Rear View Mirror 4-10-17
The Grand Prix of Long Beach has been running since 1976 and it is possibly America’s premier racing event. For two weeks the City of Long Beach is turned into a festival for nearly all kinds of racing. While initially Long Beach was a Formula One event, since 1984 IndyCar in its various forms has been the principle race. That is unless you come down strictly for Formula Drift the week before, or wait through each day of racing for the awesomeness that is Super Stadium Trucks.
So let’s just start there. Super Stadium Trucks are thunderously epic. Despite the incredible racing of IMSA, PWC, IndyCar and more, the crowd was on their feet and screaming for every minute of Robby Gordon’s thrill show. These NASCAR-motor-powered super trucks with serious suspension roar like monsters as they roll sideways on two or three wheels, fly over massive jumps, and put on an amazing show.
Sure they are racing, but I don’t think the crowd cared who won, it was all about Robby Gordon two-wheeling his truck through the hairpin and absorbing the mayhem as these beasts clashed.
My ears are still ringing from the sound of nearly every type of racing engine on the planet raging past, mere feet from my face. With media credentials and my camera, I photographed every event from every perspective I could fathom. I walked the perimeter of the nearly two-mile track and found my favorite spots.
With so many races running, a photographer has to plan carefully. For example, to get to the fountain complex from the paddock is about a 20-minute walk. The hairpin is obviously another great spot to watch or shoot from and watching cars brake hard and swing through turn 9 after blasting down the Seaside back stretch were my favorites. All in all, I think I put on close to 15 miles of walking over the weekend.
The paddock is a bustling mecca of motorsport and automotive spectacle. You can get up close and personal with all the cars, meet drivers. With the right package you can also access pit lane and do grid walks for each series. Celebrities abound, and I was lucky enough to run into my personal automotive hero Magnus Walker, who was one of our early Heavy Metal Affliction celebrity profiles.
With so much to do, plus access to an incredible range of food and racing novelties, it’s easy to just roam and take it all in. That is, until that hallowed phrase, “Start your engines” comes over the Public Address and we are reminded what the race weekend is all about.
From the start I was rooting for friend of Forza Josef Newgarden, also featured in Heavy Metal Affliction. As I followed his progress through the practice sessions, he seemed to have the pace and in qualifying he was in the mix.
As the race played out, Newgarden worked his way through the field from outside the top ten into the top five and battled his way to third. Well-timed pit stops and staying clear of a few entanglements that occurred near the start and near the end of the race got him on the podium. Ahead of him was a red-hot James Hinchliffe who led 25 laps, and the winner of the St. Petersberg race Sebastian Bourdais.
Scott Dixon led a race-high 32 laps and ended up fourth place. Ryan-Hunter Reay led for 28 laps but was taken out with only a few laps remaining contributing to a rough finish for Andretti Racing overall.
IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Challenge
Sports car racing is truly my favorite motorsport and the multi-class racing of IMSA was the highlight of Saturday’s events. This year the GTD drivers joined the fray making for a deep grid of 35 cars from Europe, Japan, and America. From the start, the race was plagued with accidents and cautions.
My girlfriend was rooting for the #62 Risi Competizione GTLM Ferrari since she has a friend on the team. We were both hoping for the best for the Forza Motorsport/Change Racing #16 GTD Lamborghini. Sadly, the #62 was taken out on the first lap and badly damaged due to no fault of its own. Then our GTD hopes were dashed in the final laps when the #16 got spun right in front of me at Turn 9.
The winning prototype was the #10 Cadillac of Ricky and Jordan Taylor. The #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner topped GTLM and Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeanette captured the first victory for series sponsor WeatherTech in the #50 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The biggest winners were those in attendance who got to hear the rumble of American V8s, against the bevy of the best racing motors from around the world. It was truly an ensemble of epic proportion.
Pirelli World Challenge
World Challenge may be a supporting series, but the mix of cars is absolutely top-notch. Watching McLarens race cars from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin, Acura, Audi and Cadillac is truly an amazing sight and sound.
The race was plagued by a red flag stoppage after just 10 laps of the scheduled 31-lap race. The fifteen-minute break gave me a chance to peruse the PWC cars on their own pit lane as city crews resolved a running water problem caused by a side-street incident that flooded the track surface on Seaside.
In this multi-class race between GT and GTA cars it was all the #9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S of Alvaro Parente. Parente set a track record in qualifying and in the race. Porsche factory driver Patrick Long pushed Parente from second place, but each time Long got close, Parente just pushed harder to ensure a gap. The #6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S of Bryan Sellers came in third.
Motegi Super Drift
For those who love drifting, and didn’t make it to the Formula D event the weekend before, the Motegi Super Drift Challenge is somewhat of an invitational to both Pro and Pro2 drivers and takes place Friday and Saturday nights under the lights.
The final four were Odi Bakchis, Mike Essa, Dean Kearney and Matt Field. Field took out Kearney, then went on to beat Essa for the win in the final round.
Saturday hosted a special event with cars not seen for ages on the streets of Long Beach. There were 22 historic Can-Am cars on track with a combined 18,000 horsepower. The roar of these V8 powered beasts echoed throughout the city during this exhibition event.
It wasn’t about winning, but everyone who was there, especially the gentleman racer owners behind the wheel took home the prize of seeing and hearing these monumental race cars doing their thing.
Across the Line in Other Racing
At the Chinese Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz driver Lewis Hamilton managed a Grand Slam and led every lap of the race. Sebastian Vettel fought to keep Max Verstappen behind him but kept the Red Bull phenom to third.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson passed and pulled away from Joey Logano on lap 318 to take the victory in Texas. It was Johnson’s first victory of the year but his 81st overall.
Hyundai is making its presence known in WRC taking the win and third at the Tour de Corse in France. Thierry Neuville won the four-day asphalt event in his Hyundai i20. Sebastien Ogier took second overall in his Ford Fiesta and Dani Sordo made it a double-podium for Hyundai taking third.
Don Joewon Song Does the Impossible
To close out this epic edition of RVM you have got to see Don Joewon Song make doing the impossible look easy in his latest, and greatest accomplishment yet. Check it out: