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We take an up close look at the 2015 Long Beach Grand Prix and break down what makes the race a spectacle.

2015 Long Beach Grand Prix Coverage

For nearly a month, the town of Long Beach, California, plays host to an automotive orgy of events, races and all-star appearances. IndyCar, Formula Drift, Pirelli World Challenge, Tudor Sports Cars, Stadium Trucks and a host of other racing series are jam-packed into an overwhelming schedule that resembles more of a coup d’état than a weekend race. It’s chilling just thinking about the planning involved in encompassing everything around a 1.968-mile racetrack in the middle of downtown residential streets.

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Though the situation is solved with the addition of paddocks in the Long Beach Convention Center, teams in the lower series—Pirelli World Challenge, mainly—are in a pickle of a situation since the pits are not close in proximity to the paddocks. You won’t see a PWC team pushing a car back to the trailer like IndyCar for more serious repairs. It keeps it interesting because the PWC race is some of the most intense racing in the world, yet they must maintain resolve to last the entire sprint race.


It’s cramped and hot, and every mistake counts during the race days when the fast-paced, visceral reality of the pits comes into play. The pit crews are running around the car, fuel is being forced in, and adjustments are being made during the ephemeral pit stops. This is what makes IndyCar exciting, and you need to be close to realize it.

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World Challenge

This relates to one of the faults with higher tiers of racing (Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR): that it’s tough to digest what the cars are physically doing in time and space. Sure, they’re incredibly fast—and who doesn’t love fast?—but seeing the actual automobile dynamics move, twist, vibrate and shake is impossible without the beauty of slow-motion cameras. In other words, it’s almost too fast.


(Ed. Note: Can we please get major network TV coverage with more telemetry and in-car video? At least help us get some idea of the speeds, Gs, braking, acceleration, etc.)


As exciting as the top racing is from an engineering and master of driver/machine interface point of view, the only ones who are really experiencing the car react and move are the drivers.

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This is where the younger series excel at providing action everyone can understand. Cars make more passes, contact is made and cars actually look like, well, cars. And Stadium Super Trucks—phew, where to start? These things are completely out of their element on tarmac, but they’re unbelievably intense to watch. Need proof? Check out this last lap at Adelaide. Unpredictable at best, it’s Ivan “Ironman” Stewart's Super Off Road video game in real life. You see the roll of the trucks, the suspension loading and unloading. Hell, they’re often on three wheels; it’s insane and totally fun to watch.


Like I said, I respect IndyCar for what it is to the sport of racing. It’s part NASA and part DARPA with technology ultimately trickling down to consumers. But even standing five feet away behind a barrier with a car going 170 mph past, I still felt myself pulled more and more toward the “slower,” more visually dynamic racing.

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Indy Lights

However, one of the bonuses of the road course is the buildup in engine noise. Circle tracks often have the same high-pitched rpm sound the entire race, which becomes an entirely predictable exercise. The Long Beach circuit has everything from long top-speed sweepers to tight hairpins, so going through the six-speed sequential transmission does allow the octaves to change frequently and provide audible theater.

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Stadium Trucks

Three full days are required to experience the whole track. It’s a bear of an assignment trying to get to all the parts of the course, as there’s no direct way to access corner after corner. It might take you an hour to get to the other side of the track 20 feet away. Planning is necessary and experience is a must. If you’re smart about your movements, you can get around faster with some planning.

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Pit Lane

While in Long Beach for the race weekend, a few things were apparent. The town totally transforms into a nerd-gasm of racing. Unlike usual racetracks specifically cut into the landscape, the road course affords a different perspective of putting yourself into the car as if you’re driving. If you’ve been on the roads beforehand, you imagine what it’s like to take them at high speed. If not, well, you still understand that these are public roads.


Taking a walk around after the race, the tire tracks are still there, but the taxis replace multimillion-dollar racecars. If you squeeze your eyes closed hard enough, you may even still be able to see them whizzing by.

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