Famed Formula One racer and one of the most recognized names in motorsports, Mario Andretti, will act as Grand Marshal to Long Beach’s 40th Toyota Grand Prix, organizers announced.
Andretti is not only a staple to worldwide motorsports, but a key figure in the history specific to the Long Beach Toyota Grand Prix: he won the Grand Prix here four times, with two of them (1977 and 1984) being particularly key. 1977 marks the first and only time an American has won the Formula One (F1) race in Long Beach and 1984 marks the year that Long Beach first ventured into Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) racing. During his career, he has driven his way to 111 racing victories.
Andretti represents a motorsports bridge between two ends of the historic Long Beach racing spectrum--the far more expensive F1 racing and the less expensive CART racing, the former of which has recently been a political contention in Long Beach as some within the F1 world are asking that the contractual bid to host the race be opened.
“If you and the City Council so determine, the opportunity to operate an automobile race through the City Streets of Long Beach can be put out to open bid,” wrote FIA CEO Bernie Ecclestone in a letter to Mayor Bob Foster last year. “Please be advised that Formula One is interested in returning to your city, and we will consider the appropriate entity to make such a bid if you decide to permit such a process.”
While it is unclear where the contract bid will stand come 2015, Long Beach is invited to attend this year’s festivities, which run from April 11 through 13. For more information, visit www.gplb.com.