Race No. 3
Long Beach Grand Prix
Long Beach California
April 11 April 13, 1997
1996 Pole Winner: Gil de Ferran
1996 Race Winner: Jimmy Vasser
1996 SpeedCenter Report
Another Battle at the Beach
CART moves from Gold Coast to Long Beach
©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc. The streets of Long Beach will be sporting Dodger Blue on Sunday,April 13, when Tommy Lasorda, one of the most high-poweredpersonalities in major league baseball, takes center stage as GrandMarshal for the 23rd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The 1.59mile temporary street circuit will again play host to a field of"players" that have established the course as one of legendarystature.
Al Unser, Jr. (Penske Mercedes) has won six out of nine events inLong Beach, having victories in '88, '89, '90, '91, '94, and '95.Even though Unser has suffered misfortune in the first two events ofthe '97 season, one has to believe that Little Al comes to thisweeks' race with confidence. The Penske Mercedes package has shownstrong promise at the hand of the teams' second driver, Paul Tracy.Tracy finished second in the season opener in Homestead, FL, and wasrunning near the front of the field in last weekends' SurfersParadise event until a mishap with Alex Zanardi sent him to thegarage. Tracy also finished fourth in the Long Beach event in '96.
Scott Pruett (Brahma/Reynard/Ford Cosworth) should also come to LongBeach with great confidence. His win in Australia follows hiscontroversial fifth place finish at Homestead, and also follows avery strong showing at Long Beach in '96 before suffering electricalproblems. When asked during a recent teleconference about thecontrast between the two street courses (Australia and Long Beach)Pruett replied:
"Actually, besides one course going clockwise and one course goingcounter-clockwise, they are very similar tracks. They both have verylong straight-aways. They're both places where we'll run reduceddownforce. I guess the biggest difference between Australia and LongBeach mostly is with the amount of chicanes. There are no chicanes inLong Beach, and four chicanes in Australia. Otherwise, they're verysimilar...and they're both on the beach!"Michael Andretti also shares success at Long Beach with Unser. He'swon races on the temporary street course in '85, and '86. Michael'sfather Mario shares success on the course as well, having won the '77Formula One event, and IndyCar events in '84, '85, and '87 race onthe course. With Michael's career best championship start in '97, onecould hardly count him out as a winning contender in the upcomingevent.
All teams will benefit from the luxury of having the two temporarystreet courses scheduled back-to-back in the same sequence as lastyear. This will allow teams to refer to setup differences from only ayear ago. The Long Beach track is shorter by approximately 1.25miles, has fewer turns, requires less shifting, has no chicanes orcurbing, and will generally be easier on equipment than the Surfer'sParadise course.
Safe racing to all!