Words by Matt Willis
I know this is probably long overdue, but the past few weeks have been a bit crazy for us. In addition to work and school, I was trying to get my car ready to run at Speed Ventures in Fontana. I had a few run-ins with Murphy’s Law; having to replace a leaking heater core and a damaged brake caliper all within a couple of days. But, I’m happy to report that the car made it out and held up very well, so the effort didn’t go to waste. With that in the books, we have another event going on this coming weekend that we’re trying to prep for as well, so there isn’t going to be much of a break between editing and such. But we’ll
Anyways…the Long Beach GP kicked off the 2012 American Le Mans season and is the third stop on the IZOD IndyCar schedule. Downtown Long Beach has hosted the Grand Prix for thirty-seven years, and has one of the most loyal fan bases around. Similar to San Diego’s Coronado Speed Festival, the Long Beach GP is considered as part of the city’s heritage and lifestyle. And that great thing, especially with all the silencing and closures at our local racetracks. Strong support for the racing – whether its international or grassroots – is an integral component of automotive culture. In America, anything but the popular sports often becomes out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Take golf for example. Most of us don’t care about it and have no interest in it. But, to those who play golf and follow the PGA (or whatever tour), it’s a big deal. There is a degree of science to golf; just as there is a degree of science to racing. But to someone who doesn’t care about racing, it’s just a car going around a track. But when you bring the sport close to home – to places like Long Beach, and like San Diego – the people feel more connected to it. In that sense, I hope they don’t relocate or shut down events like this.
We arrived at the Grand Prix on Friday afternoon, just as the rain was coming in. Despite the foul weather, there were still a number of spectators to watch the various events. The ALMS qualifying took place, but got cut short when the rain really began to pour.
Tim took some shots around the paddock prior to qualifying.
The paddocks for the LMP cars were very sophisticated; similar to what you would see in Formula One.
Here, one of the IZOD Indy cars was being serviced…
This was being pulled off the track after the Indy Car practice session…
And on track, the camera crews were getting set up for the qualifying run. Everyone in the photo/media groups were watching the clouds closely to protect their gear…
Soon enough, the cars were off and running.
Here is the very iconic and anticipated 2012 Porsche 911 RSR being followed by the Patron 458 Italia.
Making its Le Mans debut was the Lotus Evora; unfortunately, the Yokohama team had some trouble dialing it in on race day. I think its a great platform to work with, but I’m not sure if it has the guts to run with some of the bigger cars.
One of my favorite cars of all time, the LMS M3.
This gulf-themed Aston Martin Vantage sounded amazing.
Here are a few cars from the Firestone and Pirelli challenge groups.
Tim and I were surprised to see these Acura TSX’s in the mix. They ran hard and sounded pretty intimidating for a V6…
The IZOD LF-A pace car made its rounds and was taking people for joyrides around the course…
Toyota also had several new Camrys going about…
The Le Mans pace car was the Panamera…
…along with medical assistance from the Cayenne.
The Firestone series used Honda Ridgelines for safety vehicles.
Porsche had several 911s on the grid.
Because of the slick roads, many cars weren’t able to carry traction into the corners, so many of them opted to lock up instead.
Then, it started to get dark. Really dark.
The rain started to come down once again and the qualifying cars were flagged to come in.
We stayed out as long as we could before we (and our gear) started to get drenched.
The cool thing about Long Beach is that food is not far away. If you want to eat indoors, there are plenty of places along the boardwalk on the west side of the track. Great to have if you want to get out of the elements without having to leave the event itself. We ended up at the ever-reliable Chili’s…
By the time we were finished eating, the weather had cleared up a bit.
Here’s a view of the track from the convention center.
That’s all for today. More to come soon.
Thanks for reading! – Matt