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.
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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Chris Pook and the History of the Long Beach Grand Prix
Author: Gordon Kibry
Publisher: Racemaker Press
Price: $80 (£65)
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