HELIO – DANCING WITH A STAR

Castroneves Wins Long Beach Pole

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet set a new qualifying record Saturday afternoon – for the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix and for the Verizon IndyCar Series, turning a time of 1:06.6294/106.331mph, to score the Verizon P1 Award. The weather was vintage Long Beach – sunny, blue and 72 – and a track temperature of 119 degrees Farenheit.

Castroneves’ Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was second fastest, and a third Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet was fifth.

Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing was third, followed by the lone Honda in the top Six – Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Honda. Sixth fastest was the only non-Big Three driver, Josef Newgarden/No.67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet.

Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the top Rookie, in seventeenth place.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Scott Dixon

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Simon Pagenaud

Josef Newgarden

Gabby Chaves

The fourth Penske driver, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet had a disappointing time in the penultimate qualifying segment for the top 12 drivers. As he was readying to go out for a fast lap with a minute+ remaining, the Red Flag was thrown for Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet. The Rookie spun and hit the wall, spreading debris on course. The clock kept running and time ran out for Power, who was expected to be a top pole position contender.

Power was obviously sad but philosophical rather than bitter, as might be expected. He will discuss strategy with his team Saturday night. “We have plenty of red tires for Sunday’s race.”

Helio Castroneves

This is Castroneves’ first pole at Long Beach since 2001… not 1986 as joked by RHR. And, it is his 42nd career open wheel pole position, making him fourth on the all-time list. The record he broke was set ten years ago, by Sebastien Bourdais with a time of 1:06.886, and he won that race. The current 1.986-mile, 11-turn configuration has been in place since 2000.

The two oldest, most veteran drivers are starting side by side on the front row, an observation not unnoticed by the two. They are now only separated by nine points in the Drivers’ Standings – JPM has 84 points, and now with the Bonus Point for pole position, Castroneves is at 75 points.

Montoya, almost 40, was Champion in 1999, while Castroneves, 40, has been runner-up four times. The two joked about each other, with back and forth banter. Castroneves called Montoya Gordito and so it went – size and age didn’t matter, JPM’s edge on downforce, etc. There definitely is levity and chemistry among the Penske Posse.

The times started falling early on in the first of four separate qualifying sessions. Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet set a new track record in the first session, of 1:06.7442. That time held until Castroneves went faster in the Firestone Fast Six session, small consolation to the ebullient Brazilian, who barely missed out making it into the last session.

Castroneves said “For us we keep pushing. The guys changed a lot overnight and we started today like the beginning of the weekend. With Roger as strategist, we’re spot on. The track is pretty much the same, but the cars are different. So we’re a second faster this year. Those are the difficult challenges we all have now.” He said he missed his ‘rabit ears’ part of the aero kit which IndyCar mandated removed for this weekend “It affected us. But, we gotta dance according to the music.”

“We’ve got a ton of power” said JPM, speaking of his new Chevrolet aero kit. “We spent two days trying to figure it out, and then just put it back the way we started and things were good. Welcome to motor racing.”

Dixon said “We seemed to do really good on the black (primary) tires. With the time difference with the red tires (alternate/option) but we just didn’t find it. Long Beach is always a tough one and strategy is definitely going to be top of the mind.”

RHR said “It’s great to be back in Long Beach. That was pressure-packed. This is another step forward with this new Honda aero package, and I think it’s obvious you can see it. We’re making steps and I think we just keep chipping away at it and we’ll be able to close that gap (to the Penske team.)

Pagenaud is less verbose and more reticent than his Penske Pals. “We’ve been fast in every practice. Team Penske did a great job. Overall, it’s been a good weekend so far. Hope it stays that way tomorrow.”

Newgarden, the new kid on the block at 24+, said “We had a pretty disastrous practice one here, we tried something different that didn’t work. We recovered really well as a group, got ourselves some speed again. Finally got into the (Firestone) Fast Six, we’re happy about that. We’re still tweaking our tire strategy to get better and catch Penske. Gotta keep developing, and it won’t be a Penske runaway. It will be a dogfight at the end of the season.”

