Some might have told you that the big ticket for the second day of the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach was the Toyota Pro Celebrity Race (AKA Scion pinball) but the real action was the American LeMans race. Four different classes of race cars lined up on the streets of Long Beach and it was my chance to see cars like the Mazda Lola Coupe, Falken Porsche RSR, and the Rahal Letterman Racing BMW M3’s up close and personal.
The race was absolutely nuts. There was everything from controversial penalties to a Corvette spontaneously combusting! Don’t worry about that last part though the driver (Boris Said) got out ok.
In the P2 class the Mazdas was taking it to the Acuras and were leading the class for a good portion of the race. This was a pretty impressive feat for Mazda considering that their Lola B09 coupe is so new that the paint is still drying. Although, despite an impressive run the Fernandez Racing P2 Acura was able to take the lead away from Mazda in pit lane. However Mazda was still able to keep the Acura’s in their sights and earned second and third on the podium.
The story in P1 was the battle between Gil De Ferran’s Acura team and the Tequila Patron Highcroft Acura’s. The Tequila Patron team is used to being on top but legendary Honda/Acura driver Gil De Ferrran wasn’t having it. Gil has raced on the streets of Long Beach many times in his legendary career but never managed to win. He was a runner up many times but couldn’t quite get his feet on the top spot of the podium…until this weekend. He and teammate Simon Pagenaud were able to hold off Scott Sharp and David Brabham to take the win. A controversial pit lane call against the Highcroft team didn’t hurt Gil’s efforts either. More on that below.
In the GT2 Class things got hot…literally. Things were going fine until one #28 Riley Corvette driven by Boris Said suddenly burst into flames. Boris must have saw it coming because during the replay you could see that he already had the door open and was ripping himself out of his harness before the car even came to a complete stop. Luckily Boris was ok and suffered only minor injuries.
The American Le Mans race is in my opinion the best part of the weekend short of the main event. If you didn’t make it out to Long Beach this year I highly suggest that you start planning for next year. I guarantee you’ll have a blast.
Now check out SPEED’s recap of the race and after that a few pictures taken by yours truly.