Long Beach Grand Prix
Behind the Scenes Media Day

If you haven’t experienced the Annual Long Beach Grand Prix it’s something you need to add to your ‘to-do list’ for sure.  But very few get to experience the event’s Media Day – especially the way our Professor, Clinton Quan, recently got to enjoy.  So, we decided to share the Media Day he was treated to which included; a lap of Indy Car Experience at 150mph followed up by more laps in a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car.  Just another day at the office for the Professor.  You gotta hear the details in this iDriveSoCal Podcast though – wow!

***Transcript***

Recording date – April 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA

Clinton Quan: Toyota was giving out rides to the media in the Camry Pace cars. And then I saw there was a Honda Indy car experience trailer. And I asked her if I could go for a ride, and she asked me if I was with the media. I told her I was with iDriveSoCal, and she said, “Sure, sign you up.” I put on a helmet and I got in the car. And next thing I knew, I was strapped in the car and out on the track going over 150 miles an hour on the racetrack. And I’m just holding on for dear life.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States–Southern California. I’m Tom Smith. And with me today for another chat is the good professor Mr. Clinton Quan. Say hello, Clinton.

Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom.

Tom Smith: We dispatched Clinton to the media day, the press day for the Long Beach Grand Prix. And even I was surprised at what Clinton came back with it. It sounds like he had quite a day, and I think a day that most of us, myself and you listening, would probably love to have because it included Clinton getting to suit up in a race suit whatever, the one piece weight race suit kind of jumpsuit.

Clinton Quan: Yes, a racing suit.

Tom Smith: Got to do 150 miles an hour in downtown Long Beach.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, a little over 150 miles an hour on the streets of Long Beach on the road course for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Tom Smith: Okay so that was in a…what was it a formula car, formula experience? Is that what you said it was?

Clinton Quan: It is an Indy car.

Tom Smith: Indy car, okay, the Indy experience.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: All right, I’m going to let you take it away in just a second but first, so that was part of the day, folks, was the Indy experience. So if you picture this open wheel car and Clinton’s behind the driver and doing 150 in downtown Long Beach, buildings flying by it like a blur, but then it didn’t end there. Then he got out and what was the other car that you got to ride in?

Tom Smith: I got a ride in a Porsche 911 GT3 cup car. And I got three laps in that one.

Tom Smith: Three laps, also on the Long Beach Grand Prix, same track.

Clinton Quan: Yes. Those are the cars used for the Pirelli World Challenge.

Tom Smith: Okay, so the Pirelli, I’m not even sure what that means, but so that’s what we’re going to talk about here because check out the pictures that we’re going to post on the site, or that are posted on the site by the time you listen to this, but take us through your day and your experience because I’m not quite sure. It sounds to me, Clinton, like this was back in the college days, maybe a little bit after college, and you’re still single and you’re like looking for stuff to do that’s fun on the weekends, whatever. And you’re going to parties that maybe you’re not really invited to, but it sounds like a really cool party, or you go to the club and there’s a really long line, but you try to work your magic about getting it in the side door or going up and dealing with a bouncer and whatever. It sounds like that’s what you did at media day, and I hope this doesn’t get us in trouble with the Long Beach Grand Prix. Thanks, guys. Clinton had a great time, but take us through your day.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, well, basically. I got there early in the morning, and I attended a breakfast for Formula Drift for the drift cars, and then I checked out some of the vehicles on display, and I saw a Honda Indy car trailer. So I went and asked if I could go for a ride in the Indy car.

Tom Smith: Now, hold on. So you got there and you checked in and you’re supposed to… The plan was for you to go have breakfast with some other media folks and then you were lining up to do the drift, right?

Clinton Quan: Well, the drift was going to be later in the afternoon.

Tom Smith: Later in the afternoon. Okay. So you got there, you checked in, you had breakfast?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So you have a full belly before you’re doing 150 downtown Long Beach.

Clinton Quan: Correct, yes.

Tom Smith: All right, just want to make sure I got that. So you got there, you had breakfast, and then you and the other media folks… Was there any kind of presentation or you just ate breakfast or what?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it was a buffet breakfast, and they had a couple of drivers as panelists doing some Q and A. They also had the all new Toyota Corolla and they converted that, which is the hatchback, which was shown at the New York Auto Show, and they converted that into a drift car, so they turned that from a front wheel drive to a rear wheel drive and they had that on display. So I got to check that out as well during the media breakfast.

