Cyber Motorsports Event Photos

The new paddocks are well laid out and offer the fans great viewing of the action. The walkover bridge at the start / finish line is an excellent addition and beyond being a logical navigation route, it is a super spot to see the action. Fans found the key to going up and down the steps, since no standing was allowed, was to walk r-e-a-l s-l-ow. The Panoz and BMW pits were on either side of the bridge, so their pit stops could be viewed from this elevated spot.

As the sun began to sink in the sky, and the hours and miles ticking away, the teams prepared for the final rush to the finish in search of victory.

One of the BMW/Sandtler Brothers team looks up pit road at the action occurring in the Panoz pits as the end of the race draws near.
Tired and weary, the crew for the Panoz #1 have their attention glued to the TV coverage of the race. As fast as their car was and as hard as they had worked, they were still in second place and it looked like it was going to be impossible to catch and pass the #42 BMW. The Radio Le Mans roving reporter stands and watches from his vantage point.
Teams have their own massage therapists that work with the drivers as they come in from their exhausting stints behind the wheel.
The last driver changes start happening. David Brabham turns the Panoz #1 over to Eric Bernard.
The leading BMW #42 is in the pit and JJ Lehto turns the car over to Jorg Müller for his last stint.
Dodge Viper Team Oreca makes one of their last pit stops. Oreca had a phenomenal 1-2-3 finish in the GTS class.
The young hot foot and the old fox. Butch Leitzinger and Elliot Forbes-Robinson watch the action coming down the hill into turn 12 from their spot in the #1 pit stall. Leitzinger and EFR recently won the abbreviated USRRC championship and coming into the Petit Le Mans, were leading the American Le Mans Series championship. The pair have also been leading Cyber Motorsport's Cyber Cup world driver's championship all year.
Pat Smith, team manager of Dyson Racing and the genius behind the Dyson Racing domination of American sports car racing, looks up the hill toward the Michelin Bridge as the sun sets on the course.
JJ Lehto has done all that he can do in the BMW #42 and now sits and waits as the final laps wind down with the car in the hands of his only co-driver, Jorg Müller.

I began my coverage at the track on Wednesday during the testing phase. Lehto had gone off course in a high speed almost headon crash and both he and the car came through unscathed. Lehto had been fast all day during the race and had the car in the lead when he turned it over to Müller. Now, all he could do was wait and hope.

The day after his crash, I interviewed Lehto and asked him his impressions of the track, event and their chances at winning.

Approximately, one minute after this photo was taken, there were grunts and moans of anguish coming from the BMW pit. Gloves were thrown the ground, German expletives were heard and tires were kicked by the crew. Lehto left quickly and his Petit Le Mans was over. Müller had spun out of the lead into a gravel trap and their race was over.

The BMW team stares in disbelief at the TV monitor as Jorg Müller puts the car into the gravel trap at turn 10a, only seven miles from the end of the 1000 mile endurance race.
The Panoz team erupts into celebration as the fireworks go off and Eric Bernard brings the Panoz LMPR Ford home in first place for the first overall victory for Panoz at their home track.
Don Panoz and David Brabham give each other a victory hug. For Panoz, it has been a long struggle as he watched his cars in the past several years look strong on the Road Atlanta track, only to not be able to find that elusive overall victory.
The victors in their #1 Panoz, David Brabham, Eric Bernard and Andy Wallace throw hats to the crowd while the second place BMW #43 team of Joachim Winklehock, Steve Soper and Bill Auberlen seem slightly unsure how to celebrate the unbelievable finish in which their number one team failed.

On the left, Jorg Müller stands alone in shock and shame without his teammate JJ Lehto beside him or his team for support. Was it fatigue, a memory lapse, a distraction, or just pushing too hard that caused Müller to spin out of first place when he had such a reasonably comfortable lead?

JJ Lehto's Statement

Congratulations go out to Don Panoz, the drivers and all of the Panoz team for a hard fought win. As the popular American expression goes, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings" was appropriate for this race. You can lead 999.9 miles, but if you don't cross the finish line first, it doesn't matter.

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©1999 Cyber Motorsports

All photos by Earl Cook