March 27 in Motorsports History: F1’s last race at Long Beach

Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images

Long Beach is regarded by fans and drivers alike as among the world’s most well-established street circuits.

The tight and windy course is the oldest annual event of its kind in the United States and plays host to the second biggest race on the IndyCar calendar.

But before America’s top open-wheel circuit raced in Long Beach, the event was part of the Formula One calendar.

Conceived and promoted by former travel agent Chris Pook, the first edition of the Grand Prix was a Formula 5000 race won by Brian Redman in 1975.

Formula One cars made their debut on the popular street circuit the following year, and for the next eight seasons, some of F1’s greatest drivers won the event.

Mario Andretti was Long Beach’s lone American winner during its status as a round of the World Championship, taking the checkers in 1977. Nelson Piquet won in 1980, and Nikki Lauda won in 1982.

While the race was one of the most popular events on the F1 schedule and brought global exposure to the region, it was not a financially sound venture. By 1983, Pook was in discussions with the new CART series to replace F1 with IndyCar racing, an announcement that was made following that year’s race.

Luckily for Southern Califonia F1 fans, Long Beach’s last event on the schedule was a wild one.

Ferrari teammates Patrick Tambay and Rene Arnoux started on the front row, followed by the two Williams entries of Keke Rosberg and Jacques Laffite.

All four drivers battled fiercely during the first third of the race. On Lap 25 Rosberg attempted to pass Tambay in the hairpin. However, Tambay attempted to shut the door, causing both to make contact and retire from the race. Laffite then took control of the lead.

John Watson,Niki Lauda, Rene Arnoux stand on the podium following the 1983 Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the two McLarens of John Watson and Niki Lauda were making their way through the field. Watson and Lauda qualified 22nd and 23rd, respectfully and initially weren’t considered serious contenders.

By Lap 45, both McLarens were right behind Tambay. With the Ferrari driver on wearing tires, Watson and Lauda both were able to pass, and remained in 1-2 through to the checkered flag. The victory was the fifth and final for Watson, who would retire from F1 two years later.

As expected, Long Beach did become a CART event the following season, with Mario Andretti winning the first event under the new sanctioning body.

The race since has become a local tradition for the coastal community, and though it was canceled this year because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it will return again next season and likely will remain one of motorsports’ premier events for years to come.

Also on this date:

1971: David Coulthard was born in Twynholm, Scotland. Between 1994 and 2008, Coulthard won 13 times in Formula One.

1977: Johnny Rutherford won the Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, the second round of the 14-race USAC Champ Car Series season. Mario Andretti shockingly failed to qualify for the race.

2011: Dario Franchitti won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the 2011 IndyCar season opener. Franchitti won three more races later in the year en route to his fourth and final championship

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter

Supercross: Enzo Lopes will race with ClubMX in 2024

Lopes ClubMX 2024
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Coming off his best Supercross season to date, Enzo Lopes has re-signed with Muc-Off / ClubMX Yamaha and will race for the team in 2024. The deal is for Supercross only.

Enzo Lopes won his heat race in Denver and finished fourth in the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

Lopes debuted in the Supercross series in 2019 on a Suzuki and scored his first top-10 finishes in his last two starts of that season. Showing consistent improvement, he earned six top-10s in eight Main events the following year and finished fifth in the 250 East standings. In 2022, he scored his first top-five at Daytona and finished in the top five in points again.

“I am happy to be returning to ClubMX for another season,” Lopes said in a press release. “It is like family to me there and that is very important. Although I had many options, staying where I am makes the most sense for many reasons. The bikes are great, the people are great, the tracks are amazing, and I am surrounded by people that care about me. We all want to win and together we will get there.”

While he improved his season-best performance by only one position this year, it was nevertheless a breakout season. Lopes barely missed the podium three times in 2023 with fourth-place finishes at San Diego, Seattle, and Denver.

His strong performance him rumored to be speaking with factory teams.

“We could see the growth from Enzo every time he gets on the bike,” said team owner Brandon Haas. “We all knew it was just a matter of time before he would be noticed by everyone, and we are proud of him on many levels. He had some heat race wins and qualified fastest at three events this season. It would be hard not to be noticed going that fast. He had a big decision to make and we are glad he chose to stay with us at ClubMX.”

Lopes had three podium finishes in heat races this year, including a win preceding his fourth-place finish in Denver.

Lopes will join Jeremy Martin, Phil Nicoletti and Garrett Marchbanks, who announced a two-year extension with the team in January, at the ClubMX team.