For those joining from yesterday’s post welcome back, for the rest of you we’re continuing from a very uncharacteristically wet day at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Fortunately the sun decided to bless Southern California with its prescience and the weather couldn’t be better for a day of racing.
In addition to the ALMS race later in the day, one of the largest attractions on Saturday is the Toyota Pro / Celebrity race. Over the years this part of the weekend has grown into a fan favorite. Anytime you put average people into racecars on a street circuit carnage is guaranteed.
Our very own Frederic Aasbo was lucky enough to be chosen for the 36th running of the event. He would be competing alongside three other pro drivers against a mixed field of Celebrities like Adrian Brody and Top Gear USA’s Rutledge Wood.
The format of the race is somewhat confusing and designed to make the celebrities look good. Essentially the race gives the celebs a thirty second head start before they release the pros who then proceed to drive around the yard sales in front of them to chase the lead. In Frederic’s case he only had to shove one car out of his way, the one driven by UFC champ Cain Valasquez.
Although Adam Carolla made the headlines for taking home first, it was Frederic who put in the drive of the day. Finishing a mere five seconds behind Carolla after ten laps, Aasbo had picked up no less than eleven positions by the checkered flag. After the race was finished Frederic told us that if he had two more laps he definitely could have made it into the lead.
Elsewhere in the paddock the Indycar teams were hard at work making final tweaks to the cars about to head out for practice. No detail is overlooked and even sticker application is dealt with extreme precision.
The Indycar series is the title race of the weekend after all and I will be taking a deeper look at the race in days to come. This season the cars have taken on a drastic new shape with bodywork that partially covers the rear wheels to reduce turbulence.
Meanwhile event goers were busy stuffing themselves with a combination of greasy American food and bitter Mexican beer – not a bad way to spend the weekend.
During this time many of the ALMS drivers like fellow Speedhunter Tommy Milner are busy signing autographs. But this is only a quick distraction from the task at hand only a few hours away.
Back in the media center the journalists are treated to a free lunch courtesy of King Taco, a SoCal favorite.
After cramming ourselves full of food like proper race fans, Larry and I made our way through the paddock and out onto the racetrack lined to the brim with spectators to shoot the ALMS race.
By 4:30 on Saturday afternoon when the race started the track temperature was 99 degrees Fahrenheit, up 33 degrees from the day before. The circuit conditions couldn’t have been more different from the day prior and I knew when I lined up on the inside of turn one for the start of the race that the next two hours would be killer.
After the green flag waved the pole sitting Mazda powered prototype of Guy Smith was just able to stay in front of the Honda powered car of Lucas Luhr. The two would continue fighting tooth and nail for the duration of their stints.
Back in the GT class the action was pretty much par for the ALMS course with the front of the field bobbing and weaving like a freight train through traffic.
In the opening lap there was a small scuffle which caused a new trend in the GT class, no hood. Both the #3 Corvette and the #56 BMW suffered from hood loss. Fortunately for Corvette racing their car was able to shed the hood under its own power while the BMW had to come into the pits to have the dangling piece removed.
The concrete barriers seem to narrow more with every lap and it isn’t uncommon to see cars stuff it hard here. To make matters worse anytime loose bodywork flies off a car the k-rails will keep it in harms way until the next full course yellow.
Missing body panels quickly become a way of life on the street. Here we see what’s left of the rear end of the Alex Job Racing Lotus Evora, a rough maiden voyage indeed.
The eight car field in LMPC was by far the healthiest of the prototype categories and as such was where a lot of the action was. At then end of the day Core Autosport would pilot one of their Orecas, the #06 car, to victory.
In P2 the early retirement of Tim Pappas meant that the three remaining cars would be jockeying for position but would receive a podium position regardless. The same fate awaited the three-car P1 field but that didn’t stop Klaus Graf and Chris Dyson from giving it all they had for the top slot. In the end it was a good day for the HPD ARX-03a as the chassis brought home first place in both P1 and P2 categories.
The GT Challenge field, although light on entries compared to a series like IMSA Challenge, was hotly contested. The gap between the front runners was constantly changing and drivers paid dearly for the slightest hiccup.
The top four cars in GTC finished on the same lap with the #34 car of Green Hornet Racing leading the charge. Damien Faulkner crossed the line just out of harm’s reach with a three second margin of victory.
But the real fight laid in the GT field occupied by twelve cars it is not only the largest of the classes running this weekend but also the one with factory works efforts. Laying it all on the line the GT cars leave nothing on the table.
In this class the race could be won by virtually any car in the field and the previous track record shows that nobody is safe, not even on the last lap. With some of the world’s most sought after cars including Porsche 911s, Ferarri 458s, Chevy Corvettes and BMW M3s to name a few, it’s no wonder this class is so popular with fans.
With each passing lap the drivers get closer and closer to the concrete lined perimeters looking for even the smallest of an advantage. The risk of getting it wrong is catastrophic, but the reward for doing it right is what separates racing drivers from normal people.
This weekend one pair of drivers stood out from the rest – Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin. During the course of his stint Tommy did his beast to hunt down the BMW in front of him and eventually lead the class. But you can read the story from his point of view in his driver blog.
All that you need to know now is that when the checkered flag fell the #4 Corvette was at the front of the pack, finally securing the top step of the ALMS podium Tommy has been patiently chasing. If the result wasn’t enough, in the process Oliver Gavin managed to put down an incredible lap of 1:20.188, good enough for a course record. On behalf of the rest of the Speedhunters I’d like to congratulate the duo on an excellent result. More to come from Long Beach in part three next week.