Looks @ Books: "Chris Pook & The History of the Long Beach GP" by Gordon Kirby
The first of several book reviews, both of new and existing titles, for fans of stories from the world of motorsports.
At first glance, it might seem that a book about one man's involvement with a single auto race might be too specific a subject to warrant a 300+ page book. But Gordon Kirby's latest motor racing book, "Chris Pook and the History of the Long Beach GP," does so and more.
"Back Book Cover - Chris Pook at Long Beach IMSA event." Image c/o Racemaker Press.
It tells the story of Chris Pook, born in Somerset, England who developed a love of racing in his youth (first with pram racers, then horses as well as through amateur rallying.) After his schooling in Europe he left for America, ultimately ending up in Southern California. There, he came up with the idea of running a race through the streets of Long Beach.
Kirby documents several of Pook's stories about all of the political dealings that took place to get the Grand Prix off the starting grid (both between local and state governments as well as within motor racing governing bodies.)
It also details the actions of individuals from all over the motorsport scene involved with the success of the 45+ year long running of the Long Beach GP (Dan Gurney from F1 and Indy Car fame, Bernie Ecclestone and Jean-Marie Balestre of Formula One, Bill France, Jr. from NASCAR and others.)
(Left) "Dan Gurney - at the 2008 Rolex 24 at Daytona" by "The Daredevil" is licensed under CC BY 2.0 - Flickr. (Right) Bernie Ecclestone - Monaco Paddock Club 2011" by Nick Webb is licensed under CC BY 2.0 - Flickr.
The book is full of many fascinating stories of both the logistical aspects of putting on a major motor race like the Long Beach GP, as well as some more humorous stories (involving drivers like Clay Regazzoni and James Hunt) which, until now, probably were not known by the public.
"4_15_2012_Long_Beach_GP-100-8" by Moto "Club4AG" Miwa is licensed under CC BY 2.0 - Flickr.
It also deals with the issues leading to the transition of the race from a Formula One Grand Prix to a round of the Indy Car Championship.
In latter chapters, Kirby delves into some of Pook's further business ventures after his success with Long Beach: such as serving as an advisor in developing the subsequent Formula One street races in Detroit, Las Vegas, Dallas and Phoenix, helping create the Indy Lights (a CART development series) as well as bringing an IMSA sports car race to Del Mar in Southern California.
Pook also explains his time as CART/Champ Car CEO from 2002-2003 in which he tried to save the series. He also talks about the resulting consequences of CART's demise and what this did to open-wheel racing in North America. His crown jewel, "The Long Beach Grand Prix," is still a major yearly event on the American racing calendar.
"Chris Pook and the History of the Long Beach GP" is definitely worthy of a place on a motor racing fan's bookshelf. It does its job and does it well. I feel its title may not encompass all Pook did for racing in the United States. I feel "Chris Pook and the Growth of American Motor Racing," might be more appropriate.
"Back cover." Image c/o RaceMaker Press.
Copies of "Chris Pook and the History of the Long Beach GP" are available for purchase on Racemaker Press' own website (www.racemaker.com.)
On a personal note, my Father, also a racing fan, grew up in Long Beach during the creation of the Long Beach Grand Prix and has told me many stories of attending the first couple of races as well as the initial state of the area surrounding the course during those early years. The resulting urban development of the area since the race's creation is documented in great detail in this book.
I had my own personal experience with Chris Pook, meeting him when he was in charge of CART in 2002. I found him in the Portland Raceway paddock and asked him for an autograph. He did so but I can remember that he seemed pre-occupied and not in a really good mood. Reading the latter chapters of this book, I can now understand why.