In the first Qualifying session, four drivers received action from IndyCar. Fastest driver Kanaan and Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda were given a warning for “Qualifying Interference.” James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda and Conor Daly/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda had their fastest qualifying laps eliminated for “Driving too fast in a local yellow zone.”

Kanaan will start seventh, Rahal starts eighth, Hinchcliffe will be thirteenth on the grid, and Rookie Conor Daly – in only his second session in the car this weekend – starts twenty-first. He got the call from team owner Dale Coyne while he was at breakfast Saturday morning in the Honda tent, minutes before the morning practice session. Daly ended up borrowing a car seat from Marco Andretti/No.25 Snapple Honda.

The IndyCar live telecast begins at 1pm PDT/4pm EDT. The broadcast team includes play-by-play with Brian Till, along with analysts (indy drivers) Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit Reporters are Kevin Lee, Robin Miller, Marty Snider and Kelly Stavast. Paul Page will call the race on the IMS Radio Network, with (former indy driver) Davey Hamilton as analyst.

Castroneves Wins Long Beach Verizon P1 Award

Castroneves car and Castroneves Award photos courtesy of Chevrolet Racing.

SIMON SAYS AND DALY REPLACES MORAN

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental was the latest Team Penske driver to top the charts, Saturday morning in the third/final practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Frenchman’s fastest lap was 1:07.0304. Six drivers best the fastest Friday time of 1:07.5485, set by Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske.

Second and third were also Penske drivers – Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet; and Power. Fourth and fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; and new this season and with Ganassi, Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Roger Penske

Penske Truck Rental sign

Simon Pagenaud

Again, Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda was the top Honda in sixth place, up one position from Friday.

Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the fastest Rookie, in fourteenth position.

All of the 23 IndyCar drivers were faster Saturday than Friday. Fifteen drivers were in the 1:07’s, and all the remaining drivers, save Francesco Dracone/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing, were in the 1:08’s.

Conor Daly & Dale Coyne

The big news Saturday morning was young open wheeler Conor Daly replacing Rocky Moran, Jr in the No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. It couldn’t have been better scripted. Daly was tapped literally 45 minutes before the 10am PDT session, when it was learned that Moran’s sore left hand was actually a fractured thumb, in a cast, leaving Moran unable to drive.

Moran had a brush with Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda Friday afternoon in Turn One, and Moran hit the wall. He held onto the steering wheel and the left hand was sore all night. Saturday morning it wasn’t any better. Moran had another x-ray, which showed a crack. Moran will now be in a cast for six weeks.

For Moran to race would require gripping the steering wheel, which could pull out the joint and the hand would never be the same.

Rocky Moran's broken left hand

Rocky Moran & Dale Coyne

Conor Daly in car

Conor Daly's helmet

Daly left his hotel Saturday morning for the track to drive the IndyCar two-seater car as he has done this weekend. It was there in the IndyCar compound he was asked to drive the No.18 Honda. Daly is wearing his GP2 driver’s suit and the helmet he wore for Schmidt Peterson Racing.

Team Owner, Dale Coyne, said it was close to time for IndyCar practice when he had to find a new driver. It was an easy choice for him, with Daly available and track knowledgable – this weekend and in the past.

Derek Daly

Daly’s father, Derek Daly, said he didn’t know about it until after his son got in the car.

IndyCar qualifying starts Saturday at 2pm PDT and will be televised live on NBCSN.

RIVETING RUNS

Ricky Taylor

The Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase Round Three qualifying session was riveting, especially the last few laps of the Prototype category.

In the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Series Prototype class, young Ricky Taylor/No.10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet and veteran/multi-time champion, Scott Pruett/No. 01 Ford swapped fastest laps four times. Both times Pruett bested Taylor’s top lap; and the kid came back and beat Pruett at his own game. It was drama. It was theater.

