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Special Event Guide: iRacing Petit Le Mans

Taking place each year in October, the iRacing Road Atlanta 10 hours, better known as Petit Le Mans, rounds out the endurance calendar. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Petit Le Mans signifies the approach of the end of the iRacing multi-class special event season, and what a way to bookend each campaign. Far from a relaxing end-of-term cruise, the Petit Le Mans contest provides one of the greatest challenges of the season. 

While not as long as the Daytona 24 Hours at just 10 hours, this doesn’t make it any less intense. Taking place on the fast and twisty Road Atlanta circuit, the danger of a high-speed collision that could end your chance of a strong result exists at every turn.  

Thinking ahead is the name of the game while navigating the venue’s stunning complexes, and this guide will help you get prepared for its stern challenge.  

When Is Petit Le Mans Held?

The iRacing Petit Le Mans generally takes place in early October, a week before the IMSA-run event goes ahead in real life and also brings the season to a close.

The race takes place across four separate time slots throughout the weekend, with each being chosen so that sim racers from all over the globe have a chance to compete at a time that suits them. The start times are as follows;

  •  Friday: 10 PM GMT
  • Saturday/Sunday: 8 AM GMT, 12 PM GMT, 4 PM GMT

How Is Petit Le Mans Structured?

The four separate starting slots are scheduled to fit in with different time zones across the world that racers could be bound by.  

  • The late Friday GMT fixture is ideal for drivers from North and South America as it will take place during the day
  • The early morning GMT splits are perfect for drivers in the Asian/Australasian regions
  • The 12 PM slot will be when the pro spilt race will occur, so if you are not participating and wish to spectate, this is the one to pay attention to.
    Less experienced drivers may want to try one of the other fixtures because this is the busiest available.
  • The later splits are also handy if you suffer a technical problem or crash out from an earlier race. 

Petit Le Mans is a team event with a minimum driver number of two per squad and a maximum of 16 runners per outfit. On the whole, we recommend that you attack the Petit Le Mans race with either three or four drivers, allowing each competitor to get ample time at the wheel whilst sharing the load of the full 10 hours.

  • Make sure to download the free Coach Dave Delta app today to access the full range of setups to fight for supremacy whenever you hit the track

What License Is Needed To Race?

To participate in the iRacing Petit Le Mans, you must have a D-level road racing license. Having a safety rating level of at least 4.0 is mandatory if at the D level, while the SR rank of those categorized C or above is irrelevant. 

  • The license you have doesn’t determine which split you are placed in, this will be sorted out by your sports car iRating
  • The split you’ll be placed in will be dependent on the average iRating of your team 
  • This could mean that if three high-rated A-class racers team up with a lower-rated D-class pilot, the lower-rated racer will likely have to take on the very best in the top split
  • Speed has no bearing on how clean a driver races, so it’s always worth paying attention to a driver’s SR and iRating before going wheel-to-wheel

The D-level license needed for this race is straightforward to reach, as you simply need to progress out of the beginner rookie license. 

  • Achieving clean races in rookie road series such as Formula Ford 1600, Mazda MX-5 Cup, and FIA F4 should grant you a D-level ranking in no time.   

With the Petit Le Mans lasting more than 10x as long as normal IMSA races on the iRacing service, you have the opportunity to make strong iRating and SR gains. Completing the race is important to supplement these gains, so it’s key to keep your wits about you when threading through slower traffic or trying to remain clear of faster machines. 

  • If you’re unsure how to progress to the correct license level, refer to Coach Dave Academy’s license guide so that you can achieve the required ranking and join the grid in your choice of endurance hero. 

What Is Road Atlanta?

Located in the American state of Georgia, the construction of Road Atlanta was completed back in 1970. It’s best known for hosting the Petit Le Mans endurance race, which began in 1998. It also features on the calendar of the MotoAmerica and TransAm series’. 

While relatively short at just four kilometres, it features one of the most thrilling sections of track in the world. Following a quick right-hander at the crest of the hill exiting Turn 1, determined drivers then plunge downhill into a tight esses sector. With walls close to the edge of the tarmac, any mistakes in this area come with terminal consequences.  

The tightness of this area of the circuit also makes it immensely demanding during a multi-class encounter, as it’s pretty much impossible to make a pass. As a result, faster classes can lose a huge amount of time stuck behind slower cars when navigating it. While frustrating as the faster car, patience is key to ensure everyone gets through the mid-speed left-hander that brings the section to a conclusion. 

Following a tricky double right-hander, which gets continually slower as you run through the bends, you’ll arrive at the huge 1.2-kilometre straight. This is easily the best place to pass slower vehicles, so a good exit from the slow right-hander is critical to ensure you put as many cars in your mirror as possible.  

  • For a full rundown of a lap around Road Atlanta, one of Coach Dave Academy’s professional drivers took the rapid Porsche 963 GTP around the breathtaking track

The Cars

Petit Le Mans, like the other rounds of the IMSA Series, is structured as a multi-class event. The GTP, LMP2, and GT3 categories feature on the roster.

GTP

The GTP class is made up of four hybrid-powered prototypes, these vehicles being the fastest on track. 

The cars have traction control but no ABS, meaning that precision on the brake pedal is a must due to how easily the wheels can be locked. Finding the correct brake bias can help to find a good balance between locking either the front or rear wheels. 

