It's a beautiful day in downtown Long Beach for opening day of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the 33rd consecutive running of this annual race.

The fans are streaming in from all directions. Friday is a free day for everyone. A popular spot to catch a first glimpse on the way into the track is at the corner of Pine and Ocean Avenues - looking down at Turn Eight. It's outside the circuit and open for anyone passing by, but don't linger because the local constabulary needs to keep the way clear for traffic.

So far there is no sign of Thursday's fierce winds, which knocked down signs, banners and canopies around the race track. The area wide wind storm caused forest fires, traffic accidents, large power outages, uprooted/downed trees, house damages, and big waves with a surf advisory.

Last week's winner of the Atlantic Championship, RAFAEL MATOS, was fastest in the first practice. His lap time was 1m 17.733s. Twenty-nine cars were on the track, and another one is expected Saturday for a full field of thirty cars. Second and third were ALAN SCIUTO and JONATHAN BOMARITO. JR HILDEBRAND was the top rookie in seventh place.

LUIS DIAZ was the fastest car in the morning practice for the American Le Mans Series. Diaz and co-driver/team owner, ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, run the LMP2 class. Eight of the top ten cars were in this 'prototype light' class. The top LMP1 cars were the two Audis, EMANUELE PIRRO in second place, and team-mate RINALDO CAPELLO in sixth place. The Audi team has ten race wins since Sebring 2006.

JAN MAGNUSSEN was top GT1 in eleventh place. His co-driver is JOHNNY O'CONNELL. The top GT2 driver was MIKA SALO. The Risi team has won the last three GT2 races. DIRK MULLER was 22nd in his brand new race car, which was built in three days. Muller is replacing injured driver, TOMAS ENGE, who is recuperating from his crash at St Pete, and should return to racing this summer.

ALMS runs street legal ethanol blend E10/100 octane fuel in all cars but the Audis, which have been running diesel fuel for a long time. The ALMS teams have a four-race waiver to make the conversion to the VP ethanol. Rahal-Letterman is the exception, as it has been running ethanol all year in its #18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. One of the team's sponsors is EPIC - Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. The ALMS fuel waiver extends through next week's Houston street race and, after that, all but the Audis are expected to run the E10. The plan is to gradually move up to E50 and then E85 fuel in the next year or so.

Friday afternoon the Atlantics have their first of two qualifying sessions, and ALMS has its one and only qualifying run.



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