Detroit Belle Isle race weekend to welcome back Trans Am Series for first time since 2001

(Photo courtesy Trans Am Series)
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To celebrate its 50th year of competition, the Trans Am Series is giving itself a big present in 2016: it’s returning to race in Detroit and at Belle Isle for the first time in 15 years.

The Trans Am Series will be part of this year’s Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix, June 3-5. The series will host two invitational races – the Motor City 100 – on June 4 and June 5 on the 2.3-mile Raceway at the Belle Isle Park street circuit.

“Everyone in the Trans Am Series is ecstatic to return to the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix,” Trans Am Series President John Clagett said in a media release. “We’re excited to reintroduce the modern Trans Am Series to fans in the Motor City 100 and continue the legacy of great Trans Am races in Detroit.”

Trans Am began racing at the Detroit Grand Prix, starting when the race was contested on Detroit city streets in 1984 until 1993, before the Grand Prix moved to its current venue on Belle Isle from 1994-2001. During its prior tenure in Detroit, the Trans Am Series contested a number of exciting races with drivers including Wally Dallenbach Jr., Scott Pruett, Dorsey Schroeder, Scott Sharp, Ron Fellows and Tommy Kendall.

“We’re excited to bring back some history, some heritage and even more on-track excitement with the return of the Trans Am Series to the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix,” Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix chairman Bud Denker said. “Our racing fans will be thrilled to see the competition between Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, BMW, Aston Martin and more in the Trans Am field all weekend long and we’re honored to bring back the tradition of the Trans Am Motor City 100.”

The return of the Trans Am Series further expands a big weekend of racing in Motor City that will feature eight different races in three days. The main event will be the Verizon IndyCar Series and its doubleheader weekend of two races, the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

In addition, IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will run on June 4 in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, while the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks will compete on all three days at the Grand Prix.

The Trans Am Series has five different classes that will be in action on Belle Isle: the premier GT cars in the TA class, as well as undercard classes TA2, TA3, TA4 and TA5.

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.