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04/08/05-04/10/05 THE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 17, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

By HARVEY SCHWARTZ All Photos & © by Harvey Schwartz

Under cool and clear sunny skies this weekend, an estimated 200,000 spectators watched and cheered as the 19 750-horsepower Formula single-seat, open-wheel CHAMP race cars battled it out on the 11-turn, 1.97-mile temporary road course setup on Shoreline Boulevard along the Pacific coastline in downtown Long Beach, California.

Also, for the first time, many thousands of spectators in the crowd came to watch the sliding, high-performing coupes, and listen to their outrageously loud screeching tires spinning out columns of black smoke, during the first Formula Drift Challenge of Long Beach.

The CHAMP cars put on their usual exciting high-speed racing with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, the 2004 CHAMP Car Champion, narrowly winning the 81-lap race over new record setting (104.983 mph) pole-sitter Paul Tracy, who finished second. These formula race cars can reach 100mph in just 4 seconds and have a top speed of over 245 mph.

Danish rookie CHAMP Car driver Ronnie Bremer finished a strong seventh in his first CHAMP Car race piloting his No. 55 Ford Cosworth XFE Lola Bridgestone racecar. It was the highest finish of any rookie CHAMP Car driver in the first race of the 2005 CHAMP Car World Series.

The part of the weekend's festivities that made the most noise and brought out the most crowd reaction and response was the first ever Long Beach Formula Drift Challenge. This also marked the first time that Drifting played a part of a major three-day motor sport event in America.

Drifting was started in Japan over fifteen years ago and has been quickly growing in popularity throughout Europe. For several years, drifting was an underground street racing event in America. Now it's broken through to legitimacy on a grand stage, and is proving to be a fan favorite by the amount of cheering and race fan enthusiasm that I saw and heard during this year's Long Beach Grand Prix.

This was also the first time that drifting cars successfully negotiated a 21-turn road course. It was truly amazing to see how skillfully the Formula Drift drivers were able to control their sliding cars around the tight turns at speeds up to 110 mph.

The inaugural Formula Drift at this year's 31 st Annual Long Beach Grand Prix attracted 14 drivers, including guest drivers Nobuteri Taniguchi, Kazu Hayashida, and Tarzan Yamada from Japan.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

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