Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Preview!

After last week’s record breaking Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar circus has moved north to Detroit for the first of it’s three doubleheader weekends. The 2012 edition, the first running of the race since 2008, and led flag-to-flag by Scott Dixon, was a lacklustre and truncated affair with a two hour mid-race delay to repair a broken track and the race being shortened from 90 to 60 laps due to concerns of over how long the track would actually last…

“How many millions did you spend resurfacing this joint?” Dario Franchitti asked the event’s chairman, Bud Denker, after winning the pole Friday.

The circuit has received $2 milllion in much needed investment, hoping to transform a circuit which in the last three editions of this race has brought precious little lead changes or overtaking into a classic American street circuit.

“We spent money to make wider turns, we added to a straightaway another half-mile for more passing and did work in areas where we had trouble last year.” Roger Penske, who has invested heavily (both financially and in his time) into making the Detroit grand Prix a success.

The drivers should have plenty of opportunities to overtake on the new half mile straightaway between turns 2 and 3, which replaced the series of short straights and tight turns which all but eliminated overtaking chances in the first part of the lap in 2012.

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The changes appeared to have impressed the drivers. Will Power is confident that the changes will provide more exciting racing; “You’ll be able to pass here. We’ll have some two-wide racing.” and defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay affirming that the circuit has improved from last year; “It’s definitely fun. It’s violent in the car, but it certainly improved a lot with the new pavement.“ 

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The changes haven’t been limited to the design of the circuit, however. On Thursday evening (May 30th) it was announced that Panther Racing had terminated the contract of 2011 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year JR Hildebrand, on the same day announcing that Ryan Briscoe would fill in for this weekend, and the Firestone 500 next week in Texas.

After facing sponsorship problems all season, it has also been announced that Oriol Servià will not be racing this weekend and that Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have withdrawn from 2013 season.

The first of the “duals” is due to start at 3:30pm ET (8:30pm BST) this afternoon. Dario Franchitti put his car on pole but will start after an unapproved engine change last weekend at Indy. The top 5 for the Saturday race goes as follows; EJ Viso, Mike Conway, James Jakes, Ryan Hunter-Reay and in fifth, Alex Tagliani.

On Sunday, part-timer Mike Conway will lead off from James Jakes for an all British front-row after taking is first IndyCar pole position, ahead of Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and EJ Viso.

Meanwhile, until the race in a few hours, enjoy PS2 era graphics and a virtual lap of the new Belle Isle circuit;

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