Gallery: Detroit Grand Prix’s Second Downtown Dust-up

Cameron Neveu

Despite Honda sweeping the podium at Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix, it was a Chevrolet that paced the field for most of the afternoon. The series’ Corvette Z06 pace car, to be exact, spent 47 laps in front of the pack, as the race was slowed for a total of eight cautions throughout the 100-lap affair.

Tight confines, a bumpy temporary track surface, and one hellacious hairpin set up for an entertaining sophomore attempt at Detroit’s 1.7-mile street course.

Motown has a rich history of open wheel racing: Formula 1 first visited in 1982 on the streets of downtown. IndyCar took over after F1 departed after 1988. The contest moved to Belle Isle, a neighboring island park out on the Detroit River, in 1992 and stayed until IndyCar returned to the heart of Detroit’s downtown in 2023.

The new nine-turn course, which includes a three-quarter-mile straight, encircles the Renaissance Center, General Motors’ global headquarters since 1996.

Cameron Neveu

In the shadow of the towering RenCen, the Detroit course features another oddity: A split pit lane. Cars are serviced on either side of pit road, depending on the team’s stall selection. This year, the track layout remained largely unchanged save for some smoothing and widening of certain portions of the track. Still, it proved treacherous for many, including a gaggle of drivers involved in Sunday’s biggest wreck in the first turn of lap one.

Cameron Neveu

Perhaps the biggest change was the inclusion of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar racing on the weekend slate. Prototype racers (GTP) as well as GT cars kicked off the weekend, serving as an epic opening act. Manufacturer diversity was on display as Cadillacs and Corvettes attempted to defend their home turf in their respective classes to no avail. Acura took home GTP victory and Porsche was triumphant in GTD Pro.

Sunday’s race was dominated by Scott Dixon in the Chip Ganassi Honda. The six-time champ pitted early and saved enough fuel throughout the yellow-laden race to make it back to the checkers a few car lengths in front of fellow Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson.

Many were critical of the on-track action, labeling the race as a demo derby. It was easier to list the cars not involved in the opening lap pile-up, and the seven flags that slowed action throughout the rest didn’t help erase that first impression. Post race, a few drivers took to social media to vent. “I miss Belle Isle,” wrote this year’s Indy 500 runner-up Pato O’Ward.

The drivers’ frustration is understandable, but the dance in downtown Detroit is way better than any Belle Isle battle for a few reasons. First, the new location is second to none for spectators. For a series that is in dire need of new fans, Detroit’s street course brings the action to the people. Attending Belle Isle required planning and execution. You had to take a shuttle across a bridge to the island just to get to the course.

Second: Visibility. The island park was flat with not enough decent views of the track. Detroit’s downtown course has plenty of perches, as numerous parking garages allow for different bird’s eye views—not to mention an incredible view of cars racing along Detroit River waterfront.

And finally, the most important aspect for your humble author: The new course is a photographer’s dream. There are infinite places to shoot from, whether you have photo credentials or are just attending as a fan. This year was the first time I donned a photo vest for the event, shooting all three days. Check out some of my favorite shots below.

Still, at the end of the weekend, I felt like there were vantage points that I missed. Oh well, there’s always next year. Fingers crossed it will still be downtown.


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    It was a race with constant cautions. You knew from square one (the IMSA race ) that there would be pile up after pile up at the corners. There were more than I expected. I decided to finish making the potato salad and bread the chicken for frying after so many. I liked seeing Dixon win. Emma wasn’t there apparently. Love Emma. Not surprised she wasn’t there. Who the hell thought this was a good idea? Didn’t make Detroit look like a- ‘ You absolutely must go ! ‘ – spot unless you’re looking for cheap storage. Or, maybe, ask the Renaissance Center about cheap rent. I’ve heard the current occupants are bugging out.

    I guess I’m solidifying my tentative declaration that races be removed from street courses and be run on racetracks. Between Monaco and now Detroit, I’m finding no real love for downtown courses (and I’ve loved the Long Beach race forever, but…).

    Glad Dixon won, but the race looked like a demolition derby in the narrow back alleys of a nondescript city. It’s hard to believe the “Automobile Capitol of the World” can’t come up with a better venue. I generally enjoy IndyCar, this was just plain disappointing.

    So 47 of the 100 laps were spent with the Pace Car leading the parade? Sounds like a bad “track” they have setup. That’s not racing at all. However I guess Chevrolet gets the win for having the Corvette get so much screen time.

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