Taylor prevailed and took the pole with a lap of 1:14.790/94.729 mph – a new track record, ahead of Pruett’s 1:1:048. It was Taylor’s eleventh pole position. He shares driving duties with his younger brother, Jordan, and they race for their father, sports car champion Wayne Taylor.

Third in Prototypes was Christian Fittipaldi/No.5 Action Express Chevrolet at 1:15.274.

Taylor said “Track position is so important. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pole. We were really quick and I was fastest in the final practice before qualifying by a little bit.”

The top six Prototype qualifiers were faster than last year’s pole sitter.

Bill Auberlen

In the hotly contested GTLM class, wily and admittedly old Bill Auberlen/No.25 BMW Z4 GTE took the pole at 1:17.268 – also a track record. Second and third were John Edwards/No.24 BMW Z4 GTE at 1:17.516 and Giancarlo Fisichella/No.62 Ferrari F458 Italia at 17.709. Auberlen admitted to being 46 years old and racing against youngsters barely out of diapers – in their twenties. Driving like he stole it, Auberlen was described as “dirt-tracking his car around several corners, running right on the edge.”

Fisichella really pulled it out of the hat. He hit a tire wall during the last moments of the final practice session right before qualifying.

Fifteen of the seventeen entries were out in qualifying.

The TUDOR series won’t have any warm-up, which means the next time the 17 cars are on track will be for Saturday’s race at 4:05pm PDT.

The Pirelli World Challenge Series has the largest field of the Grand Prix weekend – forty cars, spread through two classes – GT (32) and GTC (8).

Veteran and champion driver, Peter Cunningham/No.42 RealTime/Acura Motorsports/HPD/Acura TLX-GT was the fastest overall and GT driver, at 1:20.274/82.257mph. This was better than the existing track record of 1:20.386/88.134 mph set last year by Johnny O’Connell in a Cadillac CTS-V.R.

Also besting his last year’s record lap was Johnny O’ again in the Cadillac.

Colin Thompson/No.11 Porsche of Bucks County/PenVal/Porsche 911 GT3 CUP was the fastest GTC driver, at 1:23.926/84.417 mph, in thirty-third overall. No records were broken in this class.

PWC qualifies first thing Saturday morning and then has the rest of day off and also much of Sunday. Its “Roar by the Shore presented by Replay XD” race will run at 4:30pm PDT Sunday, after the IndyCar race and Drifting Demonstration.

Jim Michaelian

Everyone loves coming to the Long Beach race, for a variety of reasons. Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – History; Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda – People; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet – Events. Rahal said he was impressed by the numbers he saw, and hearing that sales were good. He hoped for a crowd even bigger than last year’s good crowd.

Taylor said ““Long Beach is a really special event. It’s only our second year here and there’s already a crowd like I’ve never seen before. It’s a really cool atmosphere. Everyone wants to be on pole and win here.”

Auberlen said “You can feel the energy here. This is my home track. For me, this place is my crown jewel, racing in front of my friends and family. This is the 41st Grand Prix of Long Beach, and I was here for the first one, watching as a kid.”

All music to the ears of Jim Michaelian, President of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.

PENSKE POWER

Will Power

The times were faster by far in the second practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Ultimately, last year’s champion, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was the fastest. His time was 1:07.5485, and unofficially nearly three-tenths faster than last year’s record of 1:07.8219 set last year by Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Honda.

Second through sixth were Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet; Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet; Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske, and Josef Newgarden/No.67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet.

Graham Rahal

Will Power

Simon Pagenaud

Little bit of a pattern there. All four of the Penske drivers in the top five, and the top six cars were Chevrolets.

The top Honda, in seventh place, was Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda; or, as he put it “the best of the rest.”

Among the other fastest drivers during the 45-minute session were Newgarden, Charlie Kimball/No.83 Novo Norodisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and Dixon.

