2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Review

The best way to describe this edition of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is that it was like a rollercoaster – lots of ups and downs when it came to the weather, racing and emotions. Friday’s temperatures were near 100 degrees with track temps about 130 degrees and while everyone anticipated that the weather would slow everything down, the exact opposite happened. The street circuit rubbered in so well that lap times fell like the temperatures would throughout the weekend.

Practice 1 for the NTT IndyCar Series was done in those really hot temps on Friday afternoon, yet the top time was over two seconds faster than the fastest time in the same session last year. Saturday’s temps were closer to the low 70’s with the sunshine still plentifully abundant when the NTT IndyCar Series took to the track for knockout qualifying. In the Firestone Fast Six, Colton Herta continued his mastery of the seaside street circuit that he won on last year to earn the pole. He waved to the Honda HPD employees in the Turn 10 grandstand on his cool down lap as a salute to all of their hard work. He was followed closely by last year’s pole sitter, Josef Newgarden. Alex Palou rounded out the top three. Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi claimed the next two spots enhancing the outlook on their season. Romain Grosjean completed the top six after losing his two quickest laps due to a shunt into the Turn 5 wall causing a red flag. Without that blunder, he would’ve started second.

At the start of the race, Herta pulled away immediately and opened up a significant gap to Newgarden and Palou. He easily led the first 28 laps until his first pit stop. After all the front runners had stopped, it was Palou who found himself in front until lap 54 of 85. From there, Team Penske did a great job to get Newgarden out front where he would remain for the rest of the race. However, it wasn’t that easy as he had to fend off strong challenges from Herta (who locked up under braking and smacked the wall in Turn 9 driver’s left), Palou and with just a few laps remaining, Grosjean who was on the Firestone “Reds” versus Newgarden on “Blacks.” Neither had any push to pass left and on a late re-start Newgarden took a super defensive line into Turn 1 and kept the lead. With a lap to go, Takuma Sato nosed into the tire barriers in Turn 8 (which collected a number of cars during the race) and so the race finished under caution. In the post-race press conference, Grosean admitted that even if they had a re-start it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

In the IMSA WeatherTech 100 minute race, Sebastien Bourdais started from pole with a new track record and pulled away until overtaking a backmarker in another class at the Turn 11 hairpin. As he went inside on the entrance to the corner he lost grip, went wide on the exit and nosed into the outside wall driver’s left. He had to wait to back up and get going again and dropped to dead last in DPi. At that point he was upset with himself and figured that he had nothing to lose by being aggressive in traffic and charging to the front. In his own words every time he needed to make a pass he was just going to “send it.” He did just that in the drive of the weekend and handed off to his teammate Renger van der Zande who dutifully brought the Chip Ganassi Cadillac under the checkered flag for an exciting win. It was an all-Cadillac podium with the sister Ganassi car in second and the JDC Miller Motorsports entry in third.

In the GTD Pro category, Corvette Racing snared the pole with Jordan Taylor although it was the Aston Martin Vantage driven by Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas that brought home the victory ahead of the Vasser Sullivan Lexus and rounding out the podium was the Corvette.

In GTD, it was the BMW M4 of pole sitter Madison Snow along with teammate Bryan Sellers who drove to victory over a super competitive field. The podium was rounded out by an Acura NSX and Lexus RC F.

The Historic Motor Sports Association Invitational was a real fan favorite with cars from the pinnacle of IMSA GTP and European prototype era. The sensational sleek and sexy looking cars still look modern even 30 years later. Furthermore, the variety of machinery from chassis to engines thrilled the fans ‘round the track. Former Porsche factory driver Patrick Long went two for two in the events on Saturday and Sunday in Tom Malloy’s Leyton House Porsche 962. Tom Long was second on Saturday in the beautiful in look, and in sound, four-rotor, silver and blue Mazda RX-792P. Jerome Rodela rounded out the top three on Saturday in the Eagle Toyota MkIII. On Sunday, McLaren’s Zak Brown brought his gorgeous Jaguar XJR10 home in second followed by the lone non-prototype Porsche 935 of Martin Lauber.

The Porsche Carrera Cup races had Kay van Berlo take both wins over a very large field that also had numerous caution flags throughout both races.

The Speed Energy Stadium SUPER Truck races were won by one family – Gordon. Both Robby and his son Max won with Robby taking the win on Sunday and 13 year old Max being victorious on Saturday.

