PWC seeks a rebound on the streets of Long Beach

Photo: PWC

If we’re kind, last year at Long Beach marked the single low point in a tumultuous campaign for the Pirelli World Challenge.

A caution-strewn 50-minute race, which was after the IndyCar race, was still headed for a great finish before a controversial three-car accident at Turn 8. Olivier Beretta and Johnny O’Connell sandwiched Kevin Estre, with O’Connell (outside) and Estre (middle) getting the short end of the stick while Beretta bulldozed his way through on the inside; he eventually won the race (2015 results here).

Granted, Beretta didn’t get off for the contact – but he did make the not-so-elusive 19-driver post-race penalty list that dominated headlines and generated controversy in the week after, and in the run up to the next race at Barber Motorsports Park the following week.

Flash forward 12 months later and quite a bit has changed in PWC since as the series heads to Long Beach for the race presented by Cadillac (race airs 2 p.m. ET, Sunday, CBS Sports Network). For Long Beach purposes, we’ll focus solely on what’s changed on the driver front (2016 entry list here):

  • None of the podium finishers return. Olivier Beretta isn’t back after earning a wealth of condemnation after last year; Chris Dyson is focused on other business interests and Ryan Dalziel is in Europe this weekend for the FIA World Endurance Championship opener.
  • Less might be more. Last year, there were 38 starters and a load of accidents. This year, the field is down to 24 cars. As we’ve seen in IMSA on these streets the last couple years, the fewer the cars, the greater the likelihood is that the race could go off with a reduced number of cautions.
  • No Cup cars. The GT Cup class doesn’t race at Long Beach and while this is unfortunate for those competitors who could use another “showcase” event, fact was GT Cup contributed to a bulk of the caution time at St. Petersburg race two. They were also in this race last year; this year, they’re not.
  • Year-on-year changes: OUT: Beretta, Dyson, Dalziel, Mike Hedlund, Eric Lux, Dan Knox, Christina Nielsen, David Welch, Henrique Cisneros, Drew Regitz, Andy Pilgrim, Robert Thorne, Estre, Butch Leitzinger, Bill Ziegler, Mike Skeen and entire GT Cup field minus Colin Thompson. IN: Kyle Marcelli, Austin Cindric, Michael Cooper, Alvaro Parente, Patrick Long, Andrew Davis, Andrew Palmer, Adderly Fong, Jon Fogarty, Jorge de la Torre and Bill Sweedler. Given those additions and with a respectable GTA field this year, it’s hard not to call the 2016 PWC field at Long Beach a stronger overall group than 2015’s.

So what should we be watching for this weekend?

In a word: redemption.

Close backups are “cleanliness” and “survival” with Barber once again a week after.

Fortunately, the PWC race runs several hours earlier this year than it did last year, and that should allow the PWC contingent to get out of California and get on the road to Alabama quite a bit sooner.

Here’s the thing for World Challenge: it desperately needs a showcase race devoid of too much drama, whether it’s on the competition side, the broadcast/stream side or the operational side.

Long Beach last year was the prime example of what could go wrong for this great series. Officiating, cautions and poor driving standards ruled the day, rather than badass competition between nearly 30 GT3 cars from double digit manufacturers.

With a prime race slot now before the IndyCar race on Sunday morning, more fans would be likely to show up because they’ll want to be there for the headliner. In past years, PWC has needed to ensure fans would stay later to watch.

Both race ones this year at COTA and St. Petersburg have been clean, hard-fought affairs. Both race twos have been caution-heavy, and featured a bit of drama – the Long/James Davison contact at COTA forced the EFFORT Racing team into a thrash to even get the same Porsche 911 GT3 R ready for St. Petersburg.

With the Barber doubleheader the following week, this weekend’s Long Beach race is vital for PWC to go off cleanly and without more than one caution to ensure it gets the fans who are on site and able to see the race pumped.

You’re getting way more variety in PWC than you will in the IndyCar race later that day, in terms of different manufacturers.

You also have two cool hometown stories – Long, a veteran Californian and EFFORT teammate Michael Lewis, who swept St. Petersburg – both keen to win on home soil in the series’ first of two visits to the state (season ends at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October).

