Book Review: Chris Pook & The History of The Long Beach GP
Allen Berg Racing Schools has been honored to be working alongside motorsports legend Chris Pook since he joined our Advisory Board last year. Gordon Kirby has penned an awesome story of Chris’ journey to launch and grow the Long Beach Grand Prix. Below is the review from our friends at RACER.com. To order the book from RACER, click the link at the end of the review.
Chris Pook & The History of the Long Beach GP by Gordon Kirby
Foreword by Mario Andretti
Hardcover, 320 pages
This book tells the story of Chris Pook’s life as well as the history of the race. Pook was born and raised in England and inherited his drive and entrepreneurial spirit from his father who ran a variety of small businesses. Chris’s parents made sure he was properly educated at a series of private schools before attending the Sorbonne University in Paris.
Chris emigrated to the United States in 1963 when he was 22 and soon started a successful travel agency in Long Beach. He eventually sold the business prior to starting yet another even more successful agency. In his younger years, Chris had competed in some rallies in the UK and Europe and had always been a race fan. The idea of running a Grand Prix race in the streets of Long Beach occurred to him one day in the early seventies while watching the Monaco GP on TV.
When Chris declared his intention of running a Grand Prix in downtown Long Beach many people thought he was crazy. But with the powerful support of racing legend Dan Gurney and other racing greats, Pook proved his doubters wrong by going on to build the most successful street race in American motor racing history. After a huge amount of work, the first race took place in September of 1975 for Formula 5000 cars won by Brian Redman in Carl Haas and Jim Hall’s Lola-Chevy. Formula 1 arrived in Long Beach the following year and F1 cars raced there for nine years before rising costs compelled Pook to switch to CART and Indy cars in 1984.
Dan Gurney emerges at various stages of the book as the race’s most ardent supporter. Dan stepped forward whenever necessary to help Chris put Long Beach on the map as the race spawned extensive redevelopment of the city’s coastal downtown area. Pook’s “crazy idea” turned into a model for bringing racing to the people and using the event to rebuild flagging urban communities.
Long Beach has established itself as America’s most enduring and successful street race, sparking many other downtown racing events around the country. Very few of these races have survived but Long Beach stands today as IndyCar’s second-biggest event outside of the Indianapolis 500.
Chris tells many stories in the book about the trials and tribulations he faced on the road to making the race succeed. The book also covers his efforts through the nineties to help promote the Indy Lights and Toyota/Atlantic series as well as the Laguna Seca racetrack. Also detailed are Formula 1’s FISA/FOCA war in 1979-‘80 and the CART/IRL war twenty years later including the two hellacious years Pook spent trying to save the failing CART organization in 2002 and 2003. Chris tells his story very frankly in considerable detail, providing a rare look inside the business and politics of big-time automobile racing.
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