Again, Stefan Coletti/No.4 KV Racing technology Chevrolet was the top Rookie, in fifteenth place.

Seventeen of the 23 drivers were faster than the fastest lap set in the first session by Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet – 1:08.6458; and all but one were faster then they were in the first session. Eighteenth fastest driver, Kimball, turned the exact time as did Dixon in the morning session. The Friday combined practice times were the same as the second session.

Friday, IndyCar announced some Aero Kit modifications effective this weekend: Chevrolet to add a tether to the winglets, or remove the winglets, from its front wing assembly; and Honda to implement additional reinforcements to its rear wheel guards.

IndyCar said it will continue to be proactive in its review of aero kit performance, as part of its commitment to deliver an entertaining on-track product through the season. The first step was last week with mandated structural upgrades. IndyCar will continue the process as the season progresses, and opportunities for improvements are identified.

The new IndyCar aerodynamic bodywork kits, aka Aero Kits, were a topic of discussion – serious and humorous. One definition of pundit is “a person who offers to mass media his opinion or commentary on a particular subject area” and that fitted Power and Rahal during the post-practice media conference. Their witty comments and ripostes on various subjects such as manufacturer rivalry, driving skills, and especially the aero kits amused the media. I hope someone got a good transcript.

Power said it was “no big deal not to have the rabbit ears on his Penske. Little bit more front wing, and that’s it. The aero kits give us little gains on tracks like this. It makes things a bit faster everywhere. Qualifying will be tight, on reds (Bridgestone option tires,) but it could be doable to break the track record.”

Power saw it “as a positive that IndyCar is making adjustments to the aero kits.” Rahal said “Fan and driver safety is important. We need to make it stronger so it doesn’t just fall off.” Pagenaud said “It’s important and needs to be fair to both manufacturers. Rahal added “And so it’s not a huge cost to the teams … even the big teams like Penske.”

Rahal’s team repaired his morning gear box problem, making the second session more to his liking. On the apparent Chevrolet domination, Rahal said “The (Honda) guys are working hard on it, and I guess we’ll just have to work harder.”

Rookie Rocky Moran, Jr/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda was the only driver who failed to go faster in the second session. The Red Flag came out mid-way through the session, when he and Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda spun. Munoz continued, but Moran backed into the concrete barrier. He got out and walked to the Response Vehicle, while his car was towed away.

Kimball kissed the left side of his car on a concrete barrier and pitted to have his left rear tire checked/replaced. Rahal appeared to have repeated Kimball’s mishap, but kept on going with no problems. He admitted later he “ate Turn Eight.”

Carlos Munoz

Charlie Kimball

Francesco Dracone

Having the dubious distinction of being last in both sessions was Rookie Francesco Dracone of Italy, driving No.19 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. His new-for-the weekend teammate, Rocky Moran, Jr. was twenty-second of the 23 drivers.

The late afternoon weather was still warm, mid-seventies, but the breeze also went stronger, up to 20 mph.

Saturday IndyCar has its final practice at 10am PDT, followed by qualifying at 2pm PDT.

DIXON’S ON TARGET

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon put his No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet top of the charts Friday noon with a time of 1:08.6458/103.208 mph. The weather was mid-seventies with the harbor breezes starting to pickup the pace.

The qualifying lap record of 1:06.902/108.898mph around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course was set by Justin Wilson in 2008.

Second and third were Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan/N.10, and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Honda – both who had led earlier on. Fourth through seventh drivers all were in the 1:08’s. They were Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet; 2014 IndyCar Champion, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet; and Juan Paul Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Simon Pagenaud

Stefano Coletti

The top IndyCar Rookie, of four, was Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, in fourteenth place. Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was seventeenth overall in his first IndyCar on-track session this year. Rocky Moran, Jr./No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda was twenty-second. Moran is the first American driver for Dale Coyne Racing since 2003, when the driver was Geoff Boss.

Sebastien Bourdais going through Tech

Afterwards, the IndyCar scrutineers had to forgot sitting and looking pretty, so several cars could go through the technical equipment checks.

