It was another successful and classic (in more ways than one) Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach reported that it was the best crowd (192,000 fans) since the reunification of CART and the IRL. The last of the remaining grandstand seats sold out Saturday night. What started off as a cold and drizzly week, morphed into mild and mostly sunny weather that helped keep everyone comfortable throughout the weekend.
In the headlining NTT IndyCar Series, Kyle Kirkwood earned his first NTT Pole Award on Saturday in the fantastic Firestone Fast Six qualifying session. Last year’s Indy 500 winner, Marcus Ericsson, joined Kirkwood on the front row. At the drop of the green flag, Kirkwood kept his lead into Turn One. Last year’s winner Josef Newgarden moved up four places within the first few laps and was running strong all race until he made his last pit stop before all the other leaders. Perfect strategy if there’s a caution, although none came and with his forced fuel save, he dropped to ninth at the end. Kirkwood had no such problem with fuel and earned his maiden victory in the series followed home by his teammate Romain Grosjean (who qualified third) who had plenty of push-to-pass left but since he pitted a lap earlier (and was saving fuel), was unable to use it. Ericsson closed in over the last few laps but had to settle for third.
In the IMSA WeatherTech Series Sports Car race, Felipe Albuquerque stormed to the pole position in his Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-06 GTP car by 0.674 seconds over the similar Acura of Meyer Shank Racing. He mentioned that he was glad he was starting the race and Ricky Taylor would be driving second because the Michelin tires were taking a long time to heat up. Prophetic words indeed as the Penske Porsche 963 team of Nick Tandy and Matthew Jaminet chose not to change tires at their single pit stop and parlayed that into the first victory for the new Porsche GTP car. In GTD PRO Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat took their Lexus RC F GT3 to Victory Lane while Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers stood on the top step of the podium for the third-straight year with their BMW M4 GT3.
In the Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup races, Riley Dickinson earned the pole for Race 1 and brought his Porsche 992 home for the win. In Race 2, Will Martin enjoyed the first win of his career in this series.
In the Historic Formula One Challenge races, Patrick Long made it a clean sweep winning both races driving a 1983 Williams FW 08C. These races were truly fan favorites as the sights, sounds and smells of the classic F1 cars were spectacular. Two of the cars in the field were powered by 12-cylinder engines including local SoCal driver Tim DeSilva who qualified second for the first race in the same Alfa Romeo that Andrea de Cesaris put on the pole at Long Beach back in 1982. Most were powered by the venerable Ford Cosworth DFV V8. Other sensational marques from the past included BRM, Lotus, March, McLaren, Penske, Shadow, Surtees and Tyrell.
All-in-all, it was another fabulous weekend of racing. Stay tuned as we’ll have upcoming podcast interviews with some of the winners and others who help make the world of racing go ‘round.
For those of you who feel like the sound of high-revving twin-turbo V6 Indy car engines is music to your ears, here’s about five minutes’ worth! This was recorded at the 2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach after the start of the race at the end of Shoreline Drive.
By Larry Mason
Copyright © 2023 Larry Mason
Kyle Kirkwood leads the 27-car field down the curved Shoreline Drive “straight” at the start of the 48th annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Late in the race, Kirkwood stayed just far enough ahead of his Andretti Autosport teammate (Romain Grosjean) and made zero mistakes on his way to victory.
Romain Grosjean, Kyle Kirkwood and Marcus Ericsson (L-R)hold their trophies on the podium before the hat dance and champagne shower.
The Penske Porsche (#6) utilized good pit strategy (no tire change during the pit stop) to hold off all GTP competitors and win their first race in this new era of hybrid prototypes.
Former Porsche factory driver Patrick Long dominated the competition by winning both of the Historic F1 Challenge races in this 1983 Williams FW 08C.
Interview and photos Copyright © by Larry Mason