1980 Long Beach Grand Prix

Long Beach, California, March 30th

The mark of success of an event is when it becomes established and accepted in a short space of time, with no doubts or discussions, and the Grand Prix at Long Beach in California is one such event. Getting a race organised around the streets of a city is a daunting and difficult problem, as the enthusiasts of the City of Birmingham know only too well, yet the Long Beach group not only got their race off the ground very quickly, but got it established and accepted by the hard-bitten world of Formula One almost instantly. The first race round the city streets was a Formula 5000 race in 1975 and the first Formula One Grand Prix was in 1976. Here we all were at the fifth Grand Prix to be held at Long Beach and the overall feeling was that the event was nearly as old as the Monaco GP! By all the rules and laws of this plastic age in which we live, a race round the streets of Long Beach doesn’t make sense. If anyone re-created the Long Beach circuit as an artificial Autodrome, with all the concrete walls, minimal run-off areas, cambered roads, changes of surface, blind brows, bumps, dips and hollows they would be “laughed out of court”. As I have said before, thank goodness the world of Formula One is full of hypocrites. I enjoy the Long Beach race and the circuit is much better than Monaco; long may it continue.

Thanks to package-tours and group-travel by air the arrival in California is well before the serious business of practice begins and there is no pre-practice testing allowed, as at Monaco, though some teams go off to various permanent tracks for private testing. Consequently there is the opportunity to investigate a little of California before the 10 a.m. practice session on Friday morning. As is accepted fact the entire Grand Prix entry was all set and ready to go under clear blue skies when the circuit was officially opened for the morning untimed session preparatory to the timed qualifying session in the afternoon. There were 27 drivers ready to do battle for the 24 grid positions, and if Mr. Ecclestone had got his way there.would have been 28 drivers. At the last minute he tried to bull-doze a third Brabham entry for the oval-track racer Rick Mears, but he was confronted with the rules he agreed to last year which called for three months advance warning for enlarging a team or substituting a new driver into Formula One. The convener of the closed shop found the shop door closed — and locked!

Race Results


Circuit - Long Beach


United States


Long Beach, California


Temporary street circuit


2.02 (Miles)


Nelson Piquet (Brabham BT49-Ford), 1m19.830, 91.094 mph, F1, 1980