Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Part One
Shore Set to Roar Again
After being cancelled 2020 and very limited in 2021, fans are looking forward to this year's Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, happening this weekend.
By Brian Kennedy
Sat, Apr 9, 2022 11:00 AM PST
Long Beach, CA - Over the years since the mid-1970s, when what is now the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach started (that was 1975, precisely), it has built what the GP Association President Jim Michaelian Thursday labelled "equity" in the idea that this is an April event. People look forward to the weekend. It kicks off the local sporting season, in a way, usually coming sometime just around when baseball gets going.
Covid changed all that. The race was cancelled altogether in 2020, and in 2021, it was moved to September and became the season finale in the NTT IndyCar Series. The early fall event was a success, though rife with hassles as fans had to submit to Covid tests and keep up with masking protocols. The crowds were predictably scaled back.
Everyone hopes this year erases all of that, as the race weekend is back to its rightful time of the year, April 8-10 being the weekend when Long Beach turns into a sparkling, jeweled paradise and dozens of drivers in spectacularly engineered cars roar around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn track.
It’s not just IndyCar which races on the weekend. IMSA Weathertech Sportscars will contest in three different classes, racing at the same time. Porsches will contest in the Porsche Carrera Cup Series, and Historic Grand Prix cars will race, albeit with a bit of a tame take on that term given the age and value of their equipment.
And then there are the sideshows. There’s drifting, first popularized here a decade ago. Super Stadium Trucks will also jump ramps on their way around the track.
This is only the racing part of things. There’s a lifestyle expo which brings out vendors of everything from car stuff to vinyl replacement windows, as well as loads of food and drink options so that fans can make merry throughout the day, as the budget allows. Part of the attraction of the indoor activities is a Kid Zone. But it’s really to be outdoors in the sunshine that fans descend on Long Beach for this event.
The weather is cooperating, sort of. There’s no hint of rain in the forecast, which is great news. But Friday in the LBC was nearly 100 degrees. Fortunately the Saturday-Sunday window was predicted to be in the low 70s, all of which is fine, unless you’re trying to set up a race car.
How a car behaves in 100-degree weather is not how it will drive in 70-degree weather. Drivers I talked to on Thursday were concerned.
Sebastien Bourdais, who won Long Beach in IndyCar competition previously, said "I can’t tell you how it will feel in the sportscar because I haven’t run it yet, but these cars are just three or four seconds off the IndyCars [per lap]. It’s one of the smallest gaps in the season."
"I’m sure tire life is going to be a bit of an issue [because of the weather] but not so much on Saturday. The balance is going to change a bit . . . but it’s the same for everybody."
His words were backed up by a "gotcha" of sorts when he ran to a record in Friday’s qualifying in his Cadillac. He foreshadowed that on Thursday when he said, "This is a place where I’ve run really good in the past, a track I really enjoy, tons of fans, and a great atmosphere."
Bourdais’ qualifying time was about two seconds faster than the previous best for cars of this type on this circuit, and his average speed was just about 100 miles an hour. That, obviously, means that he was going double that on the famous sweeping straightaway that is the signature of the Long Beach street circuit as it gently curves along Shoreline Drive on its way to the fountain turn next to the Long Beach Aquarium. Bourdais’ lap time was 1 minute, 9.472 seconds.
The days at Long Beach are packed with action, with the highlight of Saturday being IndyCar qualifying and the IMSA race, and Sunday, of course, the Acura Grand Prix. That happens at 12:45pm local time.
IndyCar has gotten off to a strong start this year, with Scott McLaughlin of Australia winning the opening street race in St. Petersburg, FL in February and Joseph Newgarden taking a spectacular, and spectacularly close, oval race in Texas in March. Fans expect no less of the 26-car field for Long Beach. Included in the group are six rookies, so that might make for some mistakes and mixing up of qualifying positions. Qualifications are Saturday and the racing, as mentioned, happens on Sunday.
About The Author
Brian Kennedy always wanted a ’66 Mustang. 10 years ago, he bought one – and he’s been restoring it ever since. Brian extended his passion for cars by covering events for magazines like Grassroots Motorsports, Sportscar, and Victory Lane – e.g., events in Cart, Pro Rally, Formula Atlantic, the SCCA Runoffs, Trans Am, SVRA, VSCDA, and VARA. He’s also profiled a number of cars and interviewed a number of personalities – among them: Gene Felton (IMSA), Hurley Haywood, Jerry Seinfeld, and Nigel Olsson.