is the second-nastiest place on the full Road
Atlanta circuit.  This blind left-hand corner requires
moderate or severe braking as the hill (now a mini-mountain)
climbs steeply, cresting just beyond the exit of Turn 8.  If
you miss the braking zone, you will find yourself in a sand
trap.  If you can get past that, however, there is another
paved road which will rejoin the official course.  If you get
beyond THAT, however, you will bang a barrier which is
practically flush up against the access road.  Only experts
will be able to successfully clear this nasty corner (if not
blocked by other cars) at over 100MPH/160KPH; some cars can
semi-safely clear this corner at 120MPH/190KPH in the final
laps before refueling.

Straightaway: The mini-mountain crests shortly beyond the
exit of Turn 8.  In terms of elevation, this straightaway is
essentially a roller-coaster ride, but the general trend is
slightly downhill.

Turn 9: Moderate braking for this ninety-degree right-hand
corner is required, but there is kitty litter to the outside
of the corner to collect you if you miss the braking zone.
There are two pieces of pavement turning right here; the
first is the sealed-off Pit Entry for other racing series, so
do not use the first turn-off.

Turn 10: After a very short straightaway, the course again
makes a ninety-degree right-hand turn here.  Moderate braking
is again required to keep out of the grassy recovery area to
the outside of the corner.

Straightaway: This 'straightaway' has several fades along its
length.  After the first fade to the left, the course resumes
an uphill slope.  Beginning with the repaved section just
after the fade to the right, the course begins its overall
downhill trend.

Turns 11-12 (Chicane): This nasty left-right chicane requires
plenty of advance braking, or you will be caught out in the
grass/sand/barrier-filled zone on the inside of Turn 12.  Be
careful not to run wide exiting Turn 12, as the outside of
Turn 12 also has plenty of sand to stop runaway vehicles.
Experts will be able to keep up a fairly fast speed through
the chicane by cutting both turns slightly short and rolling
up into the grass, but only with a flawless racing line and
excellent tire grip.

Turn 13: This is by far the nastiest place on the circuit.
As you pass underneath Suzuki Bridge, the course has its most
significant elevation drop, resulting in cars lightening to
the point that - depending on your speed and racing line -
they may momentarily leave the ground!!!!!  This is a blind
right-hand corner (due to the significant elevation drop)
which can actually be taken at full-throttle, but light
braking is really the preferred method of success here (at
the very least, be prepared to suddenly jam on the brakes
anyhow, just in case).  Edge to the right as you approach
Suzuki Bridge and you should be okay; if you carry enough
speed, by running your right-tide tires just off the
pavement, the momentary lifting of your car will allow you to
clear the small grass/sand patch without ever toughing the
ground, thus without any loss of speed.  However, Pit Entry
is on the right just beyond Suzuki Bridge, so beware of
slowing cars.  If you do have trouble here, make use of the
'extra' paved lanes on the left (which actually go to a Pit
Lane used for other racing series) until you can edge back
onto the official course.  One note of caution:  If you go
airborne and hit the right-side wall just right, the car can
completely flip over, in which case it generally slides down
toward the outside of Turn 14 and comes to rest against a
tire barrier.

Turn 14: This is the final, right-hand corner of the circuit.
Unless encumbered by traffic, this corner can be taken at top
acceleration (beginning with the exit of Chicane).


For more information on Petit Le Mans, visit these Web sites:

Petit Le Mans - Photo Flashbacks from '98/'99: From the Web site

Petit Le Mans Radio Web: Listed on Yahoo!, but the server
   does not respond as of the writing of this guide

Professional Sports Car Racing, Inc.: Official Web site of
   the governing body for the American Le Mans Series (ALMS),
   which hosts Petit Le Mans

Road Atlanta: Official Web site of the host circuit of Petit
   Le Mans


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