Yes, it is time for SpeedHunters' Petit Le Mans coverage to start in earnest.
Hartsfield International, Atlanta's airport will be Check-Point Charlie for Motorsport pros this weekend. Heading East will be Linhbergh who should hook up with a West bound Rod later today. Me? I am already here in the humid confines of Road Atlanta. The official sessions leading up to the race are now underway, so here is a quick look at what is to come.
SpeedHunters will be looking at all aspects of the event but will also be focusing on two of the team competing. I get the honour of looking at the Team Falken Tire efforts, They are a well run privateer team in the GT2 class that has full blown factory projects from Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari and BMW, so it is a real uphill struggle to achieve even the most rudimentary success. We will track their progress in the next few days.
Of course this is BMW month on SpeedHunters, so Rod and Linhbergh will concentrate on the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team. In contrast to Team Falken this is a two car full factory effort with regular hot-shoes, Joey Hand, Bill Auberlain, Tommy Milner and Dirk Muller being joined by WTCC aces Andy Priaulx and Jorg Muller. More about this project later.
Arriving at the hotel last night I encountered a low key Franck Montagny slipping out of the lobby. He had been playing cards with the other Peugeot aces but had been cleaned out. From the big pile of chips in front Stephane Sarrazin and the much smaller bundles in front of Pedro Lamy and Nic Minassian it was clear who Peugeot's answer to The Cincinnati Kid is.
There was a problem for the French 07 car which came back to the pits on the back of a flat bed, having had a small fire at the rear with a brake caliper overheating.
These days a team as switched on as the Peugeot Equipe takes such small issues in their stride and soon the 908 HDI FAP was easing through the Paddock and back out on to Pit Lane. Next it hit the timing screens with a 1:09.042 good enough for second place.
No problems for Franck Montagny in the other Peugeot, scorching round the Road Atlanta track in 1:08.138………..his disappointment at the card table instantly forgotten.
So much for the French, what of Audi? Well Lucas Luhr dented the effort and the #2 chassis on Wednesday. It is said that there was a new tub built up over night, so plenty of set up work to do.
The whole programme looked a bit out of sorts leaving some worried looking faces in the Audi Sport section of the pits. The handling of the R15 TDI looked to be the main culprit in the car's lack of pace.
Allan McNish maintained a vigil from the pitwall scrutinising both the R15 and the opposition.
In the hotly contested GT2 class the BMW M3 of the Mullers and Tommy Milner were top dogs but the first 8 runners were covered by less than a second……………..some race in prospect.
Worth a mention is the appearance of much rumoured Radical SR9 with an AER tuned diesel taken from a VW Tourag, what's the upmarket Soccer Mom gonna use to pick up the kids this weekend?
Not quite making it to the track but at least the subject of a presentation in the paddock and some promised demonstration laps was the Rocketsports Jaguar XKR, another contender for GT2
One new boy that did make it out on to the circuit was Drayson Racing Lola B09/60.
Then the first really big incident of the weekend…………………I was sitting in the Media Centre trying to finish this post but, as ever, keeping one eye on the monitor…….. there was a collective intake of breath as first a wheel and suspension, then a tub, the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a with Scott Sharp hanging onto the wheel came rollin' and tumblin' across the screen and, of course, the fences above Turn One.
The car was comprehensively trashed………..then Sharp extracted himself, a touch unsteady, from the wreckage.
They say third-time lucky, well not Scott Sharp…………….same place, same time last year, in practice, then early in the race wrecked the Acura at turn 12………….now this.
Sharp's Acura had clipped the Porsche of Dirk Werner that was exiting pit road, then the aircraft accident.
First off and most important, Scott walked away, the car? Well another tub is currently being shipped in from the West Coast and should arrive tomorrow morning…….then the big build up………….the guys at Patron Highcroft will be earning their money this weekend.
OK off to shoot night practice.