Tom Smith: During the media breakfast? Okay, so I’m trying to connect the dots here. So you have this media breakfast; it sounds like there’s a pretty structured day.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: But at some point in time, “the Professor” just kind of wanders off into that area to go talk to the bouncer on the side door or try to get into the party that you didn’t quite get invited to or how? Tell me how…

Clinton Quan: Not exactly. After the breakfast, everyone got some free time so we could roam around, check out the vehicles. Toyota was also giving out rides to the media in the Camry Pace cars. There were four of them. It was interesting because they actually used the previous generation Camry and I was wondering why they didn’t use the current generation. I asked around, but no one seemed to know. You would think that they would want to promote the all new Camry because it’s a great looking car.

Tom Smith: Right.

Clinton Quan: And then I saw there was a Honda Indy car experience trailer. I walked in, I spoke with a lady there, and I asked her if I could go for a ride, and she asked me if I was with the media. I told her I was with iDriveSoCal, and she said, “Sure, sign you up.” I got suited up, went out to where the cars were stationed.

Tom Smith: So were other media people kind of walking around the same area as you were walking around?

Clinton Quan: No. They all went to…they all went…

Tom Smith: They all went the boring path, and you went you the exciting path. Clinton’s like…

Clinton Quan: They all went to the Toyota…

Tom Smith: Was it the red or the blue pill? Whatever it is “The Matrix”. I’ll take the other one, please. So they went where? They went somewhere else.

Clinton Quan: They all went to get rides in the Toyota Camry.

Tom Smith: And at this time, what are you thinking? “I don’t want to go the boring path over there.”

Clinton Quan: No, I’m thinking, “Well, I’m here at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach,” right?

Tom Smith: Right.

Clinton Quan: I want to do something exciting.

Tom Smith: Sure.

Clinton Quan: Not that the Camry is not exciting, but it’s just a regular Toyota Camry lowered a little bit with a roll bar, not a lot.

Tom Smith: Sure, I get. I get that. But I guess I’m missing how the herd goes one way. You can’t be the only one that’s like do the really cool thing.

Clinton Quan: I literally was the only one in there.

Tom Smith: You were the only one that said, “That looks way cooler than that. I’m going this way.”.

Clinton Quan: Yes. I know it’s hard to believe but that’s what I do.

Tom Smith: I know us journalists can be kind of you know geeky and nerdy sometimes, but there’s gotta be some others that are excited.

Clinton Quan: I’ve been to enough car events to know where to go.

Tom Smith: All right. Okay, so everybody goes one way and Clinton breaks left.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: And left is significantly cooler sounding than the way everybody else wnet.

Clinton Quan: Well, I would say I went right actually and everyone went left.

Tom Smith: Okay, all right. So you go and you ask, “Hey, can I do it?” And they say, “Grab a suit that’s your size.”.

Clinton Quan: Yes. Yeah. Well, actually, I got into a suit, but it was too big, so she gave me another one in a fit perfectly, and I started walking out to where the cars were staged, and I see Takuma Sato. And for those of you who don’t know, Takuma Sato won the Indianapolis 500 last year and that’s probably the biggest automotive race in the world or the most well-known one.

Tom Smith: Sure, sure.

Clinton Quan: And he’s the first Asian driver to ever win the Indianapolis 500. He also won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach back in 2013.

Tom Smith: Is he Japanese?

Clinton Quan: He is Japanese.

Tom Smith: All right. My wife’s half Japanese. My father-in-law is 100% Japanese so there you go, family, Japanese, good drivers.

Clinton Quan: Yes. So I got a photo with Takuma Sato.

Tom Smith: And that’s going to be, by the time you listen to this, it’ll be on idrivesocal.com, so check it out.

Clinton Quan: So I was told, okay, I’m going to get a ride in the car, then I end up speaking with the lady who was in charge, and she said that there was already a preregistered list which I was not on. So I was told…

Tom Smith: For the Indy experience?

Clinton Quan: Correct. So I was told, however, I could get a ride in a Porsche 911 GT3 cup car at 9:53. So she said I didn’t need to be in my suit, so I walked back to the trailer. I was about to take it off, and I ran into this other lady, and she told me…she asked…she actually asked me, “Who are you?” So I told her, “Well, I’m Clinton Quan.”

Tom Smith: I’m the professor.

Clinton Quan: I’m Clinton Quan with iDriveSoCal. And she said, “Hold on just a minute. Let me see what I can do for you.”

Tom Smith: Oh, iDriveSocal, the podcast! Hang on! Well, let’s get you… Yeah. At that point, the seas parted because we’re so big.

Clinton Quan: I was waiting, and I didn’t hear back from her, so I decided, “Okay, you know what? I’ll just go back to the trailer. At least I’m still getting a ride in the Porsche 911 GT3 cup car.”.