In the first practice for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Series, all twelve cars were on course. Rookie Spencer Pigot/No.12 was leading for awhile; but when the Red Flag came out to retrieve Rookie Ethan Ringel/No.71 who drove into a tire barrier, Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.18 was ahead. Ringel walked to the ambulance while the Cal Club SCCA course marshals rearranged the tire barriers. At the checkered flag, Rookie Max Chilton/No.14 was fastest, at 1:14.4110. He, however, didn’t quite make it all the way back to Pit Lane at the Checkered Flag. In case you noticed a pattern there, yes – eight of the twelve drivers are Rookies.

During the Indy Lights practice, fans were swarming the IndyCar paddock queued up for driver autograph sessions.

Autograph fans

41 … BUT WHO’S COUNTING

Welcome LBGP

This weekend marks the forty-first running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, long considered the grandfather of American street races. The event started out with a FIA qualifying F5000 race and then moved to Formula One. Thirty-two years ago indycars began, under various banners … CART, Champ Car and now IndyCar.

The schedule, as always, is full with something for most everyone. In addition to the Verizon IndyCars, also racing this three-day weekend are the IMSA sanctioned TUDOR Championship Series, SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge Series, Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series, ToyotaPro/Celebrity Race, KMC Wheels Super Drift Drift Challenge Series, and Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Off-Road Series.

Robby Gordon

Robby Gordon, along with Bryan Herta, was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame Thursday. This is the tenth year of honoring those who have made legendary contributions to the sport. Gordon has raced in four different series at Long Beach – IndyCar, Indy Lights Trans-Am, and last year for debut of the Formula Off Road Series. At Long Beach, he won in Indy Lights, Trans-Am and Off-Road, and finished third in IndyCar. In two more – different – series away from Long Beach, Gordon has won three victories each in NASCAR and the Baja 1000 Off Road race.

Herta has raced IndyCars and Indy Lights at Long Beach, winning the 1993 Lights Championship. He ran five Indianapolis 500 races, coming in third in 2005. As an IndyCar team owner, Herta’s driver, the late Dan Wheldon, won the 100th Anniversary running of the Indy 500.

Twenty-three drivers are entered for the Long Beach IndyCar race, with some new faces after the first two races of the season – at St. Petersburg and New Orleans.

Rocky Moran Jr of Pasadena CA is replacing Carlos Huertas in No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Huertas raced the first two races with Dale Coyne Racing. That announcement came Friday morning. Little was known about the change, other than a Tweet by Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, saying that “Coyne told me that Huertas is a possibility for the Indianapolis 500. Carlos isn’t racing here ‘for business reasons.’

Sebastian Saavedra of Colombia is making his first appearance this year, driving No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. Rookie Sage Karam, Ganassi’s development driver, raced the car in the first two races this year, and will race again at the Barber race, the Indianapolis 500 and all the remaining race until the season’s finale at Sonoma Raceway in August. Karam is the 2014 Indy Lights Champion.

Missing this weekend is Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland, who had raced the first two races in No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda, finishing fourth at New Orleans and eighteenth at St. Pete. She is expected back for the Indianapolis 500.

Empty IndyCar Tech

In the IndyCar paddock all the teams were beavering away while their drivers and Crew Chiefs were at the obligatory morning meeting. All the IndyCars had gone through the IndyCar scrutineering process on Thursday, so Friday the Tech Crew were “just sitting and looking pretty.” During the weekend, sometimes after on-track sessions, the teams will bring back a car to be checked. Otherwise, it’s all good.

The first IndyCar practice is 12:30pm PDT, with the second session at 3:45pm local time. Each session is 45 minutes.

ALL CHARGED UP

Nelson Piquet Jr

Nelson Piquet Jr/No.99 China Racing Formula E Team took the lead before the Turn One chicane, and dominated the Long Beach Formula Electric Race. He temporarily lost the lead during his mandatory pit stop, but worked his way back to the front in short order.

