By both local and national measures, “take two” at the reincarnated Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was a smashing success. And knowing the propensity of a Penske-led organization to want to improve, plans are already underway for further developments in 2014 at The Raceway on Belle Isle.
The Windsor Star reported a three-day attendance number north of 100,000 with 45,000 of that on Sunday at the 2.35-mile street course. Saturday’s tripleheader of racing – Pirelli World Challenge, GRAND-AM Rolex Series and IndyCar’s first of its twin races – saw an increased crowd number for that day as well.
Attendance numbers may have been higher if not for the early week forecast, that projected rain anywhere from 60 to 90 percent possible for Saturday – nary a drop of rain fell on the second or third day of the weekend.
“Last year, I sat at the bridge apologizing for what had happened (track disintegrated) for an hour,” race chairman and Penske executive Bud Denker told the Star. “No apology necessary this year. I got texts from all over the world asking (if those overhead shots) were really Detroit. We blew it out of the park today.”
Circuit changes already planned for 2014 include a repaving of the backstraight and also to straighten out the bend from Turn 6 into Turn 7, so rather than the jink left before a right, it will be a longer straight that flows into the right-handed turn.
The double-decker corporate suites were packed betweens Turn 8 and 11. Former IndyCar security chief Charles Burns, now the Detroit Grand Prix general manager, explained the importance of having such a strong amount of corporate support.
“It’s expensive, but it adds a special touch when you can build relationships with 75 people on Saturday and perhaps 75 different people on Sunday during IndyCar races,” Burns told the Associated Press.
According to the Detroit Free Press, those suites will move to pit lane next year, replacing the grandstands currently there. Further suites may be built elsewhere to accommodate the corporate demand.
Drivers raved about the track changes, as well, with the revised layout a return to the one CART had from 1998 to 2001. Only Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Alex Tagliani had prior experience on that layout before this weekend.
Denker enjoyed the doubleheader aspect of the weekend and would prefer IndyCar keep it for 2014.
“I’ve already petitioned for that,” Denker told the Detroit Free Press. “I want it because it is good for the fans and our sponsors. This (race) series right now needs to be shaken up a little bit. Doing the same old things is not enough anymore. We have to move the needle on the dial.”