At first the idea shocked Long Beach: you mean to say they're going to come wheeling along our Shoreline Drive at 180 mph? Driving at full blast on Ocean Boulevard? They are, indeed, and next weekend the first Grand Prix West will bring Formula I road racing back to city streets for the first time since the days of rumble seats and running boards. Any fears the locals had were swept away in last year's rehearsal race, which served to prove, among other things, that there's nothing like the roar of race cars to pick up the pace of a city.
The setting is so continental that the question arises why Long Beach has not been doing this for years: the old Queen Mary and pleasure craft form the backdrop while race action fills the foreground. A prime vantage point like the crowded balcony below rents for as much as $1,500 for the weekend.
The 2.32 miles of straightaways and curves come with the locale; temporary barriers are installed and, presto, it's Monaco West, with 180-mph blurs where senior citizens usually creep along in golf carts. Glinting in the sunshine as the cars sweep by, the European-looking high rise shimmers with humanity.
Combine sun and a few palmy touches and the U.S. race can outglamorize Monte Carlo.