By Ricardo Rodriguez-Long (LBGP attendee since 1979)
Since 1975 the downtown race along Shoreline Drive in Long Beach has been an iconic event on the world's motorsports calendar. It is much more than a race. It has a social and economic impact on the city itself. For the rest of the world, Long Beach is the home of the Queen Mary and the Grand Prix.
Around 1973 the City of Long Beach was planning a major downtown redevelopment. Chris Pook, a British resident and travel agent, proposed a unique world-famous event like the Monaco Grand Prix to the city council. And an event that would generate tourism, employment, and, most importantly, make the city noticeable from its neighbor Los Angeles.
The first race was held in 1975 and featured Formula 5000 cars racing around a 2.02-mile street circuit in downtown Long Beach. The main straights were Ocean Boulevard and Shoreline Drive. The FIA noticed the event and granted a Formula 1 race date for 1976. Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix West in a Ferrari 312T with a 12-cylinder boxer-type engine that it's sound almost broke the building's windows.
The Formula 1 series ran in Long Beach as part of the world championship until 1983. Ferrari, Lotus, Brabham, Williams, and McLaren cars were the winners of these events. Since 1984 the Indycar series has been the leading racing series for the world-class event. Andretti, Unser, Tracy, Zanardi, Montoya, Castro Neves, Franchitti, Dixon (all in the motorsport hall of Fame) are the names that made the series succeed.
The Long Beach Grand Prix has become an iconic event for racing enthusiasts and the region as a whole. It has brought business, tourism, and excitement to the area while supporting local employment and tax revenue. As the event continues to evolve and attract new fans, the economic impact will likely continue to grow. According to a study conducted by the Beacon Economics consultancy firm in 2018, the Long Beach Grand Prix generated approximately $32.9 million in economic activity in the region. This includes direct and indirect impacts such as spending on accommodation, food and beverage, transportation, entertainment, and merchandise sales, which generated approximately $1.4 million in tax revenue for Long Beach and California.
The 2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was very special since it included the NTT Indycar Series and the Historic Formula 1 Challenge, with cars that race the original United States Grand Prix through the streets. It was also a round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Porsche Carrera Cup North America, The SPEED/UTV Stadium Super Trucks, and the Super Drift Challenge. It truly is a motorsports festival for enthusiasts of all ages.
This year's main event winners are Kyle Kirkwood (Dallara-Honda-Andretti Autosport) in the NTT Indycar Series and Mathiew Jaminet-Nick Tandy (Porsche 963) in the IMSA series. The crowd was nearly 200 thousand attendees, and the sunny city was shown to the world through TV and social media. Overall, the event produced winners in many more categories and industries than motorsports.
Mark your calendar, April is the annual speed festival at the beach. If you have not done it yet, make sure it is in your bucket list.