Shining like the jewel it is, nothing showcases the positivity and excitement of an imminent American summertime better than a gleaming harbourside in Long Beach, California at Grand Prix time. This iconic event will this weekend host the second round of the 2014 Verizon Indycar Series.

The Circuit


Long Beach Circuit Map

Date: 11-13 April 2014
Lap Length: 3.167km
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:00-10:45
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 14:00-14:45
Free Practice Session 3 Sat 10:00-10:45
Qualifying Sat 13:15-14:25
Sunday Warm-Up Sun 09:00-09:30
Race (80 laps) Sun 13:45-15:45
2013 Winner Takuma Sato (AJ Foty Enterprises)

* All session times are quoted in Pacific Daylight Time (GMT -07:00 hrs)

Envisaged by local entrepreneur Chris Pook, the first Long Beach Grand Prix was a Formula 5000 race, but the potential of a street track by the harbour in a well-populated and well-attended part of suburban Los Angeles was enough to attract Formula 1 the following year, with luminaries such as Clay Regazzoni, Gilles Villeneuve, Nelson Piquet and Niki Lauda – not to mention Aussie racing legend and friend of, Alan Jones – all among the winners here over the existence of Formula 1 at Long Beach.

Unwanted by Formula 1 after the 1983 event, the fans in the southern California area were not to be deprived of an annual motorsport event and the IndyCar Series stepped up to the plate. The series has been a staple in the annual sporting and entertainment schedule of Long Beach each year since.

It is, in many ways, like a more casual sibling of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix. Packed with celebrities, glamorous models posing on the shore and the majesty of the original Queen Mary positioned front and centre of all elevated camera angles in all its splendour. Teams and drivers are always in ebullient moods coming to the race, with the latter acutely aware of an ever-heightened sense of stardom.

Long Beach Talking Points

Many traditional fans of American open-wheel racing are not yet sold on the idea of the standing start we will see this weekend. The idea has merit, as anyone lining up any further back than the fourth row cannot claim a fair shot at overtaking due to the notorious 180-degree right hand hairpin that leads on to Shoreline Drive and the start/finish stretch. A standing start will make for a more even playing field from the green flag and for those old enough to remember them, likely bring back memories from the days Formula One raced on the Long Beach streets in the 1980s. Either way, it should make for a pulse-racing start as the entire field screams down to the tight left into Turn 1.

Since St Petersburg two weeks ago, officials will have likely studied race footage concerning Will Power’s somewhat controversial restart. Power, who delayed his acceleration to an exhaustively late stage, was oblivious to the fact he backed up the entire field and inadvertently squashed Jack Hawksworth and Marco Andretti into each other, which sent both into the tyre barriers and ended their race. It is likely that a much earlier zone for accelerating will be set for Long Beach, meaning drivers will be able to hit the gas pedal as they enter the main straight.

A strong Japanese contingent will likely be out in force this weekend to cheer on their countryman and defending race winner Takuma Sato, who will be out to prove his effort last year was not a one-hit wonder. Sato qualified on pole at St Pete, so his A.J. Foyt Enterprises car is obviously quick on street circuits, so expect a strong showing from the crafty and ultra-competitive veteran. Anyone in front of him will know that all it takes is the smallest of opportunities and Sato’s nose cone will be up the inside trying to take the place.

Long Beach generally produces two types of race. Never are dull, unless they contain back-to-back caution periods, however this is a rarity. With many overtaking opportunities around the circuit, more often the streets produce a nail-biter. Let’s hope for another demonstration of the latter this weekend.

Image via XPB Images

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Matt Lennon