Forty Years Ago, F1 Invaded Long Beach

Looking back at the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix West. 

byMax Prince|
F1 photo

Before Circuit of the Americas, before Indianapolis, Phoenix, and Detroit, Formula 1 ran wild in the streets of Long Beach. Dubbed the U.S. Grand Prix West to differentiate from the Watkins Glen race in New York, the Los Angeles event was a sensory feast for fans between 1976 and 1983. Something about the glamor and pandemonium of a California street circuit matched the era’s excess and characters, all sunglasses and muttonchops, fat tires and experimental wings, with big turbo power and no small accidents. The event was ultimately short-lived, but it felt like our Monte Carlo. Forty years later, here’s a look back at the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix West.

Greatest Champion, Greatest Non-Champion

, Sir Stirling Moss chats with Juan Manuel Fangio in his Mercedes W196 during vintage race festivities., Alvis Upitis/Getty

Pit Walk

, The Surtees TS19/Ford Cosworth cars in the pit lane before practice., Bob Harmeyer/Getty

King Rat...

, Niki Lauda puts four wheels up on a hot qualifying run. , Bob Harmeyer/Getty

...and the Playboy

, Meanwhile, James Hunt chats up the Miss U.S. Grand Prix beauty pageant winner. Because of course he does. , Alvis Upitis/Getty

Mon Dieu!

, Jacques Lafitte's Ligier JS5 leads from Carlos Reutemann in the Alfa-Brabham car., Alvis Upitis/Getty

Miss Hurst Golden Shifter

, The inimitable Linda Vaughn watches the race., Alvis Upitis/Getty

All Business

, Hunt, in contention for the World Championship. No longer screwing around. , Alvis Upitis/Getty

Ferrari Takes First

, Clay Regazzoni, brings the No. 2 car home to become the first U.S. Grand Prix West winner., Library/UIG via Getty


, None too happy with losing his home race. (He won the following year.), Alvis Upitis/Getty

The 2016 F1 U.S. Grand Prix gets underway in Austin, Texas on Sunday, October 23, at 3:00 p.m. EST. The race will be broadcast live on NBC.