1998 marked the first edition of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The American meeting was the first of a collaboration between the ACO and the IMSA wanted by Don Panoz. The event was the 7th meeting of the IMSA GT Championship with the presence of prototypes.
The prototypes would steal the show from the GTs with a victory for the Ferrari 333SP/Doyle-Risi Racing of Manu Collard, Eric van de Poele and Wayne Taylor. The Porsche LMP1-08/Porsche AG of Michele Alboreto, Stefan Johansson and Jörg Müller took second place. The podium was completed by the Porsche 911 GT1 Evo/Champion Motors of Ralf Kelleners, Bob Wollek and Thierry Boutsen. Everyone still remembers Yannick Dalmas taking off in a Porsche 911 GT1 on the home straight.
The three winners will therefore be put to work this year even if two of them, Manu Collard and Eric van de Poele, will not be present physically, retained by other obligations. Wayne Taylor will of course be present since his team is racing in the IMSA championship.
« Petit Le Mans was clearly Don Panoz’s vision, and it was for the fans »said Wayne Taylor. « It’s a unique 10 hour race and it always has a very dramatic and very exciting last lap ending. It’s fantastic for Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, for IMSA and for our sport. To have been part of the win of the inaugural race and now, 25 years later, to have the opportunity to be the Grand Marshal is so humbling. I’m very grateful for that. »
Belgian Eric van de Poele was driving the Ferrari when the checkerboard was lowered: « We were very proud to be the first winners of this race. For me, the first Petit Le Mans was one of the best memories I had during this year, because the team was very close-knit, and we We had a lot of success. I knew Le Mans well having participated in it a few times before. At first it was very strange to participate in a race in America called Petit Le Mans. But when we arrived, I was able seeing the enthusiasm and the organization around this race. I realized that it could be a fantastic race and it made a big impression on me. With the link with Le Mans, this could be one of the keys to sports car racing in America, with a lot of Europeans coming to race in America. »
“It was great to be part of the team for this race because it was my first time racing in the United States”confided Emmanuel Collard. « To be honest, at the beginning it was a bit embarrassing because the first time I came out of the pits with new tires I went straight off the track. So it was really bad to start. J raced on this car with JB Giesse Team Ferrari, so I knew the car, but I had never used the Pirelli tires that we used with Wayne. These tires were completely different from those I was used to. When I came out of the pits released the pit limiter the tire grip was bad and lost the car but after that everything was perfect and the error was behind me Wayne and Eric were very nice to me, and we had a great weekend. The race was perfect, and we had no problems. I really enjoyed the race; it was a perfect race for all of us. »