Detroit’s New Track Plan- Hit or Miss?

Photo: Keke Rosberg at the 1983 Detroit Grand Prix

The Detroit Grand Prix’s announcement last week that the 2023 event will be on the streets of downtown instead of Belle Isle caused quite a stir among the Indycar fan base. I don’t have a problem with moving the race venue. I have grown to appreciate Belle Isle. The racing has improved greatly the last few years. I do have a problem with the proposed track. It looks like a modified oval suited for Formula E.

The 1.7 mile track has 10 turns with a 7/10 mile straightaway longer than either straight at Bell Isle. The track at Belle Isle is 2.35 miles long with 14 turns. I would like to see one more curve section. The double sided pits look interesting and could be a factor during the race, but I was hoping for a mor exotic layout.

Racing on the streets of Detroit is not a new concept. Formula 1 raced downtown from 1982-1988. CART had events in the city from 19889-1992, then the race moved to Belle Isle starting in 1993and ending after the 2001 event. Indycar returned to Belle Isle in 2007 and 2008. The race in its current format came back in 2012.

The former downtown circuit was a much more proper track. Perhaps the track below can’t be reproduced because of construction or street alterations, but I hope they can find a way to make the proposed track more interesting. I like the first turn hairpin and chicane just before the finish line.

Promoters have also said that about 50% of the track will have free viewing access. That is great, but how ill the event be profitable? I guess they are counting on huge suite and hospitality revenues.

When I go to the Detroit Grand Prix next year, I will spend some time checking out the proposed layout and hopefully get to drive the proposed track. . It might be better than I think. I assume there will be some more detailed layouts available by then. It is risky to make such a radical change to what has been a successful race, but Roger Penske usually knows what he is doing.