Outside of the Turner Motorsport truck, a young fan, clutching some team memorabilia, stands with his father, both peering in at the BMW M4GT3.  Will Turner comes out to say hello and returns with drivers Patrick Gallagher and Robby Foley. They talk while the drivers sign the LIQUI MOLY skate deck, a car number 96 replica 1/64 die cast car, and more. The father and son walk around the car while the team works to prep for the day’s IMSA GTD race. Hours later, Foley and Gallagher are on the podium hoisting the P2 trophy while the father and son tandem assuredly cheer from their seats, holding that skate deck even more proudly.

Fan access is incredible at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Now in its 49th running, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of the iconic courses on many racing series’ calendars. It’s an amazing racing experience for participants and fans alike, but it also continues to be an unrivaled party. The host body bills it as Southern California’s 200-mph Beach Party (and has even trademarked the phrase). Even before the gates open at 7:30 a.m. Friday, the first of its three days, it is clear they picked a good nickname. Music is already heard from countless sources, well-ahead of the concerts scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights. Drinks are moments away from mouths. Turkey legs the size of clubs are on grills. And more of the hundred-plus food and drink vendors are readying their fare.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach has a festival feel to it all weekend.

No surprise all that fare resembles an actual fair. But instead of going on rides, you’re surrounded by rides. The eleven-turn, 1.97 miles temporary course winds along the harbor, around the Long Beach Aquarium, right past restaurants and stores, and below countless condominiums whose owners this weekend are either really thrilled or hiding under their beds with pillows over their ears.

The condominiums offered great views for the race fans living (or staying) there.

As much as it is a party, there is an amazing amount of racing. Six circuits or series are represented throughout the three days on the streets of Long Beach: NTT Indycar series, IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, GT America powered by AWS, SPEED/UTV Stadium SUPER Trucks, Formula Drift’s Super Drift Challenge, and the History Indycar Challenge. With this line-up covering such a wide range of interests and usually on the track at least twice a day, there was racing action for everyone.

The Formula Drift Super Drift Challenge drew amazing crowds both nights (it must have been the three BMWs in the eight-car field!).

Indycar and Drift cars would seemingly have polar opposite fan bases, but the grandstands at turns 10 and 11 were packed with fans of all ages and many wearing shirts and hats supporting their favorite Indycar drivers and teams. In fact, the grandstands Friday night for the Super Drift Challenge were so full, they had to delay the event for some proactive crowd control.

The Stadium SUPER Truck series is always a highlight for fans.

The Stadium SUPER trucks heats had walls of fans 50-deep at the jump points around the track. Yes, jump points. They rolled out actual ramps on the same course and surprised many as the field launched off the ramps each lap. The cheers and gasps rivaled any other heat or race series.

The BMW CCA Meet & Greet events are always fun for members (thank you to the San Diego Chapter for coordinating these this year).

For BMW fans, the combination of these six series had nine BMWs participating. For the Super Drift Challenge, BMWs racing included Rome Charpentier’s E82, Connor O’ Sullivan’s E46, and Robert Thorne’s E46 M3, which all secured podium spots. IMSA, without GTD Pro this go-round, featured three BMWs too: the two GTP LMDh M Hybrids of RLL Racing and the BMW M4GT3 number 96 of Turner Motorsport. Turner also contributed one of the three BMWs in GT America, the number 29 M4GT3 with the new Laticrete livery. Carrus Callas Raceteam added an M4GT4 and Samantha Tan Racing brought out an M4GT4 to this track less than an hour from home base.

Rome Charpentier (left) took second Friday night while Robert Thorne (right) took first Saturday night.

Each series saw BMWs represented on their podiums. For the Super Drift Challenge night one, Charpentier placed second. Then on night two, Thorne and O’Sullivan topped the podium.

Samantha Tan claimed P2 in class in the Sunday afternoon GT America race.

For GT America, Samantha Tan moved up from starting P3 to finish P2 in the second series race of the weekend, another 40-minute battle with no scheduled pitstops. Another highlight was Turner’s number 29 GT3 car placing fourth both races in driver Justin Rothberg’s first time at this track.

The 25 car of RLL Racing was running great until some late incidents derailed the afternoon Saturday.

The 100-minute, driver-change IMSA race had good and bad news for BMW followers. While the number 25 car driven by Nick Yelloly and Connor DePhillippi, started P2 but ran into some tight scenarios and bad luck and finished officially P9, a few laps early.  The LMDh car number 24 driven by Philipp Eng and Jesse Krohn finished P6, securing some points here in the third race of the season.

There isn’t a lot of room for passing at Long Beach, but Turner Motorsport managed to move up from starting P7 to finish P2.

The big coup for the Turner M4 coupe was starting P7 and finishing on the podium in P2. With the GT3 (of Paul Miller Racing) finishing P1 the previous two years, Long Beach continues to yield quality results for these BMWs. Patrick Gallagher and BMW M works driver Robby Foley worked through a crowded field on a track not known for climbing spots for a great podium finish for Turner Motorsport.

There is always a lot of attention for Indycar racing, even in practice and qualifying.

While Sunday did include that second GT America race for the BMW faithful, the top-billed Indycar Grand Prix had the spotlight. It’s comprised of 85 laps totaling more than 167 miles at an average speed approaching 100mph. Scott Dixon won the race in the number nine PNC Bank car of Chip Ganassi Honda with less than one second separating him and second place finisher Colton Herta.

There is a lot of action in a little space at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is a spectacular weekend, regardless which class, series, car, team, or driver you might support, or even if you’re not even necessarily a race fan. There is so much to do and so much to see. The schedule is arranged so even if you can’t make it to all three days, you’ll get a complete sampler platter of racing on any day. But you might need all three days for the sampler platter of food and drinks there!

Samantha Tan was prescient before a practice sessions, finishing P2 later in the weekend.

Bonus photo gallery below…




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