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Feature Stories

Sato Wins 39th Toyota Grand Prix of LB

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 9
5/3/2013


By Aaron Ledesma

It was another eventful weekend at the beach city races. Despite heightened concerns about security in light of last month’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon, race fans enjoyed a festive atmos-phere as many firsts were had on the track.

The course’s unprecedented night race kicked off the weekend competition with Fatlace’s Matt Powers taking the victory in the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge, beating out GSR Auto-sport’s Michael Essa.

However, Tequila Patron’s American Le Mans Series race saw familiar faces in the victory circle as Muscle Milk’s Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr celebrated their third victory in Long Beach – Graf outrunning Rebellion Racing’s Nick Heidfeld by 36.329 seconds.

The Firestone Indy Lights race was dominated from flag-to-flag by Carlos Munoz. Munoz’s lead saved him from a crash that took five drivers out of the race. “My goal was, first of all,” Munoz shared, “to finish the race.” I was not at the limit, but I was pushing myself to stay ahead of Gaby (Sanchez).”

While the races bring drivers from all over the globe, the Grand Prix’s 39th year brought its first winner from Japan in the form of A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato.

“Takuma made it look too easy,” said team director and racing strategist Larry Foyt in a Grand Prix interview. “It made me so nervous watching it out there. He just drove a flawless race.”

The team’s first victory since 2002 carried extra weight for Sato.

“It was just a perfect weekend to be honest,” Sato tells. “The team did a tremendous job. It is great news for the Japanese. Japan has had such a tough time after the earthquake. I’m really happy to give everybody some good news.”

Later that afternoon, California native James Sofronas brought the meet to a close with his victory of the Pirelli World Challenge.

Race officials reported attendance at 175,000 over the three-day weekend, an increase from 172,000 in 2012. For more information on this year’s races, visit: www.gplb.com.

aaron@longbeachcomber.com