The Long Beach Grand Prix dates all the way back to 1975. In fact, it’s the longest running major street race in North America.
And with 2019’s event came a new top-billing sponsor. Namely, Acura took center stage. Subsequently, it’s NSX supercar was the hot-lap provider for media types.
As always, iDriveSoCal’s Clinton “Professor” Quan, made his way to the Grand Prix and came back with this behind-the-scenes report to share.
So, click play and find out how you might be able to get similar access or continue reading and check out the hot cars in pictures below!
Clinton “The Professor” Quan: I got to go out with a professional Indy car driver. On the front straightaway, we hit over 130 miles an hour and then on the back straightaway, over 120 miles an hour.
An Introduction to Long Beach Grand Prix
Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast. All about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here with the Good Professor, Clinton Quan. Say hello, Clinton.
Professor: Hi, Tom!
Tom: This little report that we’re putting together is on the Long Beach Grand Prix of Acura.
Professor: Acura is the title sponsor now.
Tom: Right. It was a joke. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, but because it used to be called something else, a play on words. I thought I was being funny.
Tom So, Acura is the new big sponsor.
Tom: And the reason being—and in this podcast, we’re going to cover the report. I, of course, didn’t get to go again this year. Of course, Professor Quan did get to go. He has all the fun; I do all the work. That’s how it works out around here. It works out good for him. He went to Media Days last year, as well as this year. And in both instances, got to drive some pretty bad-to-the-bone vehicles. Drive in some pretty bad-to-the-bone vehicles.
Professor: Yes, ride shotgun.
Tom: Yeah, ride in them, shotgun or…
“And the cool thing was, this year was in the NSX.”
Tom: And the cool thing was, this year was in the NSX.
Behind the Scenes
Tom: So, I’m going to give it to you in just a second. I just wanted to pre-frame the fact that this is going to be a combination. It’s the Professor’s experience at Media Day. So, we’re taking you behind the scenes there. But also, the experience at the actual race itself, which is a little bit behind the scenes, because you had some pit access, right?
Professor: Well, not the race. Practice Day. I went on Friday.
Tom: You were at Practice Day.
Professor: Yes. I went on Friday, April 12th.
Tom: But you had special access of some sort, no?
Professor: I didn’t pick up the media pass for that, for the day I went on Friday.
Tom: Okay, whatever. Let’s start from the beginning. Media Day, you got there, or if there’s anything significant about before you got there, take it away, Professor.
“I saw the line of brand new Acura NSX vehicles.”
Professor: Well, I got there, and I saw the line of brand new Acura NSX vehicles.
Tom: There were four of them.
Professor: There were four of them, yes. And I wanted to make sure I was the first one to get a ride in it, so I stood at spot number one and I was the very first one to go in a—
Tom: How long did you stand in line? Like Steve Wozniak waiting for the latest iPhone to come out?
Professor: Not that long. Maybe 15 minutes.
Professor: While everyone else was walking around. [Laughs]
Tom: Getting finger food?
Professor: Yes. [Laughs] Or talking to some of the other drivers.
Tom: So, were you like literally the first one out on the track? [Laughs]
Professor: I was literally the first one out on the track.
Riding with Oriol
Professor: And I got to go out with a professional Indy car driver.
Tom: And what was his name?
Professor: Oriol Servia.
Professor: Servia, S-E-R-V-I-A.
Tom: And you got to check out these pictures on the post on iDriveSoCal.com. Because not only does it have the Acura NSX’s all lined up and detailed up looking great, but then you have the Professor and Oriol in the NSX in a few different poses getting ready to roll. And I’m sorry, I don’t know racecar drivers, but he didn’t look like a racecar driver to me. He looked like a guy who just got lucky and like—who is giving this guy the keys to that thing? Let me go!
Professor: Well, he’s been a racecar driver for quite a few years.
Tom: Yeah, he’s probably an awesome driver and I just don’t know my racecar drivers.
Professor: Yeah. This year, he’s only racing in the Indianapolis 500, the big one.
Tom: Gotcha. I mean, I don’t know what a racecar driver is supposed to look like.
But, I don’t know, he looked like a regular guy to me. He just looked like—hey, I can do that! Give me the keys to that car! I want to drive it!
Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need… Roads
Tom: And you said 0 to 60 in what time?
“The NSX hit 60 miles an hour in 2.7 seconds.”
Professor: The NSX hit 60 miles an hour in 2.7 seconds.
Tom: That’s quick.
Professor: Yeah, it’s quick. It’s a hybrid.
Tom: It is
Professor: It is a hybrid.
Professor: A 3.5 liter V6 Twin Turbo that produces 573 horsepower combined output. 476 pound-feet of torque and it has a top speed of over 190 miles an hour.
Tom: And what did you guys hit?
