Echoes of Greatness in This Weekend’s LBGP Historic FAtl Challenge Races

Steve Romak will be there in his 1976 March 76B. Photo: Allan Rosenberg

Long Beach, California’s metamorphosis from ugly port city to destination spot over the last 50 years, due in no small measure to former travel agent Christopher R. Pook’s passion and promotional genius nurturing the LBGP from Formula 5000 to F1 to IndyCar to modern day multi-class extravaganza, makes for a fascinating story.

(… a story well told in Gordon Kirby’s 2020 “Chris Pook & the History of the Long Beach GP”.)

Those privileged to attend Long Beach every year remember, though, not just the glamor of the featured events but, for a glorious five-year-period 1978-1982, the always-spectacular Formula Atlantic supporting event. Winged March, Chevron and Lola single-seaters with 1600cc Cosworth BDD engines, 1970s FAtl had its roots in 1960s SCCA club racing Formula B from which emerged many of North America’s most successful amateurs.

With solid promotion and a steady parade of young American and Canadian talent moving up from Formula Ford, pro FAtl series blossomed in the early seventies, and Atlantic was a natural accompaniment to the featured F5000 and F1 races at Long Beach.

Memories growing stronger with age, Cris Vandagraff’s Historic Motor Sports Association proposal for an historic FAtl race met with favor last year, though was a casualty — along with the entire LBGP weekend — of the coronavirus pandemic.

Happily, the plan was not forgotten and this weekend’s 2021 LBGP will feature two HMSA Historic Formula Atlantic Challenge races with strong, 18-car fields.

A pair of supporting races not to be missed.