When there are echos of high-revving engines bouncing off the skyscrapers of downtown Long Beach and tire smoke billowing across Shoreline drive it can only mean one thing: Formula D is back and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is following right behind it. Formula Drift is this weekend and the Grand Prix follows the weekend right after but to kick things off the Grand Prix association in conjunction with Formula Drift held a joint media day for both events yesterday on the Long Beach Grand Prix course. Journalists from all over were invited out to the course to meet all the celebrities that will participate in the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race this year and also had a chance meet, greet, and ride along with a few of the top Formula Drift drivers. A lucky few also got a few full course hot laps in a Grand-Am series Mustang and a Touring Car series Porsche. Unfortunately I was not one of those lucky few but there is always next year.
The highlight of the day was the Celebrities participating in the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race. If you are unfamiliar with the Celebrity race then allow me to initiate you. For the last 20+ year Toyota ships off a group of celebrites to a racing school to learn the tricks of the trade then unleashes them on the course on the Saturday before the “big race” armed with a Toyota sports coupe (it was the Toyota Celica for most of the event’s history until the Scion tC took over when it was released). To make things even more interesting a few professional racers (the ”pros”) are thrown into the mix. To make things less one-sided the celebs are given a 15 second head start over the pros. However, as you might suspect the pros catch up and things get really, really dicey which makes for incredibly entertaining automotive carnage. This year the group consists of a few rookies like Djimon Hounsou and a few more veterans returning to the race such as Frankie Muniz and last year’s winner Brian Austin Green who is determined to repeat his win despite the vegas odds not being in his favor (true story). At the end of the day the real winners are the various charities that the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race benefits. During lunch the drivers took place in the annual tradition of randomly choosing their numbers as well as signing a unique piece of art work that will be auctioned off for charity.
After those festivities, the drifters took to the track to scare the crap out of journalists from all walks of life while getting a bit of early practice in before competition day this Saturday. Chris Forsberg, Mike Essa, Kyle Mohan, Joon Maeng, Jeff Abbot, Sam Hubinette, Ryan Tuerck, Taka Aono, Robbie Nishida and Alex Pfeiffer were all in attendance in their new cars (with the exception of Tuerck and Aono) and were all looking great! As usual they got quite a bit of attention from the celebrities as well. I’m starting to think that maybe there should be a “celebrity drift competition” worked into the grand prix one of these years. What do you think? Yay? Nay? Wishful thinking I guess. Anyhow feel free to check out some of my pics from the event below as well as a quick interview with Djimon Hounsou and then for the full 120 image gallery head over to the MotorworldHype.com Facebook Page.