It was Piquet Jr’s first FE win.

It’s been thirty-five years since Nelson Piquet won his first Formula One race at Long Beach. Young Piquet is of Brazilian heritage, born in Germany and speaks American like a Yank. The only advice Dad gave Son was touristy information on where to go and what to do in Long Beach, with the stress on the Queen Mary.

“It feels good. Our team deserves a win to keep up the motivation.” Regarding his Fan Boost, Piquet admitted that “Honestly, I ended up not using up my Fan Boost. I didn’t want to mess things up. I don’t know where we are in the points, but this helped our standing.” (ED Note – he is now second, one point adrift of first place.)

Piquet was very complimentary of Long Beach’s circuit with its storied history.

Second and third were Jean-Eric Vergne/No.27 Andretti Autosport Formula E Team and Lucas di Grassi/No.11 Audi Sport ABT.

Vergne said it was a “rock star kind of a day.”

Di Grassi “It’s an honor to be back in the lead of the Championship.”

Nelson Piquet Jr

Jean-Eric Vergne

Lucas di Grassi

The start of the race was just as predicted by Formula E Ambassador, Dario Franchitti. At least a third of the field tried to straighten out the Turn One chicane, going three-four abreast and on both sides of the kerbing. But, amazingly enough, it appeared that all got through, albeit not entirely unscathed.

Nelson Piquet Jr got past pole sitter Daniel Abt before the chicane on that first lap.

Scott Speed/No.28 Andretti Autosport Formula E Team hit the wall in the Turn One chicane on Lap Four, bringing out the tricked-out electric BMW Safety Car, which gets charged wirelessly. Speed was unhurt; his car was hoisted and towed.

Jarno Trulli fell afoul of the Queen’s Hairpin, the last corner before the front straight: he spun and stalled. Charles Pic/No.88 China Racing Formula E Team was under investigation for making an unsafe inside pass. This brought out the second Safety Car, soon after the first.

Sam Bird made his pit stop early on and retired on Lap 22. Bird turned the fastest race lap time of 59.241 seconds, on Lap 13, and held onto it for awhile after he retired.

Loic Duval/No.6 Dragon Racing turned the next fastest race lap on Lap 31; only to be pipped by Nicolas Prost/No.8 Team e.dams Renault on Lap 34 with a time of 58.973 seconds/130.1 kph/80.840 mph. That earned him two bonus points. Prost got a drive-through penalty for shunting Jerome di Ambrosio/No.7 Dragon Racing, and finished fourteenth.

Duval clipped Salvador Duran/No.77 Amlin Aguri Formula E Team, and Duran retired on Lap 27. Duval finished ninth.

Abt got a driver through penalty on lap 32 of the 39-lap race, for max power over use. This dropped him from third to fourteenth, and he ended up fifteenth – second to last finisher. Small comfort that he got three bonus points for starting first.

Several cars were under investigation during the race, including Trulli, Prost, Abt, and di Ambrosio; and Sebastien Buemi/No.9 Team e.dams Renault got a warning flag.

Jim Michaelian

Formula E officials estimated Saturday’s crowd at 23,000. The grandstands were full on the Start-Finish straight and very enthusiastic. Lots of people were seen all around the circuit, and the demographic appeared – to my untrained eye – to be different from the usual die-hard race crowd. There were lots of families with children of all ages. The whole day went well, overall, which led to big smiles on the face of Jim Michaelian, President of the Grand Prix of Long Beach Association.

The next round is on the historic streets of Monaco on 9 May 2015.

