The Belle Isle Grand Prix

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The Detroit River is home to a lot of things: cars, weapons, evidence and probably people. But in between Canada and Detroit is a little island called Belle Isle. Since the late 1800s, Belle Isle has been a park with casinos, aquariums, and a few boat clubs. The past several years it’s been a dangerous area that many tried to avoid at all cost, but recently there’s been a big push to clean up the park.

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But no one is here for a history lesson. In ’92 a temporary street course was set up for the CART series, and was a regular stop up until 2001. 2007 saw the return of Indy Car and ALMS, but the 2009 race was canceled due to the automotive crisis. It wasn’t until 2012 that racing would return to the island, and two years later it is still going strong.

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This year Belle Isle was the host for multiple series over the race weekend. There was constant racing all weekend with little delay in between sessions. The Pirelli World Challenge was on hand, with the awesome looking McLarens.

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The TUDOR Series was also there, although only two classes were there to race, the Prototype class and GT Daytona. Most likely due to the small size of the track, IMSA didn’t want to try to fit four separate classes on a small street circuit. Although it could have made it even more exciting than it already was.

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The main event was the IndyCar series in their first race back from the Indy 500 last weekend. The drivers had to get used to racing in tight bumpy quarters after racing at 230+ miles per hour at the smooth oval.

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But the most exciting racing came in the form of Robby Gordon’s Super Stadium Truck Series. Placing a few ramps down on a couple straightaways and letting the trucks loose makes for a great time.

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On Friday the World Challenge series was out on track practicing. Trying to get every series would be insane so you really had to pick and choose. Rally America was racing the same weekend in Pennsylvania, but many of the top drivers didn’t compete. David Sterckx was one, he was running the Always Evolving Mustang here in Detroit.

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The Cadillac team ended up taking the win by the end of the race. They couldn’t have won in a better place than Detroit, which would end up being the pattern of the weekend.

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Along with the McLarens, this 458 in particular kept catching my eye all weekend. The big Swedish flag somehow really worked well on the car. And the rear fender flares looked like they were running the rear flares from the Liberty Walk kit.

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But the Vipers were easily the coolest looking cars there, after the McLarens. Their low wide stance just looks so menacing. I’ve loved them ever since I saw them in their first race at Mid Ohio a couple years ago.

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Later on, on Friday, the Stadium Super Trucks were out for the first of their races. The ramps aren’t bolted down, because they’re temporary and drilling into a race track wouldn’t go over well. Robby shot out of line on the pace lap to check out the ramp and make sure it was in a good spot.

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Then a few minutes later it was race time, the air they got of the ramps was surprising. Seeing the line of trucks taking off seemed so foreign, but I would love to be able to see a lot more of these soon.

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And their suspension setup was amazing. I’m not sure how much travel they have, but from what I can gather – it’s a lot. The whole group seemed like a laid back, fun group of friends and I hope this series continues on and only grows bigger.

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They had three races, one Friday, one Saturday, and the final one on Sunday. EJ Viso, who used to race in Indy car, took his first win in Fridays race. Then Saturdays race, and finished up with a sweep by winning Sunday’s race too.

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Then Saturday afternoon it was time for the TUDOR Series to take to the tack. While the track may not have been the best for spectators with fences lining the whole course, the bumpy and uneven surface made for exciting racing.

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From what I could see, the Taylor brothers had a huge lead for the majority of the race. Ricky Taylor looked like he had no competition at all, but it wasn’t until later I found out what really happened.

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A pretty fierce battle for the lead went down to the last lap, causing some havoc and letting the Nissan Morgan prototype break into the all Daytona Prototype top three.

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On the last lap, the Action Express DP Corvette caught and passed Ricky, but Ricky fought back had some contact with the wall and the Action Express car, giving Barbosa a sizable lead. But the contact between Barbosa and Taylor cut Barbosa’s tire causing him to spin. Taylor managed to get by and hold off Westbrook for the rest of the lap to win.

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Wayne Taylor looked more than happy to see his sons win together. And not only that, but they also were driving his car. If that’s not total family domination, then I don’t know what is.

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As soon as it was time for the champagne, both the Taylor brothers rushed the audience and covered their team and friends with champagne. It seemed like the sprayed didn’t expect it, because both Ricky and Jordan had huge devious smiles. And I’m sure they were happy that they won.

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The Belle Isle Grand Prix was a little different for the IndyCar series. They had two races, one Saturday and one Sunday. Two 70 lap races would make up the weekend for IndyCar. That causes the drivers to push hard on Saturday but still keep the car out of trouble for the racing on Sunday.

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All over downtown Detroit rang the noise of the IndyCar engine notes, which was bit of a throw back to when Formula One used to race the streets of Detroit. Seeing the cars bounce off the concrete seemed like it pushed the cars to their limit, making wheel to wheel racing very sketchy.

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The newly crowned Indy 500 campion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, had a weekend to forget in Detroit. In Saturday’s race he was involved in an accident and finished 16th. Sunday was even worse when he had to drop out near the end with electrical problems, dropping him to 3rd in the championship after taking over the lead with the win at Indy. Will Power went on to win the first duel after starting 16th on the grid.

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Takuma Sato grabbed the pole for the second duel, but didn’t have the race he wanted. After some late contact in Sunday’s race, Sato ended up 18th.

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Saturday’s pole winner Helio Castroneves took the lead on Sunday and held off a hard charging Will Power who was looking to sweep the weekend. Two late race yellows bunched up the field, but Castroneves was able to pull a gap between Power and himself each time leaving the restart, and leaving no room for Power to make a pass.

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And with Helio’s win Sunday came the end of the crazy weekend at Belle Isle. Cadillac won in the Pirelli World Challenge race, Corvette won the TUDOR race right down the river from GM’s headquarters. And Roger Penske, who is one of the main supports of the race and a local to Detroit had both of his cars win the IndyCar races. If those were’t already dominant cars this season it would look a lot more suspicious. After a long weekend Belle Isle goes back to being a park and all the series go on to other tracks. A great weekend for the city of Detroit is over, and I’m sure it’ll be back next year. Up next for Detroit is the great Woodward Dream Cruise then a visit by the Global Rally Cross series that should be pretty epic.

Delaney

Email: Delaney@lifebalsters.com
Instagram: @lifeblasters, @ericdelaney

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