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May 17-23, 2006

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San Jose Grand Prix

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
The Race Is to the Swift: No SUVs are allowed when the Champ Cars hit the streets of San Jose July 28-30 for the Grand Prix.

Vroom to Grow

This year's San Jose Grand Prix says to hell with high gas prices

Metro Summer Guide 2006:
San Jose Grand Prix | ISEA | San Jose Jazz Festival | Classical Music | Family Fun | May Movies | June Movies | July Movies | August Movies | Stanford Jazz | Pop Music Picks | Tuesday Concerts | Wednesday Concerts | Thursday Concerts | Friday Concerts | Saturday/Sunday Concerts | Venues and Concerts | May Festivals | Memorial Day Weekend | June Festivals | July Festivals | July 4 | August Festivals | September Festivals | Organized Play | Cycling | The Great Outdoors | Surfing | World Cup | Stage | Behind the Musicals | Art Shows

A LITTLE less than a year ago, who would have thought that the race for mayor of San Jose would resemble the San Jose Grand Prix in some uncomfortable ways. There, for instance, is candidate Cindy "Lead Foot" Chavez madly dashing for the finish line before spinning out on the oil patch of that dubious secret $4 million subsidy she and outgoing Mayor Ron Gonzales discussed with race promoters some five months before the rest of the City Council learned about the deal and was given 24 hours to approve it. Ask not for whom the checked flag waves ...

The politics may have been dubious, but having gotten a taste of some serious top-end open-wheel street racing, 150,000 fans aren't about to turn back the clock on what is already shaping up to be a summer classic in San Jose. This year's race, which takes place July 28-30, may be especially poignant for our inner Andrettis. With the price of gas spiraling out of control, a race track is the only place where we can see gas mileage ignored with impunity.

Last year's inaugural event provided plenty of visceral and sensual thrills: the sour reek of burning rubber, the heady blend of oil, sweat and Sun Block 45 wafting on the breeze, the cavity-rattling RPMs of racers accelerating out of the Almaden Boulevard hairpin. The race was also something of a shakedown cruise that revealed a number of bugs in need of attention. Too few pedestrian bridges resulted in captive crowds jammed into narrow corridors with nowhere to go but up and over the temporary barrier fences. The constrictions of San Jose's thoroughfares (as commuters well know) made passing pretty much impossible. This meant that the race had all the trapping but none of the actualities of a true road race, such as lead changes on the track instead of in the pits.

For 2006, the organizers of the Champ Car series have promised to smooth out rough patches along the 1.5-mile, seven-turn track, widen some corners to allow for passing maneuvers (especially at Market and Balbach streets) and enhance the grandstands for better sightlines. A bridge is being added near the paddock to keep the crowds moving smoothly.

The whole event comes with lots of ancillary pleasures, including Go-Kart races, Freestyle Motorcross exhibitions, a go-round by the very nostalgia-inducing historic stock cars and the exciting "drifting" shows, in which racers let their rear ends do the work in controlled skids around the track.

Best of all, if you sidle up to the track from the south, near the corner of Balbach and Almaden or Market and Balbach, it's possible to get a good view of the action without having to pay a cent—at least it was last year. Let's hope that's one thing they don't change.

The 2006 San Jose Grand Prix takes places July 28-30 in downtown San Jose. The race itself begins July 30 at 12:45pm. A variety of ticket packages are available. Call 408.277.6290.

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San Jose Grand Prix Tickets
Buy tickets for the 2006 Grand Prix in downtown San Jose.