Long Beach Grand Prix!!
“Gentlemen, start your engines!”
These, as they say, are the most famous words in motorsports. Last weekend, we heard that phrase five different times as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach hit the streets of a city that might as well be in (and some L.A. folks wish it was in) Orange County.
For 35 years, the GPLB has graced Shoreline Drive in Long Beach. It is a 3 day marathon of cars, cars and more cars. From the cars racing out on the temporary race track, to all the tricked out cars in the expo area, there’s something for just about everyone! The event takes place Friday, Saturday and culminates with the headline races on Sunday. However, you don’t have to go all 3 days like I did. Here’s a brief break down of the weekend:
Friday-All of the race cars are either practicing or qualifying this day. If you’re not particularly fond of crowds, but want to see the cars going full speed around the track, go Friday! The tickets are always cheapest for this day (in fact usually you can find free tickets for Friday) and all of the expo booths are open.
Saturday-Again, this is a day for practicing and qualifying, but Saturday is also the main race for the Celebrity Race, Team Drifting and usually for a support race series which this year happened to be American LeMans Series.
Sunday-RACE DAY!! This is the big day. Usually in the morning the feeder series cars (think minor leagues) will race, then the major series, which was Indy Racing League this year, will race.
*Saturday and especially Sunday are significantly more crowded, and due to the size and placement of the track, there is a lot of walking to be had. Just a warning for those not a fan of crowds*
*Also, General Admission tickets are the cheap way to go to the race, but it doesn’t get you assigned seating. Friday and Saturday the assigned seating isn’t enforced, however on Sunday you’ll be standing all day if you don’t buy assigned seats. Just a warning.*
Now that you know what happens on what day, allow me to give you a brief recap of this year’s GPLB-
Friday was the day we chose to walk around the expo. The practice sessions can be long sometimes, but that’s perfect for the fans. We were able to watch the sessions for 30-40 minutes, then walk around the expo, without missing much action. The expo this year was a good one. Of course there’s all of the racing schools, go-kart tracks and racing games/toys to play with and dream of doing. What I’ve always thought was funny is that the Army and Marines always have huge booths at these things. Now, yes…watching tubbo race fans try to do pull-ups is entertaining, but let’s face it, like the racing schools, they’re trying to sell their product. Do race fans really buy into it and sign up? It must work, but I never see any forms being filled out.
Also in the expo area, they have access to the paddock area for the smaller series. For the non race fans, the paddock is where the race series work on their cars. They’ll have all the tools and extra parts necessary to fix and improve the cars between races (see pics below).
Saturday things really picked up. There were way more people and there was a lot more alcohol flowing. We arrived just before the Celebrity race. The Celebrity Race is exactly what it sounds like….TV, movie, music stars getting behind the wheel of a tricked out car (this year it was the Scion tC) and racing it around the track. They’re given 2 weekends of race school prior to the race, but this rarely does them any good. Let’s face it, race fans watch the races for the crashes, and the celebrities…..they like to crash! In fact it is pretty mush a guarantee that there will be a big wreck at some point in the race. The list of celebrities this year included Keanu Reeves, Tim Daly, Rayven-Symone, Alex Trebek and Adrien Brody just to name a few. Past celebrities include Ashley Judd, Alfonso Ribeiro, Alyson Hannigan and on numerous occasions George Lucas (who supplied us with a spectacular crash 2 years ago). The Celebrity Race has also launched race careers for Jason Priestly and Frankie Muniz!
This year’s race was great. The celebrities fought hard (except for Alex) for the win. Rayven-Symone crashed twice eventually breaking her car so it was not drivable anymore, and in the last lap, an X Games athlete and MTV VJ has a huge wreck which ended up giving Keanu the win!
The Team Drift competition was AMAZING as always. Drifting is what they do in the movie Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I used to be mildly impressed until I saw it in person. If you ever get the chance, it’s awesome!! The Formula D championship is at Irwindale Speedway in October. Check it out if you can.
The ALMS race race was confusing, as there are about 4 or 5 different classes racing at the same time. We were hot and tired, so we left before it was done. But I will say, the Corvettes that race for ALMS are insane! The sound that comes from the engines literally vibrates through my chest. Really cool.
Sunday came and so did the heat! This year marked the return of the Indy Racing League [IRL] to Long Beach. (Surprisingly, there’s been a lot of drama over the last 18 years. If you care to know more, this Wiki article explains it very well.)
We got there early to watch the Indy Lights race. Indy Lights, remember, are what is equivalent to the minor leagues in baseball. Thanks to a friend, we were given access to the Toyota Hospitality area. Hospitality in racing is the greatest. You not only get free food and drinks, but you also usually get free gifts and are pretty much spoiled rotten. Also, it was one of very few areas with shade. The Indy Lights race ended fairly uneventfully.
When it came time for the main event, the IRL race, we went down to our assigned seats. The drivers didn’t let us down. The race ended up being a VERY good race! All the drivers fought very hard and there were some great wrecks! First place ended up being a driver only 2 races out of NASCAR, second place was a driver who only had driven that car once before the big race and (much as I don’t really like her) Danica Patrick charged from 22nd at the start to finish in fourth!
There was another race after that we started watching, but having spent 3 days outside in the ever increasing heat, we ended up leaving about 20 minutes into it.
All told, it was a GREAT race weekend. And the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the beach!!!
I promise next year to give fair warning ahead of time so you can buy your tickets and experience it for yourself, but I wanted to show and tell what a great experience it is for those who have never been.
I’ll finish with a couple videos and a few more of the pictures I took OR you can CHECK OUT MY FLICKR SET! :-)