Add in additional Californians James Sofronas, Ende, Palmer and Bryan Heitkotter in the GT class, a hungry O’Connell looking for redemption after being taken out last year, Cooper in search of his first GT win and Davison looking for glory on Always Evolving’s home soil and you have no shortage of story lines.

The prayer is that the racing, and not the controversy, emerges strongest at the end of the day.

Vicki Golden and 805 Beer tell a unique story from an Inverted Perspective


Vicki Golden has earned a career worthy of a thousand stories and 805 Beer tells at least one of them, as “Inverted Perspective” premiered March 30 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Golden did more to break the glass ceiling in SuperMotocross than she ever thought possible. She knows this because riders have never felt the need to explain any of her accomplishments with the disclaimer, “for a girl”. 

At this point in Golden’s career, she’s been the first woman to finish top 10 in AMA Arenacross Lites, the first woman to qualify in the Fast 40 in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the first woman to compete in freestyle Moto X competition, earning a bronze medal by doing so.

Her love for moto came from childhood while she watched her dad and brother ride. By seven she was on her bike and making waves throughout Southern California. 

Golden, 30, is still madly in love with the sport and has no plans on moving away but her career is already one to talk about. 805 Beer’s film series wanted to do exactly that.

“I’m taken aback by it all,” Golden told NBC Sports about the documentary. “It’s just crazy to see your story, it’s one thing to live your life and battle everything that comes about but it’s another to just sit there and talk about it.”

805 approached Golden about the feature by asking, “Do you even realize that what you do, and your story is special?”

Golden took the question as a blank canvas to map out the highs and lows of her career and life. 

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The title “Inverted Perspective” came from a brainstorming session with Dominick Russo and it highlights Golden’s outlook on the sport of SuperMotocross and her life in general. 

“My whole life, my whole career was thinking differently and looking at things that shouldn’t be done and aren’t there, while being able to make a place for myself, where no one thought there should be a place,” Golden said.  “It’s inspiring someone to think in different ways. It sums up my life.”

Vicki Golden is not “fast for a girl”; she’s just fast. – 805 Beer

While Golden is no stranger to the spotlight, this was the first time she’s been fully involved with the storytelling and creation of a feature about herself. 

“It’s not like a full new experience,” Golden said. “Obviously, you get your standard questions about your upbringing and accomplishments, but I’ve never really put into perspective things that happened in my past with my dad and putting that to light. Also, certain other things that maybe got overlooked in previous interviews or films. I wanted to touch on these and Dom wanted to create a story. It’s just cool to see it come to light, it’s a nearly impossible thing to tell somebody’s life story in 40 minutes.”

Golden’s father was left paralyzed after an ATV accident, robbing him the opportunity to ride again. This happened a few months before the father-daughter duo was set to compete in the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals when Vicki was 12. While she might have been unable to grasp the severity at the time, it’s something she carries with her. Golden continues to ride in his honor.

Years later, an accident in 2018 nearly sidelined the then 25-year-old Vicki when a freestyle accident almost resulted in the amputation of her lower leg. 

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Golden 805 Beer
Vicki Golden has ridden a variety of disciplines in SuperMotocross, which gives her a unique perspective. – 805 Beer

“Inverted Perspective” highlights her father’s diligence in helping Vicki continue with her career and the kindness and strength he carried while fighting his own battle. 

“My dad was the entire reason that I started riding in the first place,” Golden said. “So, to honor his memory and to honor what we went through and how hard he pushed to keep our dream alive and keep everything going – in that sense then, it was really special to be able to honor him and talk about him.”

The 40-minute feature was filmed entirely in black and white, a stark contrast from the oversaturated world of motocross where the brighter the suit the easier it is for fans to find their rider and follow him in the race. By filming in monochrome Russo and Golden had the chance to focus on the race and track from a different perspective. 

“It was cool to be able to film it differently,” Golden said. “It created a challenge in the sense of what was going to be more visually impactful for the film.

“I couldn’t be here without the companies that back me but at the same time, it’s not like the logos or colors disappeared, it’s just different lights shed on different spots. It’s just a cool way to do it and to take color away and still be impactful. When you think of black and white, you think of old school, the OG way of doing things.”