AutoMatters & More: Verizon IndyCar Series - One Last Look

Usually at about this time of year we head over to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana for the season finale of the Verizon IndyCar Series. This year, however, the season finale was held up north at Sonoma Raceway. With that scheduling change in mind, we saved some IndyCar coverage – and more – from early in the season to share with you now.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is a fantastic event. It includes several major race series.

This year it was somewhat bittersweet because 2016 marked the 40th and final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. This longstanding race for charity had earned a great reputation for exciting racing, with celebrities dicing it up with pro racers around a high-speed, 1.97-mile street course in lightly modified street cars – in this case the 210-hp Scion FR-S. There was a certain irony that the Scion brand was going away too.

In recognition of the significance of this final race, most of the 21 drivers in the field were past winners of this event, including 2-time Indy 500 winner and “King of the Beach” Al Unser Jr. (participant in 1985, 2009 and 2014), Ricky Schroder (1989 and 1996), Stephen Baldwin (1990), famous motorcycle Hall of Famer Eddie Lawson (1993) and the ever-popular Rutledge Wood (2012-15). Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations, represented Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. This was, as anticipated, the most competitive race in the events’ history. The 10-lap race was won by Alfonso Ribeiro (1994-96, 2015), Pro driver and host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Also on Saturday, the racing action featured the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (IMSA) and the Super Drift Challenge.

In the IMSA sportscar race an international field of drivers competed in Prototypes and heavily race-prepared GT-class (Grand Touring) cars including Corvettes, Porsches, BMWs, a Ferrari and more. Unique among the prototypes was the innovative, high-tech and ultra-efficient DeltaWing DWC13 – with an extremely narrow frontal area that minimized aerodynamic drag, combined with a small and efficient powerplant. To learn about this fascinating car go to http://www.deltawingracing.com/the-concept/GT.

The Prototype Corvette DP of Jordan and Ricky Taylor drove a total of 153.504 miles to win the race at an average speed of 91.197 MPH. They were followed by the Ford EcoBoost Riley DP of Joey Hand and Scott Pruett. Two laps back, the closest GTLM-class car was the seventh-place BMW Z4 GTE of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner, followed by the Ferrari F458 Italia of Pierre Kaffer and former Formula 1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella. To learn more about this series visit http://sportscarchampionship.imsa.com.

The Super Drift Challenge pitted pairs of rear wheel drive drift cars close to each other in tire-smoking, coordinated power slides from turn to turn.

Sunday featured the Verizon IndyCar Series, Indy Lights, the Pirelli World Challenge and Robby Gordon’s SPEED Stadium Super Trucks.

Unlike in Formula 1, the other major open wheel racing series, in IndyCar racing the cars are very competitive against each other. That makes for very close racing where almost anyone has a reasonable shot at winning. For proof look no further than this year’s Indy 500, where American Alexander Rossi scored a surprising win over his more experienced rivals in IndyCar. In Long Beach, however, the win went to multi-time race winner Scott Dixon, in the Target-sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The race was relatively caution-free. Dixon’s winning time was 1 hour, 37 minutes at an average speed of 96.800 MPH.

Indy Lights had another light field (only 12 cars). On a long track the cars quickly get spaced out, which does not make for a lot of close racing. The other two race series more than made up for that, however.

Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks have so much wheel travel that they almost look alive, as they claw their way around corners and each other, and fly high over jumps.

In the Pirelli World Challenge race, several classes competed on track at the same time, resulting in lots of passing and close contact – sometimes too close, which was reflected in the relatively slow average speed of 56.409 MPH, compared to the fastest race lap of 87.357 MPH set by Chris Dyson in a Bentley Continental GT3. Olivier Beretta won in a Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia.

Before we know it, it will be time for next year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. In the meantime join in the conversation. Send your comments and suggestions to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #456

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