IndyCar Series returning to Detroit
Open-wheel racing is returning to the Motor City.
The IndyCar Series will run at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park on June 3, 2012, marking the first open-wheel championship race in the city since 2008. General Motors Corp.’s Chevrolet division will sponsor the event.
”This is the Motor City and we’re proud to bring back the race,” Detroit businessman and team owner Roger Penske said Wednesday after announcing his company will dedicate $6 million to improve the 2.1-mile race course on the city’s largest park.
GM is committed to sponsor the race for three years and Penske said improvements to the park should make for a semi-permanent road course.
Chevy also unveiled a twin-turbo V6 engine that will power teams fielded by Penske, Panther Racing and Andretti Autosport. The new motor, GM’s first open-wheel foray since 2005, joins Honda and Lotus on the circuit.
”What better place to showcase this car than the auto capital of the world?” said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard, who added that the race will replace the series’ stop at Milwaukee.
The Grand-Am, Cadillac V and Indy Light series also will be on the weekend card.
Open-wheel cars first ran in Detroit in 1982, when the Formula One series raced on the streets of downtown before the event moved to Phoenix in 1988. The CART series ran on Belle Isle from 1992 to 2001 and IndyCar racing returned in 2007.
The 2009 race was canceled due to lack of sponsorship funding. Penske and other organizers secured permission from the city to use the road course last month and the businessman said he’s excited about the timing of next year’s race.
”This will be Detroit’s first big event of the summer and it’s a week after the Indy 500, when everyone’s eyes are on IndyCar racing,” Penske said.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said he was excited about the financial and aesthetic impact the race will make on the city and several longtime race volunteers also packed a downtown ballroom to hear the news.
”I don’t think I ever expected it to be gone forever,” said Alan Study, 50, of suburban Beverly Hills. ”I always thought there was enough support for this and it’s great that they’re bringing it back.”
Study is one of around 1,200 workers and volunteers who helped out during the last two race weekends. Will Power won the last time the series came to Belle Isle.
Drivers powered by Chevy engines won 104 races, six series titles and seven Indianapolis 500s from 1986-93 and 2002-05. Bernard said chassis-maker Dallara already has orders for 48 cars and expects 25 to 28 cars to run the circuit next season.