La Cañada resident and Sport Chalet director Eric Olberz raced in last weekend's 33rd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, finishing 16th out of 32 in the SCCA SPEED GT Championship.
"It was a great race and his best qualifying time," said sponsor 911 Design president Loren Beggs. "Considering several of the other drivers ahead of him are paid professionals, he did very well."
Olberz was driving a 2007 Porsche 911 GT-3 in the GT2 Class. Four different classes of cars — classified by horsepower differential — raced at the same time on the Long Beach Course.
"It was very exciting, better than I expected," Olberz said. "I learned from my performance last year and I'm getting closer to the front."
He raced last year in a similar model car, placing 19th out of 27 drivers. Mechanical and technical disruptions plagued Olberz during the 2006 race weekend, but 2007 saw near perfect performance from the late model racecar.
"The car was 100 percent reliable, with no accidents or damage," Beggs said. "Also, we had a spare car for relief this year so we were covered."
Olberz began in 15th place at the Sunday afternoon race, but after a few bumps and minor hits from various other drivers, was put back to the 20th place. After several more laps around the 1.968 mile course, Olberz was able to work his way back toward the front to finish at 16th. The average speed was just over 65 miles per hour.
Several Sport Chalet executives attended the race as well as around 25 of Olberz's personal guests along with the more than 100,000 other spectators who attended the weekend event. Such racing events often draw large crowds due to the number of big-name drivers competing.
"I am honored to be racing with, basically, celebrities," Olbertz said.
He shared the track with other professional drivers such as Andy Pilgrim and Lou Gigliotti, who placed second and third respectively in the SCCA SPEED GT race, as well as Lawson "Awesome" Aschenbach and James Sofronas.
"I am planning on competing in five races this year, and next up is the Utah Grand Prix," Olberz said.
After participating in two more races out of the 11 his GT series offers this year, Olberz will shake his "rookie" classification. A rookie is someone who has started no more than three races in a given season or five in his/her career, and has not won a race. After the rookie season, Olberz will be classified as a regular driver.
Next up for Olberz is the Utah Grand Prix taking place May 18 and 19 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
"I look forward to the other races," Olberz said.