Tom Smith: And by the way, all before 10:00 a.m. on a full stomach.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one but okay.

Clinton Quan: So there’s another gentleman in the Indy car trailer. And he said, “You know what, you should definitely be able to get a ride in this.” So I’m like, “Okay, can you go with me?” So we walked back out to where the cars are staged. He speaks to the lady and he says, “Oops, I made a mistake. You have to be on the list.” I would say maybe five minutes later, the lady tells me, “Actually, you can go for a ride in the Indy car.” And she said… she told…

Tom Smith: The bouncer at the side door decided you’re cute enough, you get in. Come on.

Clinton Quan: So she said, “Hurry up, get in the car right now.” So that’s exactly what I did. I put on a helmet and I got in the car. And next thing I knew, I was strapped in the car and out on the track going over 150 miles an hour on the racetrack.

Tom Smith: Nice.

Clinton Quan: And that’s the second fastest I’ve ever gone. The fastest I’ve ever gone was in another Indy car at Auto Club Speedway going 180 miles an hour, but that was on an oval track.

Tom Smith: You’ve been in Indy cars before?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Wow. Okay, so what time in the morning is this that you’re doing…? Because the Indy car is first and then you’ve got the riding the other one.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. So this was it was almost 10 o’clock by the time this happened.

Tom Smith: OK. And what time do you eat breakfast.

Clinton Quan: 8:30.

Tom Smith: 8:30. Okay. So because I’m thinking there’s, you know, there’s the full belly aspect. I’m assuming at that speed, you’re probably taking corners, not at, obviously, three digits, but you’re probably taking…there’s some Gs involved, right? You’re getting thrown around the car a bit. Your body’s getting pressed one way or the other.

Clinton Quan: I actually get motion sickness. I can’t ride and roller coasters, but I can go in a race cars going 150, 180 miles an hour.

Tom Smith: All right. OKay, so you did one lap?

Clinton Quan: One full lap. Yes.

Tom Smith: Wonderful. And who was the driver? It wasn’t the Japanese super driver. right?

Clinton Quan: It wasn’t Takuma Sato. It was another driver.

Tom Smith: Takuma Osato?

Clinton Quan: Takuma Sato. S-A-T-O

Tom Smith: Takuma Sato.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. So it was another dri…it wasn’t a professional. It had to be a professional

Clinton Quan: He’s a professional driver. I don’t know who he is.

Tom Smith: And so then you get down with that, one lap. And how long does a lap take?

Clinton Quan: It’s almost two miles. It’s about 1.9 miles, about 11 turns.

Tom Smith: Okay. For all the different races in the Long Beach Grand Prix is…because I know they have different classes of cars that race.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. The main event the Indy car. Then you also have the Pirelli World Challenge. There’s also trucks. This coming weekend is actually a Formula Drift, the drift cars. And I think there’s a new class of vehicles.

Tom Smith: So it’s not all happening just this weekend?

Clinton Quan: No, no. The Indy…the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is the next weekend, the weekend of April 13th to the 15th. But this coming weekend is Formula Drift.

Tom Smith: Okay so but then the city of Long Beach is already all blocked off and everything. The keep it blocked off for two weeks straight.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, well, actually, longer than that because they have to…it takes a long time to set all this up.

Tom Smith: All right. All right. All right, very cool.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s the biggest event in Long Beach.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah. So is the course that you took is that same lap configuration what they used for this weekend and next weekend or does it change a little bit?

Clinton Quan: It’s the same configuration. They don’t…

Tom Smith: Same configuration for this weekend, all the races for next weekend, races.

Clinton Quan: Yes. It’s the same configuration for all the races.

Tom Smith: And you say it’s just under two miles?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. I believe it’s about 1.9, a little over 1.9 miles so just a little under two miles.

Tom Smith: All right. And 11 turns…

Clinton Quan: 11 turns.

Tom Smith: …with one big long straightaway.

Clinton Quan: Yeah there’s one big long straightaway on the front stretch.

Tom Smith: Straightaway and the front stretch is where you peaked out at 150?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Okay. Got all that now. Thank you. So you get done with that drive, one lap, and then how long of a duration is it until you get this other ride?

Clinton Quan: Oh, probably 20 minutes, not that much longer.

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So you stayed in costume, right?

Clinton Quan: I stayed in my racing outfit, and I got a ride in the Porsche 911 GT3 cup car and that was just unbelievable. I got three laps in that car. I thought I would get maybe one or two at the most. So I was a little nauseous after that. It was quite a wild ride in that car. It’s incredible how fast those cars can go. And I was told those cars go… That car went almost as fast as the Indy car, so it was approaching the same speeds.

