By TIM YUJI YAMAMOTO, Special to The Rafu
Jon Ikeda, vice president and brand officer of Acura, announced to those attending the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Media Day held on Sept. 14, “We’re back. We’re back after two and a half years. We’re back at the game and back racing again!”
Ikeda was referring to the absence of last year’s AGPLB race events after being canceled due to the California’s COVID-19 pandemic protocols, which didn’t allow large numbers of spectators at large sporting events.
Acura took over the sponsorship in 2019. “We are about making performance vehicles, the NSX Type S,” said Ikeda. “We have to live up to our credibility to put our name as the title sponsor to such a historic race. We have to do what we need to on the racetrack.
“In 2019 we became double champs, meaning we won a championship with Meyer Shank racing with the NSX in the GDC class as well as with Team Penske in the DPi class.”
Ikeda thought that wouldn’t be topped, but in 2020 both teams came through again with back-to-back double championships.
“That’s a very proud moment for us,” he said. “In January of this year, with Wayne Taylor Racing, Konica/Minolta we were able to win the prestigious Rolex 24 (hours) at Daytona.”
With a win at Laguna Seca in the Dpi class the weekend before, “Acura Racing and Performance, we’ve been on fire,” said Ikeda.
Acura will race their Dpi class car this Saturday, Sept. 25, at Long Beach in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The featured race, The NTT IndyCar Series event, will have only twice been held in September. The first time was the inaugural Formula 5000 race in 1975. This year with the uncertainty of the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AGPLB events were pushed back to September, making it the last race of the season and the first time to determine the NTT IndyCar Champion driver.
Alex Palou, a 24-year-old from Spain driving for Chip Ganassi Racing #10, is the current points leader. Before coming to the NTT IndyCar series, he raced in Japan.
2013 Long Beach and two-time Indy 500 winner (2017, 2020) Japanese driver Takuma Sato’s season this year has been with one top 5 and seven top 10 finishes as of Race 15 at Laguna Seca. He is ranked 12th in the championship going into this weekend.
The 1.97-mile, 11-turn temporary street course runs through the streets of downtown Long Beach, surrounding the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center and encompassing the Aquarium of the Pacific and a portion of The Pike Outlets complex. The start/finish line is on Shoreline Drive.
The weekend event draws approximately 185,00 spectators, making it one of the largest paid spectator events in Southern California.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach practice, qualifying and race run through Sunday, Sept. 26. Other races featured are IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Super Drift Challenge, Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks Race, and new for 2021 are Historic Formula Atlantic Challenge and Global Time Attack.
For ticket pricing and information, go to gplb.com or call toll-free (888) 827-7333.
For COVID-19 info and FAQ: https://gplb.com/covid-19-info/