This weekend will see the final 2023 IMSA-based iRacing special event take place at Road Atlanta, Petit Le Mans. Here’s all you need to know about the race.
One of the great advantages of being a part of the iRacing platform is its Special Events. The simulator represents all forms of racing from major NASCAR showdowns to club racing challenges and the calendar’s most prominent enduros.
The next race on the iRacing Special Events calendar is Petit Le Mans, taking place this weekend. Fans of IMSA racing will be anxious to take part in this 10-hour replica of the real deal whilst esports enthusiasts will be preparing for a shift of trying to stay awake. With the big race just around the corner, here’s everything you need to know about the iRacing Petit Le Mans.
Road Atlanta Guide
The real world Petit Le Mans is a 10-hour endurance race taking place each year at Road Atlanta. Forming part of many sports car championships over 25-year history, it currently holds its place as the IMSA season finale.
This annual visit to Georgia sees drivers cry out about the Road Atlanta circuit as one of the most popular yet demanding venues in all of racing. Despite its short length with laps often sitting under the 70-second mark, its layout means drivers find the circuit very challenging.
Etched into the undulating countryside, Road Atlanta is a fast, flowing circuit with very few moments to relax. From Turn 1, it is a succession of right-left-right corners barrelling up and back down the hill to Turn 5. Get through 6 and 7 and you have a short respite before charging into the heavy braking zone of Turns 10A and 10B. Wind your way out of this deceptive chicane and fly back down the hill towards the start-finish line, where you start it all over again.
Many blind crests and tricky cambers make this course a true challenge to rival even the great European circuits of Imola and the Nordschleife. Drivers’ eyes must be on stalks around this place, making a single stint feel like a 24-hour race in itself. But this is why everyone loves the place so much.
iRacing Petit Le Mans Cars
So what cars will be tackling this infamously tight and twisty course? Well, as with every IMSA-inspired iRacing Special Event, it will include every class racing in next year’s season. The newly full GTP class will headline whilst LMP2 sits in the middle of the pack. The GTD class will surely provide some fun racing, and make for challenging traffic situations.
In the top GTP class, one can drive one of four models. The BMW M Hybrid V8 has featured in the simulator since December 2022. The Cadillac V-Series.R joined the title earlier this summer introducing a mighty V8 roar to the category. Porsche’s 963 featured in the 2023 Season 4 update alongside the Acura ARX-06, completing this year’s runners. Upon release of the final pairing, we thoroughly tested the quartet, putting together an in-depth guide on the best GTP car for each scenario.
Ever since the sudden growth of the GTP class, the Dallara LMP2 has certainly dropped in popularity. However, iRacing Petit Le Mans practice sessions have seen a good showing of the lower spec prototype. So potentially, this tough race will see a resurgence in LMP2 popularity with its slightly easier handling characteristics.
The GTD class is another that will prove popular, consisting of GT3 machinery. Here, one can run in the front-engine options from Mercedes and BMW. If mid-engine layouts are more to your taste, the Audi, Ferrari and Lamborghini are for you. Finally, Porsche presents the rear-engine 992 911 GT3 R. With Road Atlanta being such a tough circuit to get right, it is vital to drive a car in which you are comfortable. Therefore, speed should not be of concern when setting up your PLM team.
How to Race
Now you have chosen the car to race, it is time to prepare for the event. Putting together your team requires more thinking time than one might think. In fact, lasting just 10 hours, Petit Le Mans sits at a difficult length between being manageable with two drivers, but requiring three.
Depending on how long you want to drive, a two-driver team may well be the way to go. Indeed, three-driver outfits will only get between three and four stints throughout the race.
Practice is a big part of any endurance race. But when said race takes place at Road Atlanta, with its blind corners and unsighted apexes, one must know the circuit perfectly. It is also crucial to practice racing in traffic. If you are a GTP or LMP2, it is vital to know when you can and cannot pass GT traffic. If you plan on racing in GTD, it is good to know when prototypes are likely to lunge up the inside.
As a general rule of thumb, there are only a few places to make clean overtakes on traffic at Road Atlanta. The inside of Turn 1 and the run up the hill to Turn 3 are both safe. However, if you are not alongside on the brakes to T3, you must back out. Going around the outside of Turn 4 is possible, but risky. If you try this, ensure you are ahead before the Esses, or you will have a very angry GTD driver.
There is no use in making moves through the Esses or into Turn 5, this is a single-file section. But focus on getting a good run out of T5 for the run down the inside to T6. Wait behind between 6-7, optimising your exit onto the back straight. The inside over the crest before the final turn is also possible. But do not squeeze cars in this traction-dependant section.
When is iRacing Petit Le Mans?
The 2023 running of the iRacing Petit Le Mans takes place this weekend 6-7 October. In total, four different time slots are available to join. For rookies in the endurance scene, it is always a good idea to compete in an earlier session. This way, you can DNF and join a later session if you come into trouble.
The first race takes place on Friday night European time. A 22:00 GMT start time makes it the optimal session for Australian competitors. Early Saturday at 7:00 GMT is when race number two gets going.
The most popular time slot is sure to be the 12:00 GMT starting session. This is the race that will attract thousands of teams. It is also the running VCO will focus on for its top split broadcast, featuring countless esports teams. Those that are not competing can still enjoy this community event by tuning into the live broadcast.
Finally, the last timeslot kicks off at 16:00 GMT on Saturday. This is surely the more American-friendly race, finishing around dinner time for the East Coast.
Are you taking part in this weekend’s iRacing Petit Le Mans? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!