PROVISIONAL RESULTS of Long Beach Formula Electric Race
1-Nelson Piquet Jr
2-Jean-Eric Vergne
3-Lucas di Grassi
4-Sebastien Buemi
5-Bruno Senna
6-Jerome D’Ambrosio
7-Antonio Felix de Costa
8-Jame Alguersuari
9-Loic Duval
10-Stephane Sarrazin
11-Nick Heidfeld
12-Karun Chandhok
13-Vitantonio Liuzzi
14-Nicolas Prost
15-Daniel Abt
16-Charles Pic
NOT CLASSIFIED
Salvador Duran
Sam Bird
Jarno Trulli
Scott Speed

PROVISIONAL DRIVER STANDINGS after Long Beach Formula Electric Race
1-Lucas di Grassi-75
2-Nelson Piquet-74
3-Nicolas Prost-69
4-Sebastien Buemi-55
5-Sam Bird-52
6-Antonio Felix da Costa-43
7-Jerome D’Ambrosio-42
8-Jean-Eric Vergne-32
9-Jaime Alguersuari-30
10-Bruno Senna-22

Each driver is allowed to drop a score, keeping all but one of his best results.

FE GRID REVISION & BOOSTED DRIVERS

Daniel Abt's garage

The car of provisional pole sitter Sebastien Buemi/No.10 Team e.dams Renault was found to have exceeded the allotted 200 kw power usage and the lost his fastest qualifying lap. The Swiss driver, 2014 Champion of the World Endurance Championship, will now start tenth.

One other driver lost his fastest qualifying lap for exceeding power: Antonio Felix de Castro/No.55 Amlin Aguri will now start seventh.

As the Stewards determined that the power usage was exceeded on a Red Flag lap, the infringement wasn’t as severe as it could have been; hence, only losing fastest qualifying lap was the penalty.

The revised grid now has Daniel Abt/No.66 Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team on pole, followed by points leader Nicolas Prost/No.9 Team e.dams Renault and Nelson Piquet Jr/No.99 China Racing Formula E Team in third.

Piquet, of Germany, is also one of the three drivers to receive Fan Boost during the race. The other two drivers are Sam Bird of England, in No.2 Virgin Racing Formula E Team (starting eleventh) and Jean-Eric Vergne of France driving No.27 Andretti Autosport Formula E Team, starting fifth.

SATURDAY IN THE PARC

Parc Ferme

Formula Electric team owner, Alain Prost, was a happy camper Saturday afternoon when one of his two drivers, Sebastien Buemi, took the pole position for Saturday afternoon’s Long Beach Formula Electric Race. Buemi’s time was 56.853 seconds in the No.9 e.dams Renault. Prost’s son and Points Leader, Nicolas Prost, had held the top position for much of the time, until being bested by his teammate and then by Daniel Abt/No.10Audi Sport ABT, who qualified second.

Formula E rules allow the drivers to use either A or B car in the practice sessions. The FE rules dictate that the qualifying car must start the race. Abt had a severe shunt in the first morning session, which meant his team had to beaver away for several hours getting that car race ready. He drove his second/B car in the other two practices and for qualifying.

Mechanic stuffing dry ice in hot car

After qualifying, the cars are impounded in Parc Ferme, with no work allowed on the car. That is, except for adding dry ice to help cool down the car. As the fully electric race cars have no cooling fans, they need to be cooled off after a session.

Unlike most professional race series, the FE drivers don’t have a Post-Qualifying Media Conference. They all check in with their car at the FE Scrutineering Bay, for weighing with and separate from their race car. Afterwards they are available for interviews with selected TV Broadcasters. The top three must remain in this area until his qualifying time is bumped.

After Qualifying, the drivers have a mandatory Driver’s Autograph session in eVillage.

Each FE team garage has an assigned dedicated FIA Scrutineer who never leaves the area. Relief Scrutineers spell the dedicated official. They wear blue tabards and are mostly unobtrusive, in the corners or on the sidelines. They often go unnoticed by the general public. These volunteers are mostly locals, recruited for the weekend due to their technical/mechanical expertise. These Scrutineers had thorough training on Friday. For the weekend, they are members of SCCA.

