Derek Reyes is the senior manager of corporate partnerships at Roadway Atlanta. With the 2020 Motul Petit Le Mans behind us, Derek tells us about preparations for the next event, why Motul is such a great partner and why this track is a driver’s favourite.
The 2020 Motul Petit Le Mans is not too far behind you. When do you start planning the 2021 event?
We’ve just wrapped up a crazy three months. We’ve packed a year’s worth of activity between September and November. In terms of the Motul Petit Le Mans, there are two different groups that help put this event on. On the IMSA side, they work closely with the teams in terms of regulations and competitors. We’re on the promoter’s side, so we work very closely with the spectators, the fans, and the corporate clients. While we don’t do a whole lot of work with the teams, our responsibility is to get the facility ready for an event. Preparing for the Motul Petit Le Mans is a year-round job these days. I’m already talking with automotive manufacturers about 2021 activation. They just left us six weeks ago, and we’re already discussing what 2021 plans look like.
Can you tell us more about the relationship between this event and Motul?
Our Motul relationship started four years ago. 2017 was the first Motul-sponsored Petit Le Mans. That was also our 20th anniversary of this event. So, going into year four, it’s been a great marriage between the track and Motul in a lot of ways. Motul is a premium brand. And the core of what we do is sportscar racing and bringing in luxury brands. And the owners and teams are looking for nothing but the best products to put in their cars. For a premium brand like Motul to align with the Petit Le Mans, one of the most iconic sportscar races in the world, and certainly one of the top sportscar races in North America, just made a lot of sense. If you also tie in the connection Motul has with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it made even more sense.
Petit Le Mans is, quite literally, a smaller version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. What other similarities are there between the two events?
Yes, so it’s a mini 24 Hours of Le Mans. A lot of the similarities are the automotive brands and manufacturers who participate. In a way, the type of racing is also similar. You have multiple classes all running at the same time competing for class victories and the overall victory. A lot of the cars that compete in the Petit Le Mans also compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well.
Road Atlanta’s been described as one of the world’s best road circuits. What makes the track so special?
We’ve been very fortunate here in that our track is 50 years old. While we have made many improvements to the facility and the amenities, the one thing we’ve really tried to keep is the track layout and the racing surface. This has always been one of the favourites for many drivers, and that’s because it’s an old school track. It’s very technical, it has high speeds, it’s got tight corners, and elevation. In fact, nine or 10 of the turns are blind, so you’ve got to have a lot of faith in your car. It also has hard braking zones. But if you want to take some chances and try to be aggressive and pass, there are opportunities. But make a mistake, and you’ll pay for it. Drivers love it, and it challenges even the best drivers in the world.
How did you get around the problems the pandemic brought?
It was a very challenging year. We were shut down for about three months. During then we spent a lot of time developing the safety protocols. For example, we put into place mandated masks and temperature checks for everyone coming through our gates. And we’re still using all of these protocols to date. We also had to figure out how to do business a little differently this year, like adapt to the digital technology that has always been there but perhaps we didn’t use it as much. The pandemic has certainly changed how we do things, and some of those are probably here to stay, such as Zoom calls.
© Pictures: Jordan Lenssen