The driving force behind the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle says there is no other suitable venue in the Metro region to hold the event.
Protesters argue the Grand Prix is hindering park visitors from enjoying the natural beauty of the island.
Detroit businessman and auto racing legend Roger Penske brought the Grand Prix back to Belle Isle for a second time in 2012.
His group beautified the park’s overgrown landscape and fixed broken toilets and other infrastructure.
In exchange Penske paved over several acres to use for pits, parking and grandstands.
Protesters say that concrete mars the island and complain the weeks it takes to set up a racing track on Belle Isle unfairly restricts access to the park.
They even question if organizers have a legal right to hold the event.
But Penske counters that the racing showcases Detroit in a way few other events can.
He says negotiations to extend the Grand Prix’s contract to stay on Belle Isle are well underway.
“If the governor, if the mayor, the city council don’t want us here (then) we’ll move on,” Penske says. “But, to me, it’s for the citizens of Detroit, what we bring here on this island. If people don’t understand that it’s unfortunate.”
Penske says there is no other suitable venue for the event in the Metro region.
He says no other location could match Belle Isle as a site for the Grand Prix, either as a racing track or as an enclosed, picturesque setting to show-off the city.
Penske notes that the current construction in the city would prevent the racing from moving to its old site on Detroit’s downtown streets.
Click on the audio link above to hear the full interview with Roger Penske and with Indycar driver Tony Kanaan, who races for both Chevrolet and Ford.