“On the front straightaway, we hit over 130 miles an hour and then on the back straightaway, over 120 miles an hour.”
Professor: On the front straightaway, we hit over 130 miles an hour and then on the back straightaway, over 120 miles an hour. Pretty impressive on a street course.
Tom: On a street course.
Professor: On a street course.
Tom: With Long Beach City buildings flying by you, like…
Professor: I mean, there’s a lot of turns. This is not like some oval, 2-mile racetrack.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Professor: That’s fast.
Tom: Okay. So, you get there, you’re first in line. You get your ride.
Tom: One lap? Two laps?
Professor: It comes out to about two laps. Because you start off in the pit, right? And the pit is right where the front straightaway is. So, if you’re only going around once, you’re not going to go full speed on the front straightaway.
Professor: So, you really have to go around twice to get to the top—to hit maximum speed on the front straightaway.
Tom: But as far as action time, driving aggressively, it’s one lap.
Professor: One full lap, yes correct.
Two Thumbs Up for The New NSX at the Long Beach Grand PRIX
Tom: And that was in the NSX. I’m assuming you give that two big thumbs up, right?
“Two huge thumbs up. I’m a huge fan of the new NSX.”
Professor: Oh, two huge thumbs up. I’m a huge fan of the new NSX.
Tom: Have you driven that car?
Professor: I have not driven the new NSX. I would love to.
Tom: And did they have ‘19s there or ‘18s?
Professor: I believe those are ‘19s, yeah. I believe that’s a new color, too, for 2019.
Tom: It’s not a quiet color. [Laughs]
Professor: Yeah, it’s not. Well, this is for the—
Tom: It’s not a quiet car.
Professor: For a race, you don’t want a quiet color.
Professor: You want something that stands out.
Tom: True, true.
Professor: Yeah, gorgeous, gorgeous car.
Tom: So, then I saw another picture of a racecar. Was it the A8 or the R8?
Professor: The Audi R8.
Tom: You got a ride in that.
Professor: I got a ride in that and for that one, I actually had to put on a racing suit because that one is actually a racecar. The NSX was just—
Tom: A street car that was on the track.
Professor: Yes, a street—yeah, it wasn’t modified in any way.
Tom: But, yeah, I mean, it’s an NSX, so, I mean.
Get Your Checkbook Out
Tom: What is the sticker on the NSX, anyway?
Professor: The sticker on the NSX is about $160,000.
Tom: And are they selling for more than that?
Professor: It starts at just a tick under 160, like $159,300, something like that. Oh, yes, of course, with options, taxes, you’re looking at close to 200,000.
Tom: No, but I mean, desirability, market adjustments, because supply and demand.
Professor: Oh, I’m sure there are.
Tom: They’re getting more than—
Professor: Depending on the dealers, there would be markups on that.
Tom: Giving you the MSRP.
Professor: Yeah, right.
Tom: As often happens in those cases.
Professor: I have no doubt, yes.
Buckle Up for The Audi R8
Tom: Okay. All you had on was a helmet for the NSX and then you went and drove in or rode in the R8?
Professor: Yeah. So, for the R8, I actually had to suit up.
“They’ve got the racing belts strapped on really, really tight.”
Professor: Yeah, and they’ve got the racing belts strapped on really, really tight.
Tom: Was it the three point—or is it five points? The harness.
Professor: I don’t even know what they call it.
Tom: It’s like multiple points of the harness.
Professor: Yes, correct. Yes. Correct.
Tom: Maybe I’m thinking of Star Wars or something, I don’t know.
Professor: No, no, no. You’re right. I don’t know what they exactly call it, but yeah, it’s not like a regular seatbelt.
Tom: I know we have pictures of you and Oriol in your helmets, but I didn’t see a picture of you in a race suit. Do we got that?
Professor: No. I wasn’t able to get a picture of that.
Tom: Professor! Come on, man!
Professor: There was limited time. I was lucky to even get a ride on the Audi R8. I asked them, they said, “Well, we’ll let you ride in it, if we have enough time,” and luckily there was enough time. They said, “You know what? Get in that thing, go.”
Tom: Get in that thing and go.
Dressed for The Job
Tom: Now, when you put on one of those race suits, I’m assuming it hasn’t just been sterilized in any capacity and probably somebody else just took it off, maybe 40 other people.
Professor: Well, there’s only a small number of people that get to go in that.
Tom: Was the race suit clean? I’m just curious.
Professor: It looked clean.
Tom: All right, it looked clean.
Tom: You don’t like strip down to your underwear and t-shirt.
Professor: I’m assuming they cleaned it or sterilized it before. [Laughs]
Tom: Well, I’m sure! I’m just curious about these things.
Professor: So no, you wear whatever you’re wearing.
