All it took was one bad storm. The track at Bridgehampton on Long Island was old. Having existed in one form or another since 1915, it was one of the oldest road racing tracks in the country. And in the spring of 1970, one bad storm was more than it could take. Heavy rain and wind brought flooding, and by the time the water receded it was clear the track was in no condition to host the Canadian-American Challenge Cup race scheduled to take place there in just a few short months. A replacement would have to be found.
At that moment, David Sloyer, Earl Walker and Arthur Montgomery were taking stock of their newly purchased 750 acres of farmland in Braselton, Georgia. They were planning to build a road racing circuit, one of the best in the world, there amongst the rolling hills 35 miles north of Atlanta. Then, they got the call from the Can-Am organizers. A replacement track was needed to host the seventh race in the upcoming series. Could Road Atlanta be ready?
In just six months, they went from grassland to asphalt, and on September 13th, 1970, Road Atlanta opened it’s gates for Can-Am, and beyond. Ownership of the track traded hands several times over the years, and with those trades came a rollercoaster of financial solvency which left the track bankrupt in 1993. Finally, in ’96 Road Atlanta fell into the capable hands of pharmaceutical pioneer Don Panoz (you can thank him for your nicotine patch).
Panoz made a series of upgrades to the track in order to bring it up to FIA standards for international competition. In 1998, Road Atlanta hosted a race modeled after the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans – a 10 hour endurance race known as “Petit Le Mans”. The first Petit Le Mans rocketed Road Atlanta back onto the international racing scene (in part thanks to this gnarly backflip), and there it has remained.
In addition to Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta plays host to Drift Atlanta, The Mitty, and is part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series.
The twelve turn, 2.54 mile circuit is famous for its esses, the “undulating ribbon”, between turns three and five. And Car-and-Driver is particularly fond of turn twelve and its blind approach. In fact, they are such fans, they put Road Atlanta in their top six road courses in the country, making it well worth the visit. But when you go, don’t be like this guy.
Want to learn more about how to incorporate more racing into your life? Contact Team Stradale today!