“Chris Pook and the History of the Long Beach Grand Prix” reviewed

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The haste with which I raced over to the Race Fans HQ when I learned Gordon Kirby’s “Chris Pook and The History of the Long Beach Grand Prix” was waiting for me would have put Usain Bolt to shame.

Kirby is rightly recognised as one of the premier chroniclers of US motorsport and, well, a coffee table book on the great Long Beach street circuit is hard to resist.

Pook’s vision for Long Beach has arguably become the template for modern-era street races. The Californian venue held its first race in 1975, setting off what was a 45-year unbroken run until the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of this year’s event. During that time the venue played host to Formula 5000 and Formula 1, but since 1984 has been synonymous with IndyCar racing in its various guises.

Chris Pook has been the driving force behind the event, living by his wits to get up and running, and then having to manage multiple changes through the years, not least that switch from F1 to IndyCar, arguably one of Bernie Ecclestone’s greatest missed opportunities.

As you’d expect from “Chris Pook and…”, this story is told very much through the promoter’s eyes with his version of events. The narrative gives the book a personal feel, and the space to explore other stories (like the distress call from Ecclestone to come and help out at F1’s struggling Phoenix Grand Prix). There are also digressions to pick up other key stories from the life of the event – Clay Regazzoni’s accident, Al Unser Jnr’s run of success, the Toyota celebrity races – which all add to the book’s richness.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by other recent releases, but the selection of images left me wanting a little. Similarly, thumbing through the results pages, I was hankering after more detail of each race, rather than merely who won. What you can’t fault is the writing and story – Pook has had an incredible career, and Gordon Kirby brings it to life superbly.

The ‘coffee table’ format and pricing is its weakness – it needs either a more luscious library of photographs to justify this price tag, or to be re-cast as a keenly-priced paperback. It’s hard to justify full marks compared to other recent publications which are competing for your hard-earned at this price point. But it’s a thoroughly absorbing read all the same.

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RaceFans rating

Rating four out of five

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Chris Pook and the History of the Long Beach Grand Prix

Author: Gordon Kibry
Publisher: Racemaker Press
Published: 2020
Pages: 320
Price: $80 (£65)

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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  • 5 comments on ““Chris Pook and the History of the Long Beach Grand Prix” reviewed”

    1. As an avid F1 fan and resident of Long Beach, I can only hope that under Roger Penske’s ownership, IndyCar could be much more agreeable to bring F1 back to Long Beach. With the pandemic destroying long established paradigms in motorsport, I don’t see why we could not have back to back IndyCar and F1 races in two consecutive weekends in Long Beach…hope springs eternal….

      1. Unlike the NASCAR / IndyCar double header at IMS this weekend, a F1 / IndyCar double header will never happen.

        1. Mental paradigms are hard to crack. But greed can work magic….

    2. bringa back the best street circiut ever

    3. A company I worked for back in 1980 built a bunch of stuff for the LBGP Racing Association. Support systems for the track like pedestrian bridges, K-rail molds, custom fencing, etc.

      They also did the track for the Caesars Palace GP.
      I remember one night the trucker that hauled everything out to Vegas stopped by. He had a couple cars on the flatbed. (Didn’t they always fly cars to the track?)
      I asked him if he had enough insurance to cover them.

      It was cool getting comped tickets for LB, rooms at Caesars and tickets for Vegas.
      Dwight Tanaka was managing that side of the business, so we never saw much of Pook.

      Fast forward 30 years. I’m at K1 Speed, chatting with one of the workers there. We got on the subject of LBGP and I mentioned Dwight.
      Turned out Dwight was her dad! I was glad to hear he was still alive and well.

      I’m going to pick up a copy of the book.

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