2013 Long Beach Grand Prix: Part One

Words by Matt Willis

Every year – for the past 38 years – the City of Long Beach closes a few streets downtown in early spring. The red-and-white painted corner markers that were once part of Shoreline and Seaside become apparent again as crews place barriers around the 2-mile course. Grandstands line the south end of the front stretch along Shoreline, where, in just a few weeks, a select few drivers would cross the finish line first.

For those few weeks of the year, downtown Long Beach becomes the home to the first round of Formula D, the second race of the American Le Mans series and the third stop of the IZOD IndyCar season. Vendors, fans, drivers and their teams flood the streets on race weekend to participate in one of southern California’s timeless event. We’ve been to a lot of races over the years, but there’s something about this one – maybe the sound of backfire echoing between the buildings, or the fact that the race track itself is made of very streets you can drive on just a week after…in any case, it’s a race that you truly have to experience in-person to be able to appreciate.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, more or less, marks the beginning of a lengthy schedule of events rolling out in Southern California, with summer just around the corner and all. We had a great time and are looking forward to everything that’s going to be happening over the next few months. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably waking up every morning trying to conceptualize how it can already be April (and now May in just a couple short days). Regardless of how fast the clocks were spinning, we had a great time covering the event and I’m sure 2014’s Grand Prix will be here in no time…

Tim and Mel arrived Friday morning to begin covering the event, while I arrived from San Diego later that night.


We begin inside the Long Beach Convention Center, where several race and show car builds were on display for fans to see up close.



Beautiful Mclaren MP4-12C…



The presence of the new 2013 SRT Viper was strong at the Grand Prix, with a pair of them racing in the ALMS GT class and an entire SRT booth set up at the Expo. Vipers are a love-hate relationship for most, but honestly I think everyone can agree that it’s great to see them on the ALMS grid.






Love this very aggressive BMW 3-series Sedan.


Nice exhaust setup…


The new Lotus Exige S. Not quite sure how I feel about it yet; the front end looks nice but the rear is a bit extruded – almost like a Corvette tail…







Cars from the Pirelli Challenge Series are maintained indoors instead of out in the paddock, in the interest of space. However, this allows fans to get up close to these cars and see the work that goes into them.



The Mercedes SLS, which competes in the LMS GT3 class overseas, was a part of the Pirelli Challenge Series here.



Pair of Lotus 111s…




Of course, another huge presence at the Grand Prix is Porsche. There are several 911’s competing in the ALMS GT and GTC classes, as well as the Cayman S in the Pirelli Challenge Series.




The new Corvette C7 on display. Still warming up to this one as well…


Crazy Camaro ZL1 build…




Some of the Formula D/Motegi Drift Challenge cars were also stationed inside…




Back outside, things were starting to take place in the paddock as teams began to ready their cars for practice sessions.











Patron made the jump from running in the GT class last year (with a pair of Ferrari 458’s) to the LMP class this year.


Replacing the M3 GT duo in last year’s event are two lighter, more nimble Z4M GT’s.



Cars from the Pirelli Challenge series got some practice laps in…





The Hawk GTR emitting some flame…


Interesting to see the Pontiac Solstice out there. We don’t really see/hear of them in events anymore…


Among the cars that Tim and I loved from last year were the Realtime Racing Acura TSX’s. Glad to see them back in the grid…



The IZOD IndyCars had a short practice on Friday afternoon as well…






Some mistakes were made early on, and hopefully learned from…


Will Power, the winner of last year’s IZOD IndyCar race at Long Beach…




I arrived in Long Beach after the sun had already crossed the horizon, so things at the track were coming to a close. We did a little more walking around that night and then went downtown to hang out with some other San Diego folks, knowing well that Saturday and Sunday were going to be full days of shooting…


Tomorrow we will cover the American Le Mans Race as well as some drifting under the lights. Stay tuned and thank you for reading!

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