Ride alongs with Kuno Wittmer and Fabryce Kutyba on the famed Long Beach street course.
This year is Toyota’s 38th as naming presenter of the Pro/Celebrity race that is one of seven contests during the 40th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The race pits celebrities and professional drivers against one another on the 1.968-mile, 12-corner street course in Long Beach, Calif.
On the Tuesday the week prior to the race, those celebs and pro drivers get their first look at the race track and get some practice in the cars they’ll drive on Friday and Saturday of race week. (They’ve already done a driving school at Danny McKeever’s FastLane Driving School) It’s always a good day for media to hobnob with everyone, take rides in the Toyota Camry pace vehicles, as well as rides in the Formula Drift machines that will perform this coming Friday and Saturday on a portion of the race circuit.
This year a Pirelli World Challenge Audi R8 from GMG Racing (that came third overall in last weekend’s season-starter in St Petersburg, FL) and an SRT Viper Track Day car were on-hand to give lucky media a chance to travel quickly on these city streets.
Needless to say, it was a hoot. We only had one lap because they threw the checkered flags for lunch and for locals to have an opportunity to walk, bike or skateboard the track.
When I first arrived on pit road to take my ride, I noticed the orange Viper sitting there with Kuno Wittmer, one of four factory TUDOR United Sports Car Championship drivers, also giving rides. I asked if it might be possible to climb in. Nate Siebens of IMSA and Adam Saal from SRT said sure, after lunch.
Once the Toyota Pro/Celebrity field was introduced to media and lunch enjoyed, I went back to the paddock, grabbed a helmet and climbed into the orange beast with Wittmer. Kuno said, as we waited on pit road for the track to be ready for our time, that there are plenty of passing opportunities on the Long Beach circuit: the first turn after a long straightaway, at the end of the second straight after leaving the fountain and Long Beach Aquarium area, at the close of the short chute up Pine Avenue and at the end of the long back straight.
So off we went. The first lap was kinda slow as we followed the celebrities around in the Scion tC race cars but did warm up the engine and tires. The second lap we passed a pile of the celebrities after they heeded the blue flags that announced our presence. The third lap, Kuno put the hammer down and, on the back straight, we waved bye-bye to Fabryce and his passenger in the Audi R8.
Now that was fun!