We won't try to conceal our agenda with this piece; in fact, we'll tell you straight up, you should go to a race. To be sure, in our shoes we support most levels of motorsport, large and small, from the grassroots on up, but in this case we're talking specifically about big-ticket competitions, your 24 Hours of Daytona-, Indy 500-level occasions—affairs so big, they last days and you want to go to them with a gaggle of friends and do a little partying. And in Southern California, few are bigger than the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
It's coincidence this year's GP—the 44th—happened at the same time as weekend one of the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, another big to-do in SoCal, because the race is a little like a Coachella of the motorsports world. The lineup includes the marquee championships of the Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, and support racing by the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC), SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks, Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge (we'll have more on that in a few days), and the Historic Trans-Am Challenge. Throw in the GP's Lifestyle Expo area and concerts and, needless to say, it's a tremendous amount of car-lovin' bang for your buck.
In fact, because there is so much on the bill, most of the series mentioned above typically only bring their top-tier racers and leave ancillary championships at home. The event is still a great boon to area motorsports heads, though, especially fans of European car brands. The grand prix provides a remarkable chance to be close to some fantastic machinery.
Most of that Euro metal happens to be in IMSA's and World Challenge's grand touring, or simply GT, vehicle classes. IMSA calls its class GT Le Mans (or GTLM in shorthand), which features 510hp, 4.0-liter flat-6 991 911 RSRs from the Porsche GT Team and similarly powerful 4.0L V-8 M8 GTEs from BMW Team RLL, among other non-Euro competitors. Unfortunately the GTLM weekend was a rough one for Porsche and BMW, the 911s finishing sixth and seventh in class (out of a field of eight) and the M8s coming home fifth and eighth in the 100-minute sprint.
World Challenge featured its GT/GT3 (generally, pro-am classes for production-based race cars making between 500 and 600 hp) and GTS/GT4 (again generally, barely modified production-based racing for privateers) homologated cars, a field made up of all European marques for PWC's 50-minute sprint. The grid included 911 GT3R powered like those found in IMSA; additional 4.0-liter-ish V-8 Ferrari 488 Italia (the 'Raris actually displace 3.9L) and V-8 Bentley Continental; 5.2L V-10 Audi R8 LMS and Lamborghini Huracan LP; and one 6.2L V-8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in GT/GT3. In GTS/GT4, we had 3.8L H6 Cayman CS-MR; 6.2L V-8 SIN R1 (SIN's a Bulgarian supercar company—don't worry, we had to jog our memories, too); and one each R8 LMS and 3.8L V-8 McLaren 570S.
Daniel Mancinelli in the TR3 Racing 488 claimed GT3 victory on Sunday afternoon of the three-day weekend motorsports festival, trailed in class by Toni Vilander in the R.Ferri Motorsport 488 and Alvaro Parente in the K-Pax Racing Continental. In GT4, Paul Holton in the Compass 570S scored the W, with Harry Gottsacker in the Racers Edge Motorsports R1 coming home second and Spencer Pumpelly in the TRG Cayman crossing the stripe in third.
When the track wasn't hot, you could retire to the LB GP Lifestyle Expo inside both the city's convention center and arena (located in what would be the "infield" of the street course), a confluence of vendor booths massive (like an OEM who will go unnamed here) and much less so (nuts, anyone?) The auditoriums also served as paddock areas for the PWC, Super Drift, and historics, and if you could tear yourself away from the racecars you might find gems like the E28 M5 in the Motul booth or the Rod Emory Porsche 356 resto, complete with Honda Elsinore motorcycles in tow—literally.
Friday and Saturday of the Long Beach Grand Prix ended with Super Drift, a rowdy sliding demo/competition under the lights, and holding it down for BMW this year was Alex Heilbrunn in the IMR E46; ok, so the car rocks a blown LS V-8 under hood, but you can't win 'em all, right? Trust us when we say, whatever kind of car nerd you are, get yourself to a big racing weekend. You will likely have a great time, and even if you don't, there's one thing it won't be: forgettable.