Tom Smith: The difference in the Indy car, you’re sitting behind the driver.

Clinton Quan: I’m sitting behind the driver.

Tom Smith: And it’s open wheels.

Clinton Quan: It’s open and it’s very low.

Tom Smith: And then in the…what is it again? The GT…

Clinton Quan: It’s a Porsche 911. Think of it as a Porsche 911 but it’s stripped out. In that one I’m sitting directly adjacent to the driver.

Tom Smith: Got it. Okay. And that ride was different from the Indy car hop.

Clinton Quan: Well, it’s very different because you’re not as low. Also, the Indy car they put a strap right around your neck. So you’re fully strapped.

Tom Smith: So you’re almost immobile.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. It’s really, really tight being in an Indy car. Ayone who’s been in an Indy car knows how tight it is. There’s not a lot of space in that compartment. Whereas the Porsche 911, it’s like sitting in a regular car, but you’ve got all these roll bars and all this safety protection and the safety straps. So it’s a very, very different experience. So you get a much better view of everything being in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. Think of it as just sitting in a regular car but, it’s completely stripped down with full bars and all the safety equipment all over you.

Tom Smith: When you say think of, my head goes to full stomach and buildings going by blurry. That’s it.

Clinton Quan: And I’m just holding on for dear life.

Tom Smith: So you got three laps in the 911. About how long does it take to get around this course? Three laps is how long? A couple of minutes each lap?

Clinton Quan: That’s that’s a really good question. You’re going so fast. Yeah, I would say a couple minutes if I were to guess off the top of my head. Yeah.

Tom Smith: All right. So after that after your third lap, you’re getting out of the car with a grin ear to ear.

Clinton Quan: Yes, absolutely. Yes.

Tom Smith: And at that time, it’s not even 11:00 o’clock in the morning.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. It’s not even 11. That’s correct.

Tom Smith: But your drift time was later on in the afternoon.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. And then I…

Tom Smith: But you are human in that you said, “Okay my body’s had enough driving at extreme speeds in downtown Long Beach for now.”.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Maybe, maybe if there was an option to go to downtown L.A., mix it up a little bit, maybe you could’ve.

Clinton Quan: Well, there was also the luncheon. So I figured I’m going to eat more.

Tom Smith: Did you go eat again?

Clinton Quan: Yes. They had crab cake sliders, chicken sliders, short ribs sliders, a couple of salads.

Tom Smith: I might have to send myself next year instead of you. I’m not sure about this.

Clinton Quan: So that’s why I decided, “I think I’ll pass on the Formula Drift cars.”

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Especially eating all that food.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah. So then you rolled the home, quite literally, with a full belly and probably…

Clinton Quan: An experience of a lifetime.

Tom Smith: Yeah. All right excellent. Well, so that is…thanks to the Long Beach Grand Prix for taking care of Clinton, and the events that they have going on again this weekend is…

Clinton Quan: This weekend is Formula Drift. I believe it’s… I think it actually starts tomorrow. I think it’s April 6th and 7th. And then the big event, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is Friday April 13th to Sunday April 15th. Friday is practice, Saturday is qualifying, and Sunday is the actual race. But there’s also other types of racing including the Pirelli World Challenge. There’s also a truck race. I believe this year there’s something new as well. There’s just so much going on. It’s all on the website.

Tom Smith: There’s a Lifestyle Expo.

Clinton Quan: There’s also the Lifestyle Expo. There’s kart racing. K1 speed usually sets up a track there. Yeah, in the Lifestyle Expo, a number of the manufacturers will have vehicles there, so you can check out some of the new cars. You can also check out the race cars. That’s a really popular place to go. There’s also concerts taking place this weekend so a little bit of everything.

Tom Smith: So the place to be in the next two weekends is Long Beach. If you have, as Bernadette would say, “petrol,” what did she say? “Petrol in my veins,” or something like that, “gasoline in the veins.” I don’t know. All right. Excellent. Anything else you want to add about the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Clinton Quan: I would just say take in the full experience if you’ve never been. Make sure you get there early as soon as it opens. Give yourself plenty of time to find parking and plan to spend the entire day out there, at least one full day or two or three.

Tom Smith: And keep your eyes peeled for the professor who’s gonna be grinning ear to ear because he’s in his element. All right. Clinton Quan, thank you so much, “the Professor”, for that analysis of the The Long Beach Grand Prix and the media day that you experienced. It sounds absolutely fantastic. And go on out to the Long Beach Grand Prix, have yourself a good old time. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. Thanks for listening.