The streets of Long Beach witness a new breed of track cars The 34th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach bid its final farewell to the Champ Car World Series as drivers and teams prepared for their transitional merger into the Indy Racing League. Will Power, piloting the KV Racing Technology machine, took the checkered flag in the final Champ Car-sanctioned Long Beach Grand Prix race in ideal weather conditions on April 20. While Champ Car was scheduled to run their final race, the parking lot/paddocks sitting adjacent to the course's straightaways entering Turn 8 and exiting Turn 9 was bustling with activity as 14 Super Lap Battle all-star vehicles began prepping their rides for their scheduled exhibition on the 1.968-mile course-a landmark event for import cars representing the time attack scene.
The 14 cars given the all-star title were deservingly labeled for their efforts in lapping the quickest times at previous Super Lap Battle events held throughout the 2007 season. What made this group of cars so spectacular to watch was the fact that they weren't any different from what you and I drive on the streets on a daily basis (for the most part). With some mechanical knowhow and proper suspension and engine tuning, these competitors have made their way from average Joes to respectable in each of their time classes.
Unfamiliar with the course layout and driving conditions on the track, drivers and teams preparing each car were relatively calm throughout the first day of the event as many sat around and took in the beautiful Long Beach weather while mentally preparing for three days of time trial exhibitions. The calm atmosphere, however, quickly dissolved for each of the teams as the following two days leading into the final Saturday exhibition in front of thousands of curious onlookers were filled with many ups and downs associated with the various racing sports.
Champ Car fans witnessed some of the quickest, most recognizable import cars taking to the tracks as the 14-car all-star collection each endured their share of multiple engine fires, blown engines, brake problems, and electrical gremlins. But through the tough times and setbacks, the group kept an optimistic outlook and completed a successful Super Lap Battle with the fastest lap of the weekend going to Factor X and its NSX, piloted by Billie Johnson, clocking in at 1:30.17 seconds at 78.572 mph-just seconds before ending the day with a broken transfer case.
How did the Factor X NSX's lap times pale in comparison to others? To compare some numbers lets look at the ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra winner of the Sports Car Club of America SPEED GT Class over the weekend, which ran a 1:25.479 at 82.883 mph. In the Le Mans Series LMGT2, the winner and fastest in its class was the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR posting a 1:21.095 at 87.364 mph. The Mustang posted a mere 4.691 seconds (plus 4.3 mph) faster than the NSX while the Porsche GT3 was 9.075 seconds (plus 8.79 mph) quicker. Consider the fact that this was Johnson's first time on the Long Beach Grand Prix street course and that Factor X isn't a corporate-sponsored team with multimillions invested in its cars, and you'll come to appreciate how fast their track machine truly is.
Congratulations to all drivers and teams who made the trip out to Long Beach and participated in this year's Super Lap Battle exhibition. If you missed out on this year's event, be sure to check out next year's exhibition or any of the upcoming Super Lap Battle events across the U.S. at www.superlapbattle.com
LBGP 2008 Super Lap Battle Best Time: 1:30.17
Unlimited Fr Class
1991 Acura NSX
Owner: Ken Namimatsu
Driver: Billy Johnson
Horsepower And Torque: 550 Whp And 470 LB-FT Of Torque
2,800 pounds( 2,975 pounds with driver)