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The Long Beach Weekend

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On: Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 12:11PM | By: John Welch

The Long Beach Weekend

This past weekend, April 17th and 18th, we had the most televised racing available to us so far this season. To say that I was "sedentary" this weekend would be like saying "gators eat Cocker Spaniels only if they really have to." A gator will devour a Cocker Spaniel at given any opportunity, and I have La-Z-Boy-sores. Similar to bed sores, made worse by constantly dusting the wounds with Dorito flavoring and spilled beer for a solid 36 hours. The odor was pungent when I finally separated myself from the soggy lounge-chair; I had become one with the dyed, seemingly donkey-derived leather.

These are the hardships that I suffer for you, brave readers, in an attempt to explain and describe the wonders of high-dollar racing to you and your contemporaries. It's hard work, but somebody has to do it. I suppose I can be that "somebody". Never have festering, gooey sores been so much fun to cultivate; never. Inside the post we cover the Long Beach Weekend (ALMS, Formula D, and the IRL*bleech*), and the F1 Chinese Grand Prix will get its own post. If you care, the NASCAR race in Texas was rained out . . . good thing I don't really care . . .

Long Beach: The Long Beach street course has been home to racing of all types for several decades. The circuit gained notoriety in the late Eighties by providing a "Ground-Zero" for thrilling CART and Camel GT battles. Today the course welcomes a wide range of disciplines, most notably Formula D (yes, I consider drifting to be "motorsport", if not "racing" . . .) and the American Le Mans Series. Sure sure, the "Long Beach Grand Prix" is an IRL race, but those cars weren't designed in this century. That makes them irrelevant. Ryan-Hunter Reay won the race in a Honda-Dallara that is exactly the same as all the other Honda-Dallaras in the race. Who cares.

From the Formula D website:

"Round 1: Streets of Long Beach started the 2010 season off in exciting fashion with the debut of new drivers, sponsors, and vehicles to the series joining all of the returning teams. 2-time Formula DRIFT champion Tanner Foust piloting the Rockstar Energy Scion TC met rookie Fredric Aasbo in the Japan Auto / FSR Toyota Supra in the consolation round for third place. Foust outmatched the rookie and secured his third place finish. The finals came down to veteran drifters Rhys Millen in the RMR Red Bull Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Vaughn Gittin in the Monster Energy / Falken 2011 Ford Mustang. Gittin secured the victory with aggressive driving of his brand new vehicle to earn the victory and the early lead in the Pro Championship Standings."

Vaughn Gittin's Mustangs continue to evolve, and this one looks to be a stone-cold killer. The rear-end drift angles he was able to achieve, while braking, were astounding. The next round takes place May 7th and 8th, at Road Atlanta. Look for 'Shopper coverage!

Saturday evening erupted with the terrified shrieks of ALMS prototypes and GTs. "Terrified Shriek" lends itself to the Aston-Martin Lola. Calling that car's engine note a "shriek" is putting it lightly. SPEED brought their HD microphones, and the sounds of the British-cum-American (it is, after-all, based on two Ford Duratech blocks sandwiched together) V12 bouncing off of the retaining walls of a street course were almost as harrowing as they were in person, at Sebring. Almost.

The start of the race saw the Aston/Lola pull away from the field. The Patron-Highcroft Acura surrendered three positions by the end of the second lap, a surprise for the normally bullet-proof team. As is becoming a semi-regular occurrence, the Intersport Lola/Mazda of Jon Field was the only car capable of hanging with the Gulf-liveried Aston, hounding the Prodrive car as he had done to dominant Audis and Penske-Porsches in the past. I am describing a trend here, however, and part of that trend revolves around Intersport's Mazda MZR-derived powerplant. This is a turbo four that is able to keep pace with a free-revving, highly-strung V12, as well as the mountains-of-torque diesels of Audi and Peugeot. Typically, the world over, the Intersport Lola is the only LMP of any kind that can keep pace with diesel juggernauts.

In order to crank out more than 600 horsepower, the little MZR has to be boosted to the stratosphere. More than 30 pounds of boost, most likely, causing the Intersport Lola to go-like-stink for ten laps or so. Then the engine begins to lean-out, followed by blue smoke and a slowing Lola. This seems to happen every single race, and has been going on for years. I feel terrible for Jon and Clint Field, the drivers and owners of Intersport. They hound the big boys with more intensity than any of the big boys hound each other. Then their light, powerful engine grenades itself all over the tarmac. These guys will get themselves a win; they have the talent and experience. They just need a bottom end hewn from granite, apparently.

The final laps of the ALMS race were heart-stopping. I had to lick a light socket afterward to ward off the tunnel vision. This is the first race that the ALMS has combined the prototype classes (instead of an "LMP1" and "LMP2" there is now just "LMP") and it worked wonderfully. Watch the video below, and remember a few key notes: The Acura weighs 200 lbs. less than the Aston-Martin, has nearly 100 less horsepower and the transmission was not functioning properly. The Aston is larger, both in weight and length. It has less drag because of its coupe profile, but also less downforce. Adding to the downforce issues, the Aston/Lola spun in the early laps, destroying all of the aero elements behind its left rear tire. Keep those things in mind, and then do your best to keep your jaw off the floor. Things get interesting right at the two minute mark . . .

You just watched an LMP2 car prove why the ALMS is the most exciting racing series in the world. Amazing. The next race is the 6-hour enduro at Laguna Seca. Held May 20-22, 2010, the Monetery Grand Prix will be televised, on CBS, May 29th.

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