Keanu Reeves goes for another Long Beach Grand Prix celeb win - Press-Telegram: http://bit.ly/b9oO42
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ROSAMOND - Although Keanu Reeves was the celebrity champion of last year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, the "Speed" star - who will return to Long Beach on April 17 to compete in the pro category - had no delusions about a repeat win.
"What's it called when you're like a hanger-on?" Reeves said, sitting with actor Adrien Brody in a trailer outside Willow Springs Raceway.
They and a field of 17 drivers that include Adam Carolla, Brian Austin Green, Christian Slater and Tony Hawk, recently spent four days preparing for the 34th annual race with Fast Lane Racing School pro instructor Danny McKeever.
"Entourage," Brody offered.
"I'm part of the entourage," Reeves said, nodding.
"A pro with the asterisks." Brody nettled.
They laughed. The actors have been heckling each other since competing in last year's race together. In 2009, a car crash by actress Raven-Symone allowed Reeves to close a wide gap between him and skateboarder Danny Way, whom many had predicted to win. But in the final stretch, the "Matrix" trilogy star slipped past Way - who crashed into a tire barrier - and went on to win the celebrity title. (Al Unser Jr. won the race's pro title.)
At Willow Springs, Brody started the four-day training session by introducing himself and declaring his vow to beat Reeves. "I'm
sure it's a different feeling for Keanu, reigning champion of the Celebrity Grand Prix," Brody said.
Reeves talked about getting to know his competition, Formula Drift champion and X Games Rally Gold Medalist Tanner Foust and Steve Millen, 1986 and 1988 Toyota MTEG Off Road champion and 1992 and 1994 IMSA GT Champion.
"They're cool cats, and driving - I just can't keep up with them," Reeves said.
TV, film stars to race
The charity race - which also
Pro and celebrity racers who will be competing in the upcoming 34th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race next month that will be part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, stop for a group photo at the Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond California where they are training. (Steven Georges/Press-Telegram)features Zachary Levi, Jesse McCartney, Megyn Price, Tika Sumpter and Patrick Warburton - is one of several races taking place during the 36th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which runs April 16-18.
Since 1991, Toyota has given more than $1.8 million to children's hospitals and this year will give $5,000 in each celebrity racer's name to Racing for Kids, which benefits Long Beach and Orange County children's hospitals. Toyota also will give $5,000 to the winning racer's charity of choice.
In April, celebrities will whip around Long Beach's iconic 1.97-mile street course in Scion tC Sports Coupes, but first they must learn the rules of the road at Willow Springs.
For four days, they reviewed lessons ranging from downshifting and cornering techniques to starting behind a pace car and passing racers.
"We're really trying to do everything we can, so that when they get to Long Beach hopefully we've covered most of this stuff," McKeever said, adding that this year's field has stepped up their game.
Most have had hardly any time on a race track.
"All of my racing experience comes from my XBox 360, so it pales in comparison to actually getting behind the wheel and having somebody instruct you professionally," said Zachary Levi, who stars on the NBC television show "Chuck."
Carolla, a comedian, said he "drives a little differently" from other participants.
"I got a situation with my iPod and the cigarette lighter is not working in my car," said Adam Corolla. "So that, and my biggest mistake probably is I should be listening to the instructors. I'm using Garmin to get around the track."
From the get-go, many of the celebrities quickly realized the difference between driving a car on a main street and handling one on the race track.
"I just thought you come here and you're not afraid to drive fast and you're successful," said pro skateboarder Tony Hawk. "And there are so many things to learn. It's really interesting. I mean, it shows you how much talent it takes to be a professional driver."
Hawk hesitated to say if driving a race car is tougher than skateboarding.
"This is definitely difficult," he said. "I think the big similarity for me in skating and this is confidence. You have to go in it with absolute confidence ... because if you doubt yourself that's when you're either going to get in trouble or you just fail."
Short on racing experience
For Brody, driving a race car hasn't gotten much easier, even after competing last year.
"I haven't been in a sports car or on a track situation since the race so I think it comes with practice," said the Academy Award winner.
"Like, had I practiced this year, I'd be very confident that I could outdrive most of the guys that aren't in the pro category, but I haven't been in it so I'm basically playing catch up again like everybody else."
Reeves said his previous experience has helped in better adjusting to mistakes.
"I had the experience though that I had sensorially, the memory of everything, like braking, turning in, approaching speeds, exit momentum," he said. "All of those things seem to be there quicker."
During training, rivalries also have emerged.
"Zach Levi's been talking smack so I'm out to beat him," Hawk said.
"I just really want to beat Keanu Reeves. That's really kind of my whole goal," said actor/singer Jesse McCartney.
Some just hoped for the best.
"I want to beat everyone. Who knows if I'll beat anyone," said Green, who starred in "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." "If I beat one person, then I feel good." http://www.presstelegram.com/ci_14772071?source=rss