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Colton Herta jumps out to an immediate lead at the drop of the green flag of the 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unfortunately for him, a smack to the Turn 9 wall (after locking his brakes on Seaside Way with 30 laps remaining) ended his chance to win back-to-back.

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Late in the race Newgarden leads Palou and Grosjean. A late restart allowed Grosjean (on Firestone Reds) to get past Palou but he fell just short of winning and settled for second place. Notice the marbles off line.

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Here Josef Newgarden leads Colton Herta after great pit work by his Team Penske crew. Notice the rubber building up in the expansion joint and the marbles off line. 

2022 AGPLB Victory Lane crop

From L-R, Romain Grosjean, Josef Newgarden, and Alex Palou share the podium celebration holding up their hard-earned trophies.2022 AGPLB Bourdais T10 crop

Sebastien Bourdais had the drive of the weekend after qualifying on the pole with a new track record, dropping to last in the race and charging back to the lead before it was all said and done.2022 AGPLB HMSA start crop

Patrick Long put on a driving clinic against the other historic prototype drivers to take home two victories over the weekend.2022 AGPLB Max and Robby T10 donuts crop

Robby Gordon and his son Max celebrate Max’s win on Saturday. Dad Robby would win on Sunday!

Photos by Larry Mason

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2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview, Part 2

The 2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns to its normal springtime calendar date (after being last year’s season finale in September) on April 8-10. In this week’s blog we’ll preview the main event – the NTT IndyCar Series.

After being last year’s season finale, where Alex Palou was crowned season champion and Colton Herta blitzed through the field from his 14th place starting position to win, there were no shortages of story lines heading into the weekend. This year, Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin is the hottest driver after winning the first race of the season in St Pete and then dominating the Texas Motor Speedway oval before being passed by his teammate Josef Newgarden just as the checkered flag flew. Either way, he brings a healthy points lead into Long Beach this weekend. He’s no stranger to this track and after competing and winning in Bathurst Australia in SuperCars, he will no doubt be competitive here. Although, those words would apply to most of the field as most teams have decades of setup experience here. 

Who to watch? Team Penske is on a roll. Currently their drivers hold three of the top four spots in the points. Newgarden has never won at Long Beach, however his teammate Will Power has. All three of these teammates have a great shot. 

Alexander Rossi won the last two races before the Coronavirus pandemic and has suffered bad luck in each of the first two races this year. Look for him to rebound at the Beach.

Colton Herta thrives on street courses and after having won last year’s event, it’ll be no surprise to see him back in Victory Lane.

It was at last year’s race that Romain Grosjean was announced as the newest driver for Andretti Autosport taking over the DHL car in 2022 driven for so many years by Ryan Hunter Reay. Grosjean hasn’t had a win yet and Long Beach would be the perfect track to do so.

You can never count out Scott Dixon, Palou or even their teammate Marcus Ericsson to finish on the top step of the podium for Chip Ganassi. Dixon’s done it here before. Palou finished fourth in a conservative drive last year and is only two points shy of second in the championship coming into this race. Their teammate Ericsson has unfinished business at Long Beach after crashing out in Turn 1 last year.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Arrow McLaren SP, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Meyer Shank, Ed Carpenter and Dale Coyne Racing teams can step it up and turn things around. There are multiple Long Beach and other race winners in that group. Specifically Pato O’Ward will have a huge cheering section, but don’t count out former Long Beach winners Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Graham Rahal seems to race better than he qualifies so he’s always a threat. Rinus VeeKay has already won an Indy car race and could add to that here while Takuma Sato has been running strong for Coyne and is also a former winner here.

Long shots? Kyle Kirkwood driving for AJ Foyt has shown impressive speed for that team and could surprise everyone. Callum Ilott learned the track last year and could impress this year along with Christian Lundgaard driving for RLL. Jack Harvey returns after concussion protocol and Felix Rosenqvist also wants to turn his season around and get back to winning.

For a complete weekend schedule, visit: https://gplb.com/weekend-schedule/

Photos by Larry Mason

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Will Colton Herta go two in a row at Long Beach?

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Will Alex Palou go from last year’s season champion’s Winner’s Circle to Victory Lane in Long Beach?

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Alexander Rossi will want to forget about last year and the start of this year and get back to his Sunday drive through the park and winning ways that he showed in 2018 and 2019 at Long Beach.

