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IndyCar Detroit

Detroit IndyCar organisers promise track improvements for next year

Organisers of the resurrected Detroit Grand Prix, who brought the IndyCar Series back to its downtown streets for the first time since 1991, have promised track improvements next year.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda green flag

A new 1.645-mile track was constructed in the shadow of the Renaissance Center, the global headquarters of General Motors, and used some stretches of the Formula 1 track, which was used from 1982 to 1988.

Penske Corporation’s president Bud Denker was the mastermind of the project, inspired by IndyCar’s successful event on the streets of Nashville.

FEATURE: Why Detroit GP nostalgia isn't what it used to be

Penske moved the Detroit race weekend from Belle Isle, where the current incarnation of IndyCar had raced since 2007, back to the area where CART raced from 1989 to 1991.

After widespread criticism from drivers after practice and qualifying over the track’s short and bumpy nature, the reaction after the race was much more positive and constructive.

“We learned a lot of lessons,” said Denker. “One thing I'll face right up front is the track. It's interesting because the drivers provided us with information from their simulations.

“We gave them the study, then ground [the track at their request] going into Turn 8, ground going into Turn 1 and we ground going into Turn 9 a lot. So, we did a lot of grinding based on the drivers' feedback.

“Interestingly enough, the driver feedback was we needed new pavement in Turn 3. Drivers are right, so we took out 100 feet by 40 feet of pavement from the 300 marker to the 425 marker.

“They all used the left side for the braking, right? We're like, ‘Okay, we should have done the left side for that braking.’ We could have done it, but your asphalt has [to have time] to cure.”

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Denker pointed to the overtaking statistics to prove the quality of the racing on Sunday: “Looking at the numbers in front of me, we had the quality of racing: 189 on-track passes, 142 for position, which equals Long Beach.

“Long Beach had a hell of a race this year, right? We had the same number of position passes. St. Pete, which is a pretty good race, they had 170 on-track passes, we had 189. They had 128 for position, we had 142. Pretty good race.”

Denker said that now his team has the evidence about which parts of the track to improve for 2024 that work can be done in good time.

One added problem is the harsh winters that Detroit endures each year, which adds new track surface issues.

“The thing we can look at really improving upon is the Turn 3 braking zone,” said Denker.

“It was really interesting for us to watch the [racing] lines. That wasn't the information they gave us. Anyway, now we know and we'll fix those areas to make it smoother as you come into the braking zone.

“We ground the hell out of the concrete, which is why it really ate up those softer tires because it was like a cheese grater. I told my guys, If you keep grinding, we're going to have a dirt track!”

One of the major issues that arose was the lack of space in runoff zones, for drivers to perform spin turns to rejoin without stalling. Those that did stall caused yellow flags in the race, and red flags in practice and qualifying.

Denker added: “The other thing we can do in Turn 8, the runoff, if we had time, which we will next year, we can put those blocks up on the curb, which gives you essentially another six feet [to allow cars to perform spin-turns]. So, 44 feet of runoff, which should be enough.”

Organizers did take huge credit for making half of the track free to access for the public, including vantage points from overlooking car parks, as well as hosting about 20,000 paying fans.

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