Tom: So, you’re just pulling the race suit over you. It’s really fire—it’s a fire-retardant suit in case anything should go very wrong.
Tom: Got it. Okay.
Professor: Yeah, it goes over your clothes. Yes, correct.
Tom: Then you had a helmet on as well? Did you have a neck brace on underneath the helmet, too? Or just the helmet?
Professor: No, neck brace, a helmet.
Tom: Got it.
A De-tuned Racecar
Professor: And that car is just impressive.
Tom: Well, it’s a race car. It better be impressive.
Professor: Just to get an idea of how impressive the NSX is, the NSX was, I think, pretty much just as fast as the R8.
“It’s de-tuned. The R8.”
Professor: Yeah. That’s how impressive the NSX is. But then I didn’t find out until later, they de-tune, it’s de-tuned. The R8.
Tom: What? They de-tuned the racecar?
Tom: How does that make any sense?
Professor: I think the reason they do that, it’s already got so much horsepower and it’s less weight than the stock R8, the vehicle that you would buy off the showroom floor.
Tom: Oh, I gotcha.
Tom: Do you know what speeds you got up to in the R8?
Professor: No, but I believe it was probably about the same, about 130 miles an hour.
Tom: You know what we’re going to do next year?
Professor: Because in the Indy cars, we got up to what? Like 100—
Tom: I’d say you did 140 or something.
Professor: I think it was around 145, 150, if I remember correctly.
Tom: Last year?
Professor: Yeah, and that’s an Indy car.
Media Day at Long Beach Grand Prix
Tom: Huh, all right. And speaking of last year, last year food played a big role in your Media Day experience, but I think you recall you mentioning—
Professor: Food played a big role again this year. There wasn’t really a breakfast, like they had last year. But they had a really, really nice luncheon.
Tom: They probably listened to our podcast and realized that there really wasn’t a need for both breakfast, super-fast car rides, and then lunch as well.
Professor: Well, they had some other special presentation and panel discussion last year, that they didn’t have this year.
Tom: Okay. Oh, that’s why they had the breakfast?
Professor: That’s why they had the breakfast. They didn’t have that this year, so that’s why there wasn’t a breakfast.
Tom: So, is that it for Media Day? Are we going onto the prequalifying Practice Day that you went to? Or anything else on Media Day before we carry on?
Professor: That was my experience on Media Day. They also gave out rides to people that were interested in going in the drift cars
Tom: And you didn’t want to do that?
Professor: The other rides pretty much consumed my whole morning.
Professor: Yeah. And then lunch.
Tom: How long were those rides? Was it a lot more waiting than actual ride time?
Professor: There was some waiting in the beginning, yeah. So, I think I waited—well, it was—
Tom: Well, you mentioned that. What’s a lap?
Professor: Oh, the lap times?
Tom: In the NSX, what was your—how long did a lap take in the NSX?
Professor: Probably just a little over a minute.
Tom: Wow, okay.
Professor: Yeah. I believe that’s how long it took, yeah.
The Acura Contest at Long Beach Grand Prix
Tom: So, anything else about Media Day?
Professor: That pretty much covers it, but yeah, it was just an incredible experience. Oh, I did also want to mention that this year Acura had a contest for enthusiasts, if they were interested in getting a hot lap in the NSX like I did. They could’ve gone to the dealership and entered a contest where they post a selfie of themselves and they could’ve had the opportunity to win a hot lap ride in an NSX. I think they gave away 17 of those.
Tom: So, good thing we’re telling people about it now. [Laughs]
Professor: Well, for next year.
Tom: [Laughs] Yeah, for next year.
Professor: Maybe they’ll do the same thing, or they’ll have some other—
Tom: For next year.
Professor: Maybe they’ll have some other special contest for next year.
Tom: Well, you know, hey, hats off to Acura for jumping on board. Honda being the company behind Acura, of course. Acura being the luxury brand of Honda and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Professor: 45th anniversary.
Tom: 45th anniversary of the Grand Prix.
Professor: Yes, correct.
Professor: 45th anniversary of the Grand Prix.
The Lifestyle Expo
Tom: So, carrying on.
Professor: I also attended Practice Day. It’s a three-day event, so I went on Friday, April 12th, and I spent—I would say I spent most of the day inside the Convention Center, where they have the Lifestyle—
Tom: The Lifestyle Expo.
Professor: Yes, the Lifestyle Expo.
Tom: Is that where we got the picture of you with the models?
Professor: Yes. Yes.
Tom: Good picture.
Professor: Thank you. [Laughs]
Professor: And then—actually Acura had a contest in there, too, where if you take a picture and then you did a hashtag and tagged Acura, they were giving away some swag.
Tom: So, you of course? Of course.
Professor: I won an official Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach hat.