Photos by Larry Mason

 

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2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview, Part 1

The 2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns to its normal springtime calendar date (after being last year’s season finale in September) on April 8-10. In this week’s blog we’ll take a look at the support races during the weekend.

Highlighting the Saturday action will be the stars and cars of the IMSA WeatherTech Series. After two races and 36 hours of endurance competition, it’s all about the sprint at Long Beach – 100 minutes to be exact. Acura finished one, two at the Rolex 24hrs of Daytona and Cadillac swept the podium at the Sebring 12hrs. Acura will want to win their “home” race at Long Beach and the track record is held by Helio Castroneves in an Acura. However it was Cadillac that brought home the victory here last year. Top drivers from around the world will fight hard for victory in one of the marquee events of the season. 

GTD Pro is a new class taking over for GTLM this year. The cars are the same spec as the GTD class but feature pro drivers only. Keep in mind that the GTD cars typically employ one pro driver to be paired with an amateur driver so navigating traffic will be key in qualifying and the race. These two classes will provide the majority of entries for the IMSA race.

For those that yearn for the good old days of IMSA GTP, you’re in luck as the Porsche 962s and many more cool cars of yesteryear will have their own show to put on during the Historic IMSA GTP Challenge with two races over the weekend on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Sports cars are all the rage this weekend with the Porsche Carrera Cup Series making their Long Beach debut. These are all spec Porsche 911GT3 Cup race cars and since they are identical in build, should put on a great show on Saturday morning and closing out the weekend on Sunday afternoon. Over 30 cars are expected to take part in the racing action.

Of course Robby Gordon’s Speed Energy Stadium SUPER Truck Series always thrills the fans with their high flying act over the temporary ramp jumps installed around the track. These trucks grab big air time but are equally adept at “bicycling” around the track on two wheels. Their massive suspension travel allows them to really take advantage of using the curbs to cut the corners even further for a better lap time. The racing is superb too as “reverse aerodynamics” help the trucks in the back to have an aero advantage over the trucks in front. Don’t miss these truck races on Saturday and Sunday afternoon!

Not to be left out is the Super Drift Challenge. These high-horsepower cars with extreme steering angles will amaze anyone who sees how fast and how loose cars can get while producing billowing clouds of tire smoke as they race their way around the Turn 9 – Turn 11 complex. It’s almost like synchronized mayhem as the cars are released from Seaside Way to “pair up” with each other in the sideways sliding action. Friday night and Saturday night will thrill one and all with the loud and extreme party atmosphere of these incredible machines and drivers.

For a complete weekend schedule, visit: https://gplb.com/weekend-schedule/

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Will Acura win during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend or will Cadillac spoil the homecoming?

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Robby Gordon’s Speed Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks are a high-fly act and fan favorite.

Photos by Larry Mason

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Spencer Bayston – World of Outlaws Sprint Car Driver

On a recent road trip, Larry Mason happened to meet Spencer Bayston, a young driver in the super challenging World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series (WoO). Bayston was gracious enough to give us time for a quick interview that sheds light on his type of racing. This interview was done on March 21, 2022. He’ll be racing in Bakersfield, CA on Friday the 25th and in Perris, CA on Saturday the 26th. If you’re able to make it out to either track, we think you’ll be impressed by the spectacle of flat-out sprint car racing. To follow his career please visit: www.SpencerBayston.com. For the full WoO schedule, please go to: www.WorldofOutlaws.com.

Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Spencer Bayston is focused on winning the Rookie of the Year in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series in 2022. Photos by Trent Gower Photography

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In this photo of the left side of the car, Bayston works hard to place his WoO 410 sprint car on the best line around the Tulare, California track. The challenge is that the track is always evolving along with the best line to take. Photos by Trent Gower Photography

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In this three quarter front shot from Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, you can see Bayston trying to put 900 hp to the ground while sliding just enough to maximize his speed around the track. Photos by Trent Gower Photography

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© Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Blast From the Past – Fast Lane Racing School Graduate Wins Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race

04-20-2013-tpcr-win1-2 Adam Carolla 2013 Pro Race

A fan favorite at the Grand Prix of Long Beach over the years was the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Fast Lane was the official school to get all of the celebrities up to speed for their first time racing. In 2012 Adam Carolla won the event as a celebrity. He returned the following year as a Pro and won the event back-to-back! After his second race win I had a chance to talk to him about how it went and found out that a very unusual thing happened to him during the race that he had to overcome. Listen to his story and enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

