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Toyota Celeb Race in Long Beach debuts new car

March 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is right around the corner, and it's one of the fan favorites each year at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Stars of all kinds get to have some fun, raise money for charity and give the fans a thrill.

This year, the lucky celebs chosen to drive in the race will get new cars. Scion's sporty FR-S has been transformed into an FR-S celebrity racer.

"When they get in these cars, they're going to be blown away by how neat they drive," said Chuck Wade with Toyota Motorsports.

The FR-S has been a big hit with enthusiasts since going on sale last year. The enthusiastic celebrities who take on the streets of Long Beach next month will get upgrades like safety equipment, a tighter suspension and more durable brakes.

But before this year's thrill-seeking stars get to check them out, Scion held a media event to show the cars off at Willow Springs Raceway, where the celebrity race participants have been training for years.

Not only is the FR-S different looking, it's a different type of car underneath. For the past seven years, the celebrities have raced in the Scion tC, which is a front wheel drive car. The FR-S is rear wheel drive. Ask anybody who knows about racing or performance driving, and they'll tell you that rear wheel drive really is the way to go. But it presents a special challenge for the celebrity race.

The configuration can be unforgiving in the hands of a novice. But Toyota's race engineers thought ahead.

"We worked hard on the old front wheel drive cars to get them to where the back end would come around some. With these new cars we've done just the opposite. We worked hard with the back end so that it doesn't come around. So I don't know if it's going to be a real big learning curve for these celebrities to get in these cars and drive them hard," said Wade.

To really get an idea of how the new Scion performs, Raul Moreno took me for a spin. Moreno has been teaching the celebrities for many years. As it turns out, most check any ego at the door.

"The nice thing that we've always liked about all the celebrities, most of them, they all are very humble. So when they come, they come to learn," Moreno said.

Then it was my turn to get behind the wheel, in a seat that will soon be occupied by a celebrity. And as the real drivers of these cars take to the streets next month in Long Beach, they'll each try to be the first celebrity to put the Scion FR-S into the winner's circle.

The celebrities chosen for the race will be revealed next week.


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