The second day of the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach is a favorite among most race fans because not only is it the day of the Toyota Pro Celebrity Race (AKA celebrity pinball) but it is also the day of the American LeMans race. Unlike the other series racing over the weekend the ALMS guys have their main race on Saturday instead of Sunday so that the teams have time to get ready for the 24 hours of Le Mans race in France. This is also the reason why Audi rarely shows up to the Grand Prix Of Long Beach. Saturday is also the day knock-out qualifying for the Indy Cars as well as qualifying for the World Challenge guys. On this day I took the time to take another stroll through the Indy Car Garage as they got ready for qualifying then I visited the ALMS garage as they prepped for the race and camped out at a few spots track side getting shots as they battled it out. You can check out a few pics below and view the full gallery on our Facebook page. You can also get the full results of the ALMS race here. Enjoy!
I waited all year and the time finally came for open wheel racing to come back to town in the form of the IZOD Indy Car Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Last Sunday was race day and I was parked in my usual spot in grandstand 29 along the main straight of Shoreline Drive and waited for the cars to come blasting by me at 180mph into turn 1. With 2 races in the season already completed (St Petersberg and Alabama) victories were split between the Target Chip Ganassi team and Penske Team with one each so fans were playing the “Ganassi or Penske” game coming into this weekend. With Will Power scoring pole position it was looking like the round would go to Penske but then we were reminded that Long Beach is a street course and street courses almost always equal chaos.
The first bit of anarchy started when Helio Castroneves spun Justin Wilson by making contact with him in the hairpin coming on to Shoreline Drive. That mishap brought out a full course yellow which bunched up the field and destroyed any gap that Will Power had built up on the rest of the field. A double file restart was attempted once Justin was clear but the drivers caught stage fright and for the most part stayed in a single file line when the race went green again. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed to snag the lead from Will Power but just when Ryan was starting to get used to being out front another incident with EJ Viso and Danica Patrick brought out another full course yellow which again bunched the field back up and killed any gap that the front runners put on the pack.
This time race control made sure the Indy Cars really did make a double file restart when the track went green again. The result of which was everything going wrong! Helio Castroneves struck again but this time he got into his own teammate Will Power causing both to spin around which totally screwed up Team Penske’s day. Then inexplicably Takuma Sato got a flat and ran into the tires just past the convention center, and a few other rookies mysteriously spun out in the same area just after Sato came to a stop. It was all absolute madness. With all the carnage another full course yellow came out and once things were cleaned up they went for the double file restart once again. This time things went more cleanly, yet things still kicked off with a surprize as Alex Tagliani, Dario Franchitti, and Mike Conway all put pressure on front runners Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the start. First Tagliani seemed to get the jump on the two Ryans but out of no where Mike Conway makes a move on Dario Franchitti then weaves past Tagliani just as Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car decides to take a dump. Then Conway puts a brilliant move on Briscoe to take the lead in the last 6 laps or so and holds on to take his first ever win in the Indy Car Series! It looks like the rest of the season could turn into a three way battle between Ganassi Racing, Team Penske, and Andretti Autosport!
Scroll down for a few highlights from the race and stay tuned for more Grand Prix posts coming up!
While crusing the Auto Club Expo here at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach I spotted a prinstine example of a full-Mugen Honda CR-Z in the Indy Car Fan village. Leave it to Mugen to make a Hybrid look super fresh! If you are in So-Cal you definitely need to come out to the Grand Prix here in Long Beach and see all this cool stuff for yourself!
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.
The “Thrill From West Hill” is coming back to Indy with KV Racing. He made the announcement during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. It looks like he wants another shot to get an “official” win. Check out his brief interview in the video below.
Over the weekend the IZOD Indy Car series came right into our back yard for the 36th annual Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. The party actually started at the beginning of last week with a huge media even at the track site. And there was a ton of racing outside Indy Car going on all weekend but there will be more on that in later posts. This is all about the big Indy race! Things started off on Saturday with Will Power capturing his 4th pole in 5 races so he was sitting comfortably up front, until the green flag dropped and Ryan Hunter-Reay made an early move for the lead then ran away with it. Ryan pushed as hard as he could for the first stint and built a huge cap. The fact that there was only one caution for the entire race just helped him all the more and in the end he took the top spot on the podium. Will Power and Justin Wilson followed behind in second and third respectively. Catch all the race highlights in the video below and check out three full galleries of coverage on the official MotorworldHype facebook page.