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Indy Car Technology – One-on-One with Cara Adams, Chief Engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports Part 2

Cara Adams is the chief engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. She and her team play a key role in the reliability and performance of the cars in the NTT IndyCar Series. In Part 1, Adams gives you her background and intro into racing and delves into some of the details about race tire construction including the mechanical and chemical aspects and how that changes depending upon tracks and car configuration. In Part 2, she discusses how Firestone communicates with teams during race weekends to maximize performance and what happens to the tires once they come off the cars and more. Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

 

Cara Adams

Cara Adams is in her element on pit lane taking copious notes and communicating with the teams and media during race weekends.

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The numbers on this Firestone tire indicate durometer readings (hardness) and depth measurements.

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Here a team member heats and scrapes a worn tire clean to enable him to get a more accurate tire depth measurement.

Photos by Larry Mason

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Oriol Servia Interview

Servia pace car Oriol Servia kept busy after leading the pack of 28 cars down Shoreline Drive in the pace car for the start of the race by leading four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves during one of the multiple full-course cautions during the Grand Prix.

Oriol Servia was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame just prior to the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. His resume of work includes being an Indy Lights Champion and race winner in the Champ Car World Series. He’s raced for some of the best Indy car teams in the sport including Newman/Haas and Team Penske. Servia has also raced in Formula E and prototype sports cars. Besides being inducted into the LBMWoF, he was also in Long Beach to drive the Acura NSX pace car for the Grand Prix. Servia has a reputation as a driver who is quick and can also be counted on to bring the car home in one piece. He’s been called in at the last minute to substitute for injured drivers multiple times and has delivered strong results. He’s also been very competitive at the Indianapolis 500 and feels that he can still win it. Servia talks about this and his preparation including simulators. He also shares his prediction for who would win the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series Championship. Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Oriol Servia LBMWoF crop Oriol Servia gives a thumbs up to his LBMWoF plaque on Pine Avenue just in front of the Long Beach Convention Center while friend and former car owner Jimmy Vasser looks on from behind.

Oriol Servia gives a thumbs up to his LBMWoF plaque on Pine Avenue just in front of the Long Beach Convention Center while friend and former car owner Jimmy Vasser looks on from behind.

Servia pace car crop Oriol Servia kept busy after leading the pack of 28 cars down Shoreline Drive in the pace car for the start of the race by leading four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves during one of the multiple full-course cautions during the Grand Prix.

Oriol Servia kept busy after leading the pack of 28 cars down Shoreline Drive in the pace car for the start of the race by leading four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves during one of the multiple full-course cautions during the Grand Prix.

Interview and photos by Larry Mason

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Katherine Legge Interview

photo by Brad Bernstein Katherine Legge enjoys a light moment with Larry Mason during their podcast for raceschool.com.

Katherine Legge (of England) is one of the fastest race car drivers around. She is also female (which is not the novelty that it used to be in the world of auto racing). We caught up with her in the morning before her IMSA WeatherTech GTD race at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach – a place where she earned her first North American win in her Toyota Atlantic Championship debut! She has competed worldwide in an extremely diverse range of racing cars including Indy cars, Formula E, NASCAR, DTM, the Delta Wing and many, many more. She has an extremely pleasant and humble personality outside the car which by no means diminishes her fierce determination to wring every last bit of performance out of any race car she steps into. Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Interview and photos by Larry Mason except as noted below:

photo by Brad Bernstein

photo by Brad Bernstein

Katherine Legge enjoys a light moment with Larry Mason during their podcast for raceschool.com.

Katherine Legge shares the driving duties with Hardpoint Team owner/driver Rob Ferriol in their Porsche GT3R IMSA GTD car.

Katherine Legge shares the driving duties with Hardpoint Team owner/driver Rob Ferriol in their Porsche GT3R IMSA GTD car.

Katherine Legge not only has to fight for position within the GTD class, but has to watch her mirrors for DPi prototypes. She’s shown here as the meat in a multi-class sandwich!

Katherine Legge not only has to fight for position within the GTD class, but has to watch her mirrors for DPi prototypes. She’s shown here as the meat in a multi-class sandwich!