Scrutineers

Jaime Alguersuari & Scott Speed

Scrutineer in Trulli Garage

Out on the course the volunteer marshals are all long-time SCCA members, mostly from Cal Club and some from San Francisco Region. There are no out of state or country marshals for this weekend. They had to be at the track Friday at oh dark thirty for their training and to staff the course for the various safety checks and inspections. Saturday they again met before dawn to be race ready for the 7am Track Inspection.

While FE is a FIA international series run, at Long Beach there are many familiar faces among the various race officials. FE Clerk of the Course is James Foyle-SCCA & F1 at COTA; Dennis Dean-SCCA & F1 at COTA-is FE Steward of the Meet; IndyCar & F1 at COTA Jim Swintal is the voice of FE Race Control; SCCA-F1 at COTA Jo Anne Jensen is the FE EV Dispatcher; Mazda Road to Indy’s Road Diane Swintal is the FE logger; SCCA Pro Racing & Pirelli World Challenge Kathy Malleck handles the FE Grid; and Suzanne Royce, long-time USGP F1 Scrutineer Chief is here with Phil Royce, training Scrutineers. Augmenting the FE Medical Crew are the two doctors who founded and ran the CART Medical Team – Dr. Steve Olvey and Dr. Terry Trammell.

And BTW, to correct an earlier posting, the Grid Girls are wearing chaste but short blue ‘dresses.’

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Pre-Practice Pine Avenue

The weather was beautifully sunny. bright and warm in Long Beach for the long one-day Long Beach Formula Electric Race.

The morning schedule calls for three 25-minute non-qualifying practice sessions, with breaks for non Fe-related activities. One of those activities was the lottery for the four qualifying groups, which each will have ten minutes of track time.

The sounds, such as they were, didn’t require earplugs. I watched from above Turn Three – Pine Avenue corner. The loudest noise was the tires when cars braked for the curve, and then the grinding sound going down the straight – much like a small power tool. The loudest noise was a car hitting and sliding down the concrete barrier wall.

All twenty drivers were on track for all three sessions.

Salvador Duran

IMG_4692

Jerome d'Ambrosio

Nelson Piquet/No.99 China Racing Formula E Team was fastest in the first practice at 59.723 seconds, which he turned on his last of his 11 laps. Second was Bruno Senna/No.21 Mahindra Racing Formula E Team at 59.977. They were the only two drivers under a minute around the 1.324-miles/2.131 km modified IndyCar street circuit. American Scott Speed racing for the American Andretti Autosport Formula E Team was third.

Lucas di Grassi/No.11 Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team was faster yet, topping the chart in Practice Two, at 57.3 seconds. And then he repeated his skills in Practice Three, running even faster – 57.203 seconds.

Despite his shunt in the second practice, Andretti Autosport’s second driver, Jean-Eric Vergne/No.27 was second fastest in the last practice. Vergne’s crash looked and sounded spectacular, but he was alright. He slid hard into a tire barrier, toppled the tires and then hit the wall and slid down. Quite noisy. Made all the Highlights Reels.

Red Flag

Di Grassi’s teammate, Daniel Abt/No.66 Audi Sport ABT, wasn’t as fortunate as di Grassi. Abt hit the wall in Turn One during P1, and the subsequent Red Flag ended that session prematurely. Abt was alright, and he got out for the other two sessions.

Points leader Nicolas Prost, driving No.8e.dams Renault was twelfth fastest in the first practice, and third overall in the second and third practices.

Nicholas Prost's Car with Green Light Indicator

The SCCA volunteer track marshals had extensive training on Friday on marshalling the FIA way.The key point made regarded dealing with/responding to the fully electric cars. Marshals were told not respond to any car until the Green Light indicator is visible, and especially stay away when the indicator is Red.

FIA Formula Electric is not following in the path just taken by FIA WEC – banning Grid Girls from all races. For the Formula E race, the Grid Girls will be wearing chaste but very short FIA-blue dresses.

Next up Qualifying.