I've covered the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach from the grandstands to inside curve 11, but yesterday was the first time I got to see the track from the inside of one of the Pirelli World Challenge race cars.There were a bunch of ride-alongs scheduled, and the World Challenge cars had to wait for the pack of celebrity drivers to make their rounds, so I entertained myself taking a few celebrity photos while we waited. I caught Hill Harper (CSI: NY), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, Midnight in Paris), Adam Carolla (The Adam Carolla Show), Brody Jenner (The Hills), Eddie Ciprian (CSI: Miami) and Kate Del Castillo (La Reina del Sur) gearing up to run the course.
I also had a chance to hang out for a bit with World Challenge driver Lawson Aschenbach. Although he looks like he just got his driver's license, Lawson has been racing for 20 years, starting with go carts at age 8. He went pro at 16 and this will be his fourth year racing in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"There's nothing better than a street course, a fast car, and rushing by walls of cheering fans." says Aschenbach. "It's a wonderful feeling being in a street race. You can't beat the thrilling rush of going 160 miles per hour down the front straight of the Long Beach Grand Prix. I love every minute of it!"
When the celebrity cars have cleared the course, the Pirelli World Challenge cars are next. I get to ride along with LA-native Tomy Drissi in the TruSport 3 Stooges Porsche GT3, painted with logos from The Three Stooges: the Movie. Our wrangler, Shane, had mentioned that riding along always makes him sick, so I put on my motion sickness wristbands to be on the safe side.
Local Long Beach author Tammy Kaehler, whose mystery about a female race car driver, Dead Man's Switch, is in stores now, was up for the first spin around the course. Then it was my turn for the quick transition.
They add the passenger seats just for the ride along, but they're not your standard car seats, they're tight little walled seats to keep you from sliding around. My posterior was in no way made for a race car seat, but I managed to climb over the safety rail and wedge myself in while Shane held my camera. I hollered bloody murder as Tomy tried to take off before I had my camera back in hand. Tomy stopped so I could retrieve the camera, then we zoomed off onto the course.
To share the visceral experience of racing along the track with you, I shot hand-held video with my Canon 5d Mark II, which you can watch in this Grand Prix Ride Along Video on YouTube. We were not going 160 miles per hour, but we got up to an exhilarating enough speed along the straightaways. I was grateful for my acupressure wristbands as we banked around the curves, even at the reduced speed.
So that's one more thing I can check off my bucket list. Everyone doesn't get the chance to ride along in a race car on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach course, but you can have your own stock car racing experience at a couple Southern California locations.
- Long Beach Grand Prix Guide
- Long Beach Grand Prix Insider Tips
- Grand Prix Race Photos
- Grand Prix Seating Guide
- Long Beach Grand Prix Discount Tickets
Photos © 2012 Kayte Deioma, used with permission