This carbon fiber rear diffuser and tail section show off the hi-tech nature of the current IMSA GTD class.

This carbon fiber rear diffuser and tail section show off the hi-tech nature of the current IMSA GTD class.

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Willy T. Ribbs Interview

Ribbs The wide-open eyes of Willy T Ribbs show the look of intense focus – the precise thing needed to be successful at Indianapolis. photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs  

Willy T. Ribbs has forged his way to success in professional auto racing like no other man in his chosen sport. From being the first African American to race at Indianapolis to testing Formula One cars and winning multiple IMSA GTO races, he’s also driven for or been sponsored/supported by some of the biggest names in and out of the sport - Dan Gurney, Jack Roush (via Ford Motor Company), Bill Cosby and many others. They all believed in Willy enough to help him forge his path of success. He was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame just prior to the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and spent some time talking with us after he had popped in a quick “Hello” during fellow LBMWoF inductee Will Power’s interview.  I would’ve liked to have spent more time interviewing him, however he was interrupted during our chat and told that he had to get to another commitment. Enjoy! 

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Willy T. Ribbs and Jim Michaelian (president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach) remove the checkered flag to uncover the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame plaque for Ribbs.

Willy T. Ribbs and Jim Michaelian (president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach) remove the checkered flag to uncover the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame plaque for Ribbs.

Willy T holds up a number one sign right before he kisses the plaque as if he were kissing the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Willy T holds up a number one sign right before he kisses the plaque as if he were kissing the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Anytime you get to be on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s a reason to celebrate.

Anytime you get to be on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s a reason to celebrate.

photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs

The wide-open eyes of Willy T Ribbs show the look of intense focus – the precise thing needed to be successful at Indianapolis.

The wide-open eyes of Willy T Ribbs show the look of intense focus – the precise thing needed to be successful at Indianapolis.

photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs

Ribbs receives great service work from his pit crew during at pit stop at the Indy 500.

Ribbs receives great service work from his pit crew during a pit stop at the Indy 500.

photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs

Interview and photos by Larry Mason except as noted

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Callum Ilott Interview

Callum Ilott Callum Ilott waves to the crowd just minutes before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Ferrari F1 test driver Callum Ilott was picked by Juncos Hollinger Racing to finish out the last three races of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series. He will also be driving for them full time in 2022. Ilott talked with us about how Indy cars compare to the Formula One and GT cars he’s been driving. He also compares the nuances of the Long Beach track to the streets of the Monaco Grand Prix. With essentially a new team and a new (to the series) driver, Ilott qualified P18 (out of 28) for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach which is quite good considering he’s never been here before and how tight the grid is here (he ran as high as sixth before retiring with a mechanical). He certainly has the potential to make a big name for himself here in the states with his skills. Sit back and enjoy this interview!

By Larry Maso

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Callum Ilott waves to the crowd just minutes before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Callum Ilott waves to the crowd just minutes before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Callum Ilott pushed hard in Saturday qualifying and ended up in P18. It was a good result for the small team that’s just getting re-started and with Ilott never having been to Long Beach before.

Callum Ilott pushed hard in Saturday qualifying and ended up in P18. It was a good result for the small team that’s just getting re-started and with Ilott never having been to Long Beach before.

Callum Ilott maneuvers his way around the tight Turn 11 hairpin before rocketing down Shoreline Drive. This hairpin is to the right as opposed to the hairpin in Monaco.

Callum Ilott maneuvers his way around the tight Turn 11 hairpin before rocketing down Shoreline Drive. This hairpin is to the right as opposed to the hairpin in Monaco.

Callum Ilott leads Charlie Kimball and Conor Daly heading into the fountain area of the aquarium. Starting P18 and avoiding the first lap melee, Ilott worked his way up to 6th place at one point in the race.

Callum Ilott leads Charlie Kimball and Conor Daly heading into the fountain area of the aquarium. Starting P18 and avoiding the first lap melee, Ilott worked his way up to 6th place at one point in the race.

Looking down from the Aquarium of the Pacific parking structure through the palm tree leaves, Ilott already has his vision up for the upcoming tricky off-camber Turn 5.

Looking down from the Aquarium of the Pacific parking structure through the palm tree leaves, Ilott already has his vision up for the upcoming tricky off-camber Turn 5.

 Interview and photos by Larry Mason

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