On Tuesday night, the Long Beach City Council has unanimously approved the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to run through 2023, solidifying the event’s future for a further five years beyond 2018.
Politics have always popped up sporadically about the event’s future but the race stewards, the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, were confirmed earlier this year to keep running the race and rebuff rumors Formula 1 might return.
The first Long Beach race ran in 1975 with Formula 5000, with F1 running from 1976 through 1983, and IndyCar in its various series iterations since 1984. The event is the longest running street race in North America.
This new agreement sustains a relationship between the City and the Grand Prix Association which has spanned the last 43 years.
“We’re looking forward with great enthusiasm to the continuation of this extraordinary partnership between the City of Long Beach and the Grand Prix Association,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “Together we will continue to deliver the first-class, fan-friendly race event that we can all be proud of.”
“I think this is a great opportunity for the City to have this amazing event that we all love and enjoy so much,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “It’s great for economic development and to bring visitors into the City. To Jim and the team, thank you for working with us to come up with a new contract that I think is good for everyone.”
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.