START YOUR ENGINES!

By: 
Eric Bailey

Returning to its normal schedule, fans of the biggest sporting event in Long Beach will be happy to know that the Acura Grand Prix will be drifting into downtown streets this weekend.

The world-famous race returns for its 47th commencement April 8, a mere six months after the 2021 contest. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing the 2020 race to be canceled and postponing the 2021 event to last September, the Grand Prix moves back to its traditional slot in the spring.

“(The Grand Prix) represents an opportunity to get out and enjoy what Southern California and Long Beach has to offer,” Jim Michaelian, CEO and president of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach said to the Press-Telegram earlier this week. “It has always been associated with spring break and vacation and family activity and we’re delighted to assume that time on the calendar.”

It’s been a daunting task to host the event so closely to the previous one.

“Having it return last year and now to its original schedule is a huge testament to our continuing recovery from COVID-19,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “It’s been an incredibly difficult two years but thanks to the success of our vaccination program, we’re excited to safely bring iconic events like the Grand Prix back to Long Beach.”

The Grand Prix brings in about $63 million for the Southern California area, with about $32 million going to the city, according to Johnny Vallejo, the city’s acting director of economic development.

The three-day event begins Friday and offers an entire day of race-themed events and time trials.

In addition to qualifiers and vehicle showcases, there is plenty of fun for all ages.

The Family Fun Zone located in the Long Beach Arena section of the Lifestyle Expo features rock climbing walls, games, video games and racing simulators according to the Grand Prix’s website. Children 3-to-6 years old will be able to get behind the wheel of their very own cars and drive miniature tracks just for them.

Saturday’s events include a concert featuring The Royal Machines, a Los Angeles-based cover band comprised of members from well-known acts like Jane’s Addiction, Billy Idol and the Cult and the Vandals. Special guests are listed to join them for their set at the Terrace Plaza in front of the Performing Arts Center.

Touted as a fan favorite, the Super Drift Challenge takes place Friday and Saturday nights, giving racegoers a showcase of exotic cars driven by the best athletes from the Formula Drift series.

The event concludes Sunday afternoon with the 85-lap NTT IndyCar Grand Prix, the race company’s third race of 2022. The headlining race in Long Beach follows the St. Petersburg, Fla. Grand Prix and XPEL-375 in Ft. Worth, Texas.

For tickets and for more information, visit gplb.com or contact the ticket office at (888) 827-7333.

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