After a few days chilling around LA and the surrounding area, it was another crazy o’clock drive down to Long Beach on a Friday morning for the 7am Grand Prix of Long Beach media briefing. While the main reason for this second weekends visit to Long Beach was the Super Drift events on the Friday and Saturday evening, it was also an opportunity to check out the rest of the action at an event that doesn’t get much coverage over in the UK. The 3 days consist of races from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Pirelli GT4 America, Historic IMSA GTO Challenge, SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks, the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge and finally the highlight of the weekend the IndyCar Series.
Leaving the briefing the BUBBA burger SportsCar Grand Prix (IMSA) practice was taking place. Standing watching them run up E Seaside Way under the walkway connecting the Convention the speed and noise echoing around the covered area was unbelievable. Two classes of sports cars, Daytona Prototype and GT LE Mans, would complete on the Saturday afternoon in a 100min race
With car types including Porsche, Acura, BMW, Nissan and Ford there were some jaw dropping machines out on track all weekend in this race.
The Long Beach street circuit offers some backdrops as impressive as the cars
Along with some interesting shooting spots if you’re prepared to walk the track
The parking garage next to the dolphin fountain roundabout gives an impressive view looking down onto the fountain and around turn 4.
21 of the best GT4 cars in the world would compete in the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint round on Sunday before the Indy race. The single driver 50min race would be round 3 of the season.
Taking up over 270000 square feet the Lifestyle Expo in the convention center is an impressive show in itself.
The hall was full of eye catching builds showing off various automotive related company stands.
Scott Birdsall’s 1200hp turbo diesel ’49 Ford F-1 pickup Old Smokey is as crazy as it is awesome. I first saw this back at SEMA in 2016, and after seeing photos of it in a ditch at Pikes Peak last year it was good to see it looking healthy and ready to destroy some tyres.
I’ve got a serious soft spot for the Challenger, I had one as my hire car this trip, and this matt black build from Zero to 60 looks so mean and awesome.
One end of the main hall was set aside for support series paddocks giving the fans a chance to see what goes on to keep these cars out on the track.
Every car show needs an old school Datsun Z and I wasn’t disappointed when I saw the Uncommon Friends Racing 1978 280z.
Lets just take a moment to remember none of these races would go ahead without the marshals. Many of these guys are unpaid volunteers doing the job because of their love of motor racing.
The Historic IMSA GTO Challenge was a showcase of cars from the 70’s and 80s
How to grab the fans interest. Take a bunch of Stadium Super Trucks and let them race around Long Beach, taking corners on three wheels and doing crazy jumps.
These guys running would be a blast at events over in the UK. Stick a ramp out at Silverstone during Trax and the fans would love it.
Of course, the big event at Long Beach is the IndyCar Series. While looking similar to F1 the cars all have the same chassis and one of two engines from Honda or Chevrolet. I wasn’t around for the big race but being trackside as they scream past on the street circuit was everything I imagined it would be.
Which leaves the reason I hung around for the GP weekend. The Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge is an invitational event where the drivers compete for podiums, carbon fiber trophies and a share of the $25000 prize money. The races run over the Friday and Saturday running into the evening.
The small field was also down Deane Kearney on the Friday with the Irish driver airing on the side of caution after the overheating issues in FD the previous weekend.
Brazilian Joao Barion misjudged the first corner in his battle with Faruk causing steering damage and ending his evening.
After some awesome driving the previous weekend got him second place at round 1 of Formula Drift Forrest Wang took out Kyle Mohan and Faruk Kugay on his way to the final against Federico Sceriffo in his Ferrari.
Federico struggled to match Wangs pace and line in both battles giving Wang the win and 1st place.
Podiums and some running around covering people in champagne, the first night was done and everyone appeared to have a fun evening
Saturday and it was great to see a slightly bigger lineup with the Oracle Viper rolling out to play.
After some practice sessions, we had a lineup to introduce the drivers to the packed grandstands which line the FD portion of the track.
As the sun dropped below the Long Beach skyline everything including the tyre smoke took on a yellowy orange tint.
Kearney took out Barion and Mohon on the way to the final. Meanwhile, Wang had a bye run due winning the previous evening taking him straight to the top 4 and in a repeat of that final, he was up against Sceriffo. The Italian put in a good battle but couldn’t match Wang and for the third time in a week Forrest was through to a final battle.
Kearney and Wang put on a great final battle for the fans but a mistake by the Irishman in his chase run give Wang his second win of the weekend.
The carbon fiber trophies looked very cool.
This was an amazing event to cover with so many forms of racing in such a great location.