Professor: Now, unfortunately, they didn’t notify me until the following day, on Saturday, when I was already out of town for another car event.
Tom: So, they messengered you the hat?
Professor: No, unfortunately. It was either you were there, and you got it or—
Tom: That’s a bummer, Professor! Professor is big on swag, if you are a first-time listener.
Professor: Yeah, I love those caps. [Laughs]
Practice Day at The Long Beach Grand Prix
Tom: What was the Practice Day about? Because at the Grand Prix, it’s not just the Grand Prix, there’s a bunch of other races, right? A bunch of other categories of vehicles?
Professor: Oh, yeah!
Tom: So, who do you see practicing?
Professor: Well, they have the Indy cars that are practicing.
“They have the super trucks. Those are really cool, where they’re jumping off the ramps.”
Professor: They have the super trucks. Those are really cool, where they’re jumping off the ramps.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Professor: That’s a huge fan favorite.
Tom: Oh, sure!
Professor: People love that. That gets a lot of attention They also have these much older cars. They’re racecars.They look sort of like stock cars, but they’re a little modified so it just has that shell of the original car.A lot of them from like the 19—what, probably like 1980s, 1990s.
Tom: And those actually race? Or they just practice and have fun?
Professor: No, I believe they actually had an actual race on Sunday as well.
Tom: It sounds like the practice that you went to is a full day. It just wasn’t the official races, which happened after.
Professor: The gates open at 7:00 in the morning and then they have activities that run well into the evening. I think there was a concert.
Tom: Yeah, they make a whole thing of it.
Professor: There was a drifting event in the evening as well.
Tom: If you haven’t had enough exhaust and burnt rubber, we’re going to really hit it hard now.
Professor: They give it sort of a party atmosphere at the end of the day on Friday.
The Biggest Event in Long Beach
Tom: Yeah! So, how was attendance? Are they holding strong? Holding their own with the now Acura Long Beach of Grand Prix?
Professor: I didn’t read the—
Tom: Long Beach of Grand Prix? [Laughs]
Professor: I didn’t read what the numbers were, but I’m sure—
Tom: The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, I got to correct myself.
Professor: From what I saw on Friday in the afternoon—
Tom: It’s packed?
Professor: There were a lot of people there.
Professor: And I’m sure on Saturday and Sunday, a lot more people than what I saw. I have no doubt. It’s the biggest event in Long Beach.
Is Hybrid The Future?
Tom: Now, the reason why I ask is because I was talking with my wife the other day. And, my son is a year and a half, and when we play cars together in the bathtub, we play boats, he’s picked up the engine sound, right? When you’re playing cars [vroom, vroom], so he’s making that sound. And my wife’s like, “Oh, that’s so cute you taught him how to do that!” I was like, “Well, he just picked it up, you know?” So, when he has kids, are they going to be familiar with those sounds?
Professor: I think so.
Tom: You think so?
Professor: I think so. I think so.
Tom: I don’t know, man, everything is going to be electric. I fear that our combustion engines are going to be—if they’re around anymore when he has kids, twenty-some years from now, thirty-some years from now, if he waits, like me, even longer! [Laughs]
Professor: We’ll see. We just don’t really know.
Tom: But so, with that in mind, was there any hybrid, was there any electric at the Grand Prix in any kind of competitive nature, whether it be practice or the real deal?
Professor: No. No, I remember, I think it was maybe two or three years ago, they had a separate event just called Formula E.
The Times, They Are A Changing
Professor: And those were fully electric.
Tom: They didn’t do that this year?
Professor: But that’s on a separate weekend. It’s not during—
Tom: But it’s while they have everything set up.
Professor: Correct. It’s like the weekend before. But they’re not—the Streets of Long Beach, that’s not one of their street courses anymore.
Tom: Oh, it’s not?
Tom: So, Formula E is still happening, but just not in Long Beach?
Professor: Yes. I believe it’s still happening but in other cities.
Professor: Yeah, just not in Long Beach.
Tom: All right, very good.
Professor: Yeah. I haven’t heard too much about that. I’m not sure if it’s—I don’t think it’s generating the type of excitement that people thought it would. It’s because it’s so quiet!
Tom: Well, it’s quiet, but come on! You know the torque that those things have.
Professor: Yeah, but when people go to a race, you know what they—
Tom: Part of it, part of it.
Professor: The sound!
Tom: Part of it is the sound, yeah, I know. Yeah, part of it is the sound, without a doubt.
Tom: But times, they are changing.
Tom: All right, Professor. Thank you so much. That’s the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Thanks to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach folks for having the good Professor out and actually Bernadette Sanicola on behalf of iDriveSoCal as well. That will be a separate report.
But, thank you, Professor, and thank you for listening as always! I’m Tom Smith. This is iDriveSoCal. We’ll talk to you soon.