Robert Ryan - 1968 McLaren M6B
Robert Ryan - 1968 McLaren M6B

Caged Up Can-Am at Grand Prix of Long Beach

The inaugural Can-Am Challenge was part of the 43rd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which took place April 7-9, 2017. The fans who attended practice and qualifying on Friday, and the race on Saturday, were treated to the ground-shaking fury of these historic machines as they pounded the streets of this world-famous seaside circuit.

The Can-Am Challenge race, sanctioned by the Historic Motor Sports Association (HMSA), took place noon on Saturday, before the IMSA BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix event. This year marked the first time these powerful race cars have competed on any street circuit, unleashing the thunderous symphony of their 1000-horsepower engines.

Can-Am, short for the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, was a very popular road racing series that ran at circuits in Canada and in the United States, from 1966 to 1974. It featured race cars from Porsche, McLaren, Porsche, Shadow, Lola and several other manufacturers and teams. The list of famous and notable drivers included Mario Andretti, John Surtees, Jim Hall, Mark Donohue, Jackie Oliver, Parnelli Jones, George Follmer, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill.

“HMSA is thrilled to be part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a truly iconic event with a rich motorsports tradition,” said Cris Vandagriff, president of the HMSA. “We are proud to bring the cars from what has been called the greatest series ever created, the original Can-Am. These cars were the fastest racing cars of their day and still make the earth move when they take to the track.”

Brothers Craig and Kirt Bennett drove their 1974 Shadow DN4s to a 1-2 finish at the end of Saturday’s 20-minute race. Craig finished 0.063 seconds ahead of brother, Kirt, with an average speed of 82.780 mph. Kirt clocked the fastest lap of the day with a 1:22.307 on his second lap. Claude Malette, driving a 1970 Lola T222, rounded out the top three.

Can-Am at 2017 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – Photo Gallery (photos: Victor Varela)

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  1. It would be nice if the excellent photos had captions to identify the cars in the CanAm challenge for limeys like me

    1. Mostly Chevrolet engines, could see the big blocks easily, but most had their bonnets down while parked, and I could see, I would like to know too!

  2. Awesome cars, awesome photos, now let’s figure a way to put a soundtrack with each car, these cars sound amazing…..where do they go next?

  3. Thanks for the memories. I will never forget seeing and hearing the UOP Shadow and others at Watkins Glen in the early 1970s. I believe they ran some exhibition laps prior to the running of the USGP. Those were the days. Nothing like it since.

  4. Having experienced the CanAm cars at Luguna Seca and the Indy cars at Sonoma Raceway, the brute Can Am noise made the Indy cars seem secondary.

  5. The problem with even having these great cars do even a ‘demo’ race at an Indycar event is that it pales the actual race!! Worse yet, let Masters GP at the Long Beach circuit and no one will show up for Indycars…

    1. I agree! These cars were the stars of the weekend, followed but the IMSA and Pirelli WC racers. The IndyCars just don’t have the appeal they once had when CART ruled the beach.

  6. I wish I had known these magnificent race cars were going to make an appearance at Long Beach this year. I would have been there to watch them. These were my introduction to professional road racing at Riverside back in the early sixties.

  7. Wonderful photos. It must have been a blast to see these cars on the streets of Long Beach. I was at Road America for the Can-Am 50th Anniversary last summer.

  8. Saw a Can Am reunion at Road America with the Chaparral as the feature cars some years back. Jim Hall was there too ! The whole weekend was outstanding and one I’ll never forget .

  9. Victor, just amazing pictures of my favourite race cars great sound, blue sky, great colour! Takes me back to when we ran our McLaren M8c ! we also still have our complete set of body moulds. Thanks again.