There are two pretty huge weekends coming up in Long Beach this month. The first is Formula Drift Round 1: Streets Of Long Beach then the weekend after that is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. To make things a little more efficient there was a combined media day for both events yesterday and there was a bit of everything on hand. Media had a chance to meet and greet with the famous faces that will be competing in the Toyota Celebrity Race, hang out with some of the top drivers from Formula Drift, and go on ride alongs with a few cars from the World Challenge series, including Patrick Dempsey in a Mazda6.
Naturally with all of this going on in our backyard I decided to take the short trip down the 710 and take in the festivities. I even got to have lunch with Patrick Dempsey and Adam Corolla! Check out a few pics below and a full gallery on our Facebook page.
Word from Mazda USA has it that Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey will race during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. However it won’t be in the “celebrity race” and it wont be in an obnoxiously loud Scion. Patrick will run a Tri-Point Motorsports prepped 2010 MAZDA3 in the World Challenge race on Sunday April 18th. I’m interested to see how he does in a field full of young, hungry, and considerably less polite competitors in the World Challenge series! When race weekend comes around I’ll see if I can get a statement for you guys.
March 29, 2010 (Irvine, Calif.).
MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development today confirmed that Patrick Dempsey will race a 2010 MAZDA3 prepared by Tri-Point Motorsports in the World Challenge race during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. Dempsey normally races a Mazda RX-8 in the Rolex Grand-Am GT series.
About the weekend and the difference in racecars, Dempsey said, “I’m thrilled to be able to race near my Los Angeles home. With the Grand-Am series, I’ve been able to race at many of the great tracks in North America, but now I have a chance to race locally. The Tri-Point MAZDA3 really impressed me during testing. I’ve never driven a front-wheel drive racecar that handled that well before. I shouldn’t have been surprised though as my daily driver is a MAZDASPEED3. The weekend will also be personally rewarding to me as we’ll be carrying the colors of our Dempsey Challenge.”
The Dempsey Challenge presented by Amgen is a non-competitive fundraising event for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing at Central Maine Medical Center. The 2010 event will take place October 2nd and 3rd in Lewiston, Maine. More information, including registration materials, can be found at www.dempseychallenge.org
The World Challenge series is for production-based racecars and features three classes, GT, GTS, and TC2. Dempsey will be racing against over two dozen other professional drivers in cars ranging from Porsches, Corvettes, Vipers, Acuras, to Scions. The Tri-Point MAZDA3 will compete in the GTS class.
The World Challenge race is a part of the multi-race Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, April 16-18. The World Challenge race will take place on Sunday, April 18th. Ticket information can be found at www.gplb.com
Also at Long Beach the same weekend:
■Mazda will compete in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron race on Saturday afternoon with the Dyson Lola-Mazda MZR-R LMP car. The ALMS car will be carrying ARCO colors for the two California races (Long Beach, and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May). ARCO is a part of BP, the primary technical partner with Mazda on the powertrain development. The Mazda car will be the only entry fueled by isobutanol, a BP developed bio fuel. Team information can be found at www.dysonracing.com
■Robert Davis, Senior Vice President, Product Development & Quality, Mazda North American Operations will be the keynote speaker at the “The Race Has Gone Green” sustainable motorsports conference to be held Friday, April 16th at the Long Beach Grand Prix. The conference is sponsored by SEMA and the MIA. Conference information can be found at www.sema.org/RaceGoneGreen
■MAZDASPEED will also be a supporter of the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) Salute to Parnelli Jones on the evening of Thursday, April 15th. The annual RRDC gala is a fundraiser for the Team USA Scholarship program. Over the past several years, many of the Team USA scholarship winners have come from the ranks of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development series. Information can be found at www.rrdc.org
Yeah, I know this news is breaking a little late but we had to make sure we didn’t spoil it for anyone waiting for the re-airing of the race. So as you can see in the picture above Mr. Dario Franchitti took the checkered flag at the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach last Sunday.
The race started with Will Power (top qualifier) up front and as usual with the top qualifier at Long Beach he lead a good portion of the race. However his team had problems with their radio and telemetry which threw them off just enough for Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick to cycle their way to the front with pit strategy and a few full course cautions. By lap 55 of 85 Dario captured the lead and held onto it for the remainder of the race.
This is the first time Indy Car ran the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach and I have to admit I was a little skeptical of it since I was so used to the turbo V8s of Champ Car running the streets but I’m glad to say that Indy Car did not dissapoint! If you haven’t been to this race yet I highly reccomend you come to Long Beach next year and check it out.
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.