We sent Jalopnik's resident desert dweller and Las Vegas go-to guy, Curtis Walker, to crash the Las Vegas Grand Prix this weekend. He spent Friday braving the rainy season and dodging TV's Frankie Muniz, who's making his debut in Champ Car Atlantic on Sunday. He also watched as Champ Car's Sebastien Bourdais missed pole position, and was reminded of the video game Pole Position by some historic open-wheel race cars. Check out some scratches copied directly from Curtis's notebook, along with some trackside stills. Fear not, he's ok.
Today marks the official start of the Champ Car Season with a first ever race on the streets of Las Vegas. Despite being a huge pain in the ass for those who work downtown, as well as for the homeless who sleep there, it should be a pretty good weekend for the rest of us. (See final Champ Car qualifying times here.)
The first Champ car on the track for practice on Friday was #1 Sebastien Bourdais. No major events to report since it was the first time on the track for everyone and they weren't pushing the limits too hard.
Some kind of technical gremlin knocked Sebastien Bourdais out of Friday's qualifying for about 20 minutes on Friday, so that probably means he's not gonna get pole position on Sunday. As the favored racer, this isn't a huge upset, but it makes things a little bit more interesting. We still think the deciding factor is gonna be the potentially disastrously slippery pavement if it does, in fact, rain this weekend.
Champ Car Atlantic
First on the track on Friday were the Atlantic class cars for practice. Somehow, we missed Frankie Muniz, but hopefully we'll catch up with him at the qualifying race later today. (See final Champ Car Atlantic qualifying times here.)
During Friday's qualifying for Champ Car Atlantic everyone was catching air, including Frankie Muniz in his purple #13 Jensen MotorSport car. With the weather report indicating rain and Las Vegas's notoriously slick-when-wet streets, this could get pretty messy on race day. Try as we might, we only caught a single car with all four wheels off the ground.
Historic Grand Prix
The first race on Sunday will be the Historic Grand Prix, featuring vintage racers driving vintage race cars. The oldest (of the cars) is a 1971 McLaren M19 A/C, which has some interesting features including radiators mounted on the front spoiler and external hard cooling lines, a la lakes pipes. The most recent dates to 1983 and recalls the cars of "Pole Position."
For the Historic practice, we staked out grandstand 11, which sits on the top of the entrance to the tunnel for the home stretch. Because of the narrowness, chicanes were installed at the intersection of Main and Ogden. Due in part to the inevitability of catching a little bit of the chicane and the slight hump in the existing road surface, this turned out to be a great place to see cars catch air and nearly eat the barricade. As fun as watching the Historics from this location, it'll be even more fun to see the even faster Champ cars go airborne.
There was plenty going on off the track at the Vegas Grand Prix on Friday as well: Technical demonstrations, a lonely booth babe, rescue crews vintage automobilia and even some 125cc go-carts for sale.
Friday was largely free from any major carnage, except from this little pit tug that mysteriously burst into flames. One the fire was out, the crew sort of scratched their heads for a minute and put it back to work. This is probably the only fire we'll see all weekend, even if things get crazy on the track: methanol burns clear.