Petit Le Mans, the 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta, is this weekend. Peugeots, a Porsche hybrid, Panoz — If you've got a TV and you love cars, what the hell else would you watch on Saturday?
Petit is the finale of the American Le Mans Series endurance racing season and, because it's the season ender, it's the biggest race of the year. If you haven't followed ALMS at all this season, then you must've been hiding in a cave on a remote island in the middle of the Mediterranean.
Unlike some other racing you might watch over the weekend, this is multiple classes of cars with unique engineering. If you're new, I've got a primer for you right here:
What To Watch For
In LMP1, its Audi vs. Peugeot. Peugeot won last year so Audi has something to prove. With these two it's always an epic battle, like the Battle of France, except last year the French were better armed. The Audi Sport Team Joest R15 TDI is my pick for this year. The driver trio of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish has more talent, experience and skill than any of the others in its class.
For LMP2, it's going to be a race between the Japanese and the Germans-the Patrón Highcroft Honda ARX-01 and the Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder. Frankly in this group, I can't say who will win, but the RS Spyder looks sexy as hell, especially without all that vinyl wrap. I don't know why that matters, but it does.
The GT2 class should be the most entertaining to watch. I'm not even mentioning GT1 because, frankly, who cares? Corvette is not in the chase for the championship points, Jaguar - well, it'll be amazing if the car finishes - Robertson's Ford GT always seem to try too hard and the Robertson co-owner/drivers need to learn to keep themselves out of trouble. So now we're left with Flying Lizard Porsches, Risi Ferraris and the Rahal Letterman BMWs.
The real competition in GT2 is between the #45 GT3 RSR - Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Marc Lieb - and the #90 M3 GT of Dirk Müller, Andy Priaulx and Joey Hand. The BMW guys don't have a chance at the drivers' championship, that one I say goes to Long and Bergmeister-they're more talented and exercise better self control, especially during enduros.
But the real prize is the manufacturers' title, and BMW is only one point behind Porsche. Both Porsche and BMW's motorsport divisions want that manufacturers' championship more than a fresh from rehab Lindsay Lohan looking for coke. Either way it goes, you can expect a lot of pissed off Germans.
The Risi Ferrari guys made some bold moves to give both F430 GTs a shot at the GT championship. Jaime Melo moved to the #61 car, and now its Giancarlo Fisichella, Melo and Mika Salo. The #62 car only gets two drivers, Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni. But putting only two drivers on the #62? There's a reason why the other teams have three drivers.
And how can I forget the Porsche GT3 R Hybrid and its beautiful and potentially disastrous Williams F1 KERS System. If you didn't need any other reason to watch Petit, the car is making its North American racing debut in all its orange and white glory. The car can't compete because it doesn't fit into any of the established classes, but you can bet a lot of eyes will be on this one. Porsche loves to use its motorsports program as a guinea pig for future models. Umm, 918 Spyder anyone?
What did I miss? Oh, a new Panoz Abruzzi is making its debut. Most have yet to see the car, and it hasn't made its appearance at testing yet. I'll be surprised if the car finishes the race. It has no testing and practice time, while all other teams have been at it for days. The Falken Tire Porsche I purposely skipped.
Hurley Haywood once said that an endurance race isn't a race until the last hour. If your wife won't let you watch the full race, at least tune in for the last hour.
Watch the race this Saturday, live at 11:00 am ET on SPEED.
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images, Porsche NA