By David Phillips
In a season that has already brought us two-hour and 40-minute races at Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway, next up on the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule is another unfamiliar event in a familiar setting: The Michelin Endurance Challenge Weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
For while competitors and fans alike know the 12-turn, 2.54-mile roller coaster of a circuit like the back of their hands, the featured event’s six hour length is all new to a venue that has been home to the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans since 1998.
But if fans are unfamiliar with the sight of the checkered flag waving on a WeatherTech Championship race here before darkness has fallen, nearly everything else about the event will be familiar. Including where and how to watch it.
The panoramic view of cars sweeping downhill through The Esses, up to and through Turn 5 is among the iconic spectacles in the world of motorsports. And while the Jumbotron that traditionally towers over the spectator area won’t be in place for this event, you can still keep track of the action the rest of the way ’round the track on your mobile device via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, making this one of racing’s premier vantage points. With concessions, restrooms, a shuttle stop AND souvenir stand a few steps away, small wonder Spectator Hill ranks among the best spots to take in the action at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
If overtaking and trading a little paint floats your boat, we’ve got a spot for you: the terrace seating in Turn 10. The sharp left-right turns of 10a and 10b come at the end of a nearly mile-long straightaway, requiring drivers to whoa-down to 35 or 40 mph from upwards of 200 mph; just the ticket for demon late braking moves and side-by-side action, and it all unfolds in front of you in a spectator-friendly bowl complete bench seating.
Saving the Best for Last
Most roller coasters start with a bang: the biggest hills, the biggest thrills come right out of the starting gate. Not Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. While there are hills and thrills aplenty in the first couple of miles, it’s the last quarter mile that separates the men and women from the boys and girls.
We’re speaking, of course, of the downhill plunge from Turn 11 through Turn 12. Snag a spot on the pad just outside the drive-over bridge at Turn 11 for a bird’s eye view of the cars falling off the edge of the world to complete every lap. If it looks insanely fast and scary, that’s because it is. All the moreso because nailing Turn 12 – and getting a big launch down the start/finish straightaway – is key to a quick lap.