by Martin Gonzales
Photos by Jeff Naeyaert & Martin Gonzales
Our coverage of the events in Long Beach continues with this past weekend’s 36th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. If racing is your craving, it does not get any better than the menu the Grand Prix has to offer; it’s more like a racing buffet. In the same sitting you can indulge in the Izod IndyCar series, snack on some World Challenge Championship action and satisfy your sweet tooth with the American Lemans series. With so many options and events going on it can be difficult to keep up with the results of every class, but we’ll try to summarize it all while giving you some insight to the different series and classes the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach hosts.
The city of Long Beach shuts down the area surrounding the convention center for a couple weeks a year in order to create the 11 turn 1.968 mile course. Google map East Shoreline Drive and you’ll clearly see what makes up the front straightaway. The street directly north of Shoreline is East Seaside Way, which is used as the back straight of the course. The safety barriers and fences are set up weeks prior to the event, so if you happen to be cruising the streets of Long Beach around Grand Prix time you can get a taste of the front straight as you make your way onto the 710 freeway. It’s actually pretty cool, especially since most of us will never have the chance to actually drive the circuit.
Though most teams arrive early on Thursday morning, fans don’t have access to the track until Friday morning. Thursday is more of an unload and set up day for the teams and since the track is never “hot” on Thursday, the drivers take advantage of this time to walk the track. Friday, on the other hand, is a completely different story. At 7:00 in the morning the roaring of the engines start as the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) teams get ready to go out on their first practice sessions. Friday is pretty much all practice, not only for ALMS, but also for the Indy, Indy Lights and World Challenge cars. But don’t for a second think you can write this day off, because it all ends with the ALMS qualifying session!
|The ALMS teams prepare for qualifying on Friday morning.