Indycars Head for Detroit as Some Accuse Grand Prix of Disrupting Belle Isle Fun

Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo/WDET

Fresh from the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 the Indycar teams and drivers are heading to Detroit for this weekend’s races on Belle Isle.

And some who regularly use are not welcoming the racers back.

The Detroit Grand Prix is somewhat unique on the Indycar calendar.

It features two complete races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. And it’s a temporary road course using some of the same streets visitors to the island drive on the rest of the year.

Promoter Roger Penske’s race team arrives at Belle Isle with a collective chip on its shoulder after faring poorly at last weekend’s centennial edition of the marquee Indy 500.

On the other end of the racing spectrum the Andretti Autosport team comes to Detroit riding a one-two finish at the famed 500 mile event.

Beyond Indycars, the Detroit Grand Prix weekend also includes Le Mans-style sports cars and racing super trucks.

But some activists are arguing the race should not even be held on Belle Isle.

When Penske reached a deal to move the Grand Prix onto Belle Isle in 2007 the park was overgrown, restrooms were unsanitary and many of the island’s facilities were badly in need of repair.

Penske pledged to fix all that in exchange for paving over a roughly 400,000 square foot section used for the pit area on race day, an area that otherwise turned into a mud bog whenever it rained, drawing anger from fans and race teams alike.

Some who say they often visit Belle Isle maintain that section of cement destroys the natural beauty of the island.

They add that the several months it takes to set-up and tear-down the temporary Belle Isle race track disrupts the serenity the park is designed to provide.

State officials, who now operate the island, counter that the Grand Prix promoters have poured $13 million into improving Belle Isle’s infrastructure as well as paying $200,000 a year for the right to race there.

A charity event connected to the Grand Prix raised more than $1 million last year for the Belle Isle Conservancy.

The race organizers’ contract to hold the Grand Prix on Belle Isle is up for renewal after 2018.   

Image credit: Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo/WDET

About the Author

Quinn Klinefelter

Senior News Editor

I grab news in the morning, check the papers and the wires, call sources and take a big gulp of coffee. That’s how I start the day.

qklinefelter@wdet.org  

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