By TIM YUJI YAMAMOTO, Special to The Rafu
The 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will have a big noticeable difference for this year. Masks and proof of vaccination won’t be required.
Jim Michaelian, president and CEO, made the announcement during the Media Day luncheon held March 29. He said that he was asked how it was organizing the event for April, its normal scheduled time, only 6 months since last September because of it being pushed back due to the pandemic. His answer: “Easy. It was simple because of the dedicated staff that we have.”
“We’re delighted to be able to welcome people back and say, ‘Hey, come back, it’s April, its springtime, its vacation time, its Long Beach time, it’s Grand Prix time.’”
Acura Vice President Jon Ikeda mentioned that “Acura has been very, very busy in the racing front.”
Acura had its second consecutive Rolex 24 win and first 1-2 result in this year’s opening race of the IMSA Weather Tech SportsCar Championship with its Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 prototy
Second went to Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 Dpi. You’ll be able to see the Acura ARX-05 Dpi and the NSX GT3 race during the Grand Prix weekend.
Ikeda talked about Acura entering the anime business, wanting to push the pop culture marketing. “Chiaki’s Journey” is four-part anime series that features the all-new lineup of Acura Type S performance cars, the 2022 TLX Type S, 2022 MDX Type S and 2022 NSX Type S. The all-new 2023 Acura Integra makes a cameo appearance in the new series. It’s a fun and exhilarating four-part adventure centered on Chiaki, a young driving protégé, and her wise uncle.
Ikeda explained with more detail in my interview that Chiaki is multicultural, being Japanese and American, just as Acura was created in North America but with roots in Japan. There are many Easter eggs in the videos showing banners with real partner companies’ names and background scenery highlighting Long Beach and the Grand Prix course.
The full “Chiaki’s Journey” series is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/GQlK7RdNA4M
Last year’s defending winner, Colton Herta, driving his #26 Gainbridge/Andretti Autosport/Honda, hopes to duplicate his win. He says about this season so far, “It’s been fun but a little bit of a journey. A fourth-place finish and a 12th-place finish (is) not where we want to be. Hopefully we’ll be good next race weekend.”
Last year’s Grand Prix was pushed back to September. It was the final and also the NTT IndyCar Championship deciding race. Spaniard Alex Palou won the championship with the most total points even with a fourth-place finish.
Past Long Beach winner and two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato of Japan didn’t have his contract renewed with RLL (Rahal Letterman Lanigan) after last year’s Long Beach race. The 45-year-old from Tokyo signed with Dayle Coyne Racing with RWR and will be driving the #51Nurtec ODT/Honda. Sato placed 10th at St Petersburg for the season opener and 20th at Texas.
Although Sato is with a smaller team this year, he’s had success in the past such as with A.J. Foyt’s team, with whom his won his first NTT IndyCar race at Long Beach.
Other racing on race weekend:
Porsche Carrera Cup (PCC)
Historic IMSA GTP Challenge (GTP)
Stadium SUPER Trucks (SST)
Formula D Super Drift Challenge Competition
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach practice, qualifying and race is April 8-10. For ticket and event information, go to http://gplb.com.
The Long Beach 1.97 mile 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.