This year’s Grand Prix of Long Beach brought highs and, well, not so highs. For attending event and race fans of all ages, the Grand Prix weekend continues to be a one, two, or three day affair. While BMW podium finishes throughout the weekend kept those loyal to the marque satisfied, others wrapped up the pre-IndyCar racing with “we’ll get ‘em next time” optimism.
BMW success began Friday night as two BMWs kicked off the weekend on the podium in the Formula Drift Super Drift Challenge. Saturday’s big feature was the IMSA race. The new GTP cars were big hits, racing here at Long Beach for the first time. Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly put the #25 car in a now familiar place—P2 for the second consecutive IMSA race. This followed their P2 after last month’s twelve hour-race in Sebring.
The IMSA podium in Long Beach is also familiar territory for the Paul Miller Racing Team and drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. This is their third consecutive GTD victory at the fabled street course, with the most recent two in their Quartz Engine Oil BMW M4 GT3. This race, they navigated their way from a P3 start to a victory on this unforgiving course where passing is at a premium.
“It’s pretty unbelievable!” exclaimed Sellers. “It’s hard to get the smile off my face at the moment! It’s funny, this one in a lot of ways was very different and meant so much more than the last two years. We didn’t control the race; we didn’t win from pole—this race was won in the pit stop cycle. Madison had two phenomenal final laps before we brought the car in, and then the crew was amazing on our stop. And then I feel like I did a pretty good job on those first out laps to keep us up there! When you look at the definition of a team win, this is it.”
As with the conclusion of any race, teams are always looking forward to the next one. Laguna Seca is less than a month away and given some early bumps and contact at Long Beach, Turner Motorsport is eager for the next opportunity.
Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher were paired in the #96 car, finishing in P8. “It was not the result we wanted at Long Beach after having a really good LIQUI MOLY Turner Motorsport BMW,” Foley says. “Unfortunately, we suffered some damage early on to the left rear that hampered our race and we had to survive just to finish P8. Not a bad points day and we’ll move onto Laguna Seca in a few weeks.”
Gallagher has raced street courses before but this was his first time between the walls on the streets of Long Beach. “Long Beach was fantastic and Southern California this time of year is great,” the North Carolina resident says. “The track has been around so long with so much history and with Robby and the team’s races here, I could lean on my teammates’ experience this time. I grew up watching this race; it’s a bucket list race for me. I always wanted to run it. I got that experience and while this first time didn’t turn out the way we wanted, it was a good first crack at it.”
“We all got stacked up in the first turn and we got hit from behind,” he explains. “That led to some pressure on the tire preventing us from getting that pace we were looking for. The tire just got worn down quickly—to the metal showing through. It wasn’t the result we wanted for everyone on the team who put in all the hard work. If that tire didn’t hold, we could have come in last, it could have been much worse.
“We’re definitely looking forward to Laguna Seca,” he continues. “For me, I’ve had a lot of success there. We’re ready for the tide to turn. We have two great drivers and a great team. Thank you to LIQUI MOLY and Belle Haven Investments, the whole Turner team, and all the BMW CCA members who come out to support us!”
That support surrounded Gallagher and the Turner team as well as the RLL team at this year’s Grand Prix event. The layout down at the waterfront in Long Beach gives fans unique access to the action and to the paddock. BMW CCA takes that a step further with its Meet & Greet visits with BMW race teams. They provide a great opportunity for members to hear directly from the team representatives.
At RLL, Tom Plucinsky, Head of BMW NA’s Product and Technology Communications Department, and Michael Scully, Head of Design for BMW M in Munich, addressed the many members listening intently over the roar of the historic Formula One cars circling the track. They showed off the still-new BMW Hybrid V8 GTP cars that many had never seen in person.
The next stop was the Turner tent while the team prepped the cars for the race scheduled an hour later. Many knew veteran Turner drivers Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley. Will Turner introduced them and Patrick Gallagher and Chandler Hull, both new to the team but certainly not to racing. This is the second year with the M4 GT3s, but this year, Turner was introducing the new McIntosh livery to the west coast.
“Highlights for me definitely included both Meet & Greets and seeing the GTP Hybrid V8 in person,” says Mike de Leon, retired US Navy Chief. “I was very much looking forward to watching them run. I’ve seen them online and remember thinking when they made this, ‘I can’t believe it’s real!’ Seeing them up close was incredible and then seeing—and hearing—them on the track was incredible. It was crazy watching them zoom by our stand—you could feel the whole stand vibrate.”
As founder of Recon Chief Inc, a nonprofit veteran racing platform for veterans fighting PTSD and other mental health issues, de Leon has long been a race fan. “We had a group of twelve with us this year,” he continues. “We all enjoyed the Meet & Greets. This was my sixth year, but each year it keeps getting better. I remember seeing the M8s up close, then the M6s, and now the M4 GT3s at Turner. I really appreciate the organization from the BMW CCA chapters; this is a huge benefit. And beyond all the BMW fun, there was a lot of other serious racing. We all loved the Stadium Super Trucks, too. Those are amazing.”
BMW CCA members were seemingly everywhere among the 180,000 attendees over the weekend. Blake Adams was heading to a good spot to watch those trucks when he paused to share some of why he likes this weekend. “I’ve been coming each year since 2018,” he says. “I come to watch the IMSA racing but I have a sweet spot for anything vintage motorsport so I always look forward to the vintage racing. They’ve done an awesome job each year with the changing up the classes with it as well. When it comes to favorite cars, the new GTP cars are all incredible. This seems like this year, there are the most top-class cars we’ve had at Long Beach in a while, so I’m all about it!”
Long-time IndyCar fan Jon Otterstedt also appreciates the variety of cars and events at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. “I’ve been coming here since I was sixteen—more than 25 years and it remains one of the racing spectacles that I enjoy most,” he says. “I usually go for Indy cars but lately it’s been a great bonus to see IMSA and recently the Porsche Carrera Cup, as well as the historic cars and more. It is one of the best events for viewing in person. I’ve been to Fontana, Laguna Seca, Sears Point and others, but with this nestled in the streets of Long Beach, it remains the best.
“It is great to see all the people, too,” he continues. I got to hang out and talk with Magnus Walker for a bit—that was really cool. Meeting all the BMW and race team people at the paddock was great this year. And it was really great to see the new GTP cars in person! The Long Beach layout is so self-contained, around a two-mile track but we can access so many teams and cars and see different vantage points throughout the whole day. I was so immersed in it, I almost got run over in the paddock by the McIntosh car being rolled into the staging area!”
For the GTP class on Saturday, first and third place went to the Penske Motorsport Porsches, surrounding the aforementioned RLL team’s #25 car in second. GTD Pro had five entrants, represented at the podium by the Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F #14, followed by Corvette Racing’s C8 R, and then Pfaff Motorsports’ 992 GT3 R. In GTD, after the victorious Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3, the Heart of Racing Team’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 placed second with Vasser Sullivan’s GTD Lexus RC-F #12 rounding out the podium.
—Kyle van Hoften