They also feature a large amount of downforce, meaning they feel great in high-speed bends but relatively cumbersome in slower turns. 

Their performance is equalized by iRacing’s Balance of Performance (BOP) system. Due to the minimal differences in outright pace between the GTPs, bolting on a Coach Dave Academy-developed setup could make the difference that puts you out front. 

CarPowertrain
Acura ARX-06 GTPMid-engined layout, twin-turbocharged 2.4-litre V6
BMW M Hybrid V8Mid-engined layout, turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six
Cadillac V-Series.R GTPMid-engined layout, naturally aspirated 5.5-litre V8 
Porsche 963 GTPMid-engined layout, twin-turbocharged 4.6-litre V8 

LMP2

The LMP2 class consists of a single vehicle, the Dallara P217.

The Dallara LMP2 doesn’t lack much in pure downforce compared to the faster GTP vehicles, though it loses out on the straights to the hybrid-equipped cars. Its 4.2-litre Gibson V8 produces less power than the engines in the GTPs, while the lack of a hybrid drive system puts it even further behind in the power stakes.

This can mean that in many ways the vehicle is easier to drive, as the lack of the hybrid system ensures the power delivery is smoother. This is especially noticeable on out-laps, where your tyres are cold.    

If you want to get ahead of the pack from the outset, install one of Coach Dave Academy’s bespoke setups for your Dallara LMP2 steed. 

CarPowertrain
Dallara P217Mid-engined layout, naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8

GT3

GT3 is the premier category of GT racing vehicles worldwide, with a total of six machines ready to be called up for battle. 

All use iRacing’s extensive Balance of Performance measures to ensure each has an equal chance of running up front. 

Each has a unique engine layout/placement combo, and these attributes add up to each needing varying driving styles to get the best from them. If you want to best the rest of your tin-top competition, try one of Coach Dave Academy’s setups for your chosen GT3 challenger. 

CarPowertrain
Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo IINaturally-aspirated 5.2-litre V10 
BMW M4 GT3Twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six
Ferrari 296 GT3Twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6  
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EvoNaturally-aspirated 5.2-litre V10
Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020Naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 
Porsche 911 GT3 R 992Naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre flat-six

Need some setups?

Our iRacing Setup Subscription allows you to focus purely on your on-track performance. And, with access to our free Coach Dave Delta app, installing them couldn’t be any easier.

  • Race setups
  • Qualifying setups
  • Onboard laps
  • Data packs
  • All are crafted by professionals

Race Format and Strategy

The Petit Le Mans grid is decided by iRacing’s conventional eight-minute qualifying session. One of your team’s drivers will need to be nominated to post a time. A three-minute practice session beforehand allows drivers to make sure they have the correct setup installed, and to ensure their equipment is working as expected. 

The race will then get underway with a rolling start procedure.

If you need to brush up on your driving technique before heading off into the Georgian sunset, take a look at Coach Dave Academy’s Never Lift guide. Written by our team of professionals, Never Lift features all the advanced driving tips you need to maximize your potential on the track. 

Track Conditions

Like all iRacing special events, the Petit Le Mans encounter features dynamic weather. This means that depending on attributes like cloud cover, the track gives a different grip level at different times. The track will also get faster as rubber is laid down on the racing line during the race, and of course, after the 2024 Season 2 update, rain could well ascend on the circuit.

Being a 10-hour race, a portion of the outing will be run under darkness. The cooler temperatures that result can shift your car’s balance significantly, so practice in all conditions is a critical preparation element to ensure you drive to your full potential.  

  • Each member of the team should be comfortable with the car and track across all conditions to reduce the likelihood of getting caught out
  • Track development is important to keep on top of as car balance can shift significantly, which can harm driver confidence if not expected
  • Tire wear can be hugely dependent on track temperature and rubber level, so this must be taken into account 

Need some extra guidance?

Coach Dave Academy releases new iRacing track guides every single week, helping you find the correct racing lines and braking points across a lap. Our content coverage ranges everything from the Porsche 992 GT3 Cup to a GTP class contender and everything in between.

Why not check out a track guide at Road Atlanta with the Ferrari 296 GT3? 


Consistency

Consistency is important to ensure that both driver and car are in optimal shape during each stint, which could add up to many seconds saved in race time.

  • A good rhythm will help reduce mistakes and driver fatigue, making it easier to keep lap times low
  • Driving consistently reduces chances of overdriving, which can help to protect tires and keep grip levels more consistent for longer
  • Without this, your concentration and lap times will steadily rise, putting your entry under pressure from your rivals

Variables

Being a multi-class event, traffic will prove a key obstacle in your quest to securing top honors in the Petit Le Mans. Patience and keeping a cool head are critical elements to ensure you and your teammates don’t make mistakes through rash moves in the heat of the moment.   

  • Leave as many moves as possible to the straights, and certainly not through the esses as the consequences will likely be huge for you and your opponent
  • Pick out areas where you can back off and make speed differently if cathing slower track to try and mitigate time loss 
  • Calmness and decisiveness will be key attributes to surviving the race in a strong position

It will be far from easy to secure supremacy as the demanding Petit Le Mans, though following the tips in this guide should ensure you have the best possible chance. 

Many rivals will fall victim to the forbidden fruit of passing through the ultra-fast esses, so keeping your head up in this section, in particular, will drastically improve your chances of reaching the chequered flag.

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