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Photo Gallery: Long Beach Then and Now

Submitted by on November 6, 2014

1983 Long Beach Podium

Image: The Cahier Archive

The Long Beach Grand Prix was the Formula 1 dream in the eye of founder Chris Pook, who felt in  the mid 1970s there was space for a “Monaco on America’s West Coast”. There was, and 38 years on it maintains its now glorious place on racing’s calendar in the United States. It wasn’t always glorious.

By Andy Hallbery. Photography Tony di Zinno

Chris Pook’s dream became reality in 1975, with the first ‘Grand Prix’ run for F5000 cars. Formula 1 arrived in 1976, and was an instant success. Long Beach, about 40 minutes south of Los Angeles, was known mainly for its port – apart from that it was a slum that tourists had early heard the advice “stay away from”. Stabbing was the city’s main sport.

Loved by Spectators

Image: Tony di Zinno

The F5000 event proved a race could happen, the track based along Shoreline Drive, with a paddock inside a sports arena. This was just the start of Pook’s dream, a scratch on the surface if you like.

Eight Formula 1 Grands Prix took place on the West Coast streets, the final one being in 1983 when John Watson famously came from the back to win in. Another memorable moment was produced by Keke Rosberg who spun from second place in the opening laps, without losing a place!

In 1984 the race became an Indycar event, which it remains today. The track has been through many evolutions, but Shoreline Drive is still there. The extremely 1960s round building still fills the camera frame, as does the moored Queen Mary. It has also grown left, right and centre, and each year attracts upwards of 200,000 and remains the longest running street race in the States.

Fighting For a View

Image: Tony di Zinno

In 2012, ace photographer – and locale – Tony di Zinno took on a commission for Motorsport Retro. Freshly back from a project On the Streets of Afghanistan (‘chalk and cheese’) spring to mind, he and I wandered the spectator areas, the pits and paddock with no other brief than to capture the flavour of the 2012 Grand Prix in black and white, and intersperse it with colour images from the F1 years of the late 70s and early 80s. Our day was me asking “Is this building still here?” him, “Yes… What about Linden Avenue?” We had a blast, soaking it up ourselves to share with you this year.

Hunt 1977 Long Beach

Image: The Cahier Archive

The colour F1 images are from Sr di Zinno’s good friend Paul-Henri Cahier and his father Bernard’s archive.

If you have a motorsport bucket list of events to visit, add Long Beach to it, and experience Chris Pook’s dream first hand.

Follow @MotorsportRetro and @Hallbean on Twitter and join in the Motorsport Retro discussion on the site’s page on Facebook

Check out the Cahier archive, www.f1-photo.com

Take a look at Tony di Zinno’s non-profit project “Streets of Afghanistan” at http://www.streetsofafghanistan.org/#!__photography

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