Scott Dixon, Ganassi, IndyCar, Detroit, 2023

Little room to pass on IndyCar’s new Detroit track without “creating carnage”


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IndyCar drivers discovered the new street circuit where this weekend’s Detroit Grand Prix will take place is likely to be difficult to overtake on.

The 27-car field sampled the course in downtown Detroit for the first time today. The 2.647 kilometre (1.645 mile) track features 10 corners, most of which are right-angles.

Kyle Kirkwood, who scored his first IndyCar win on the Long Beach street circuit in April, said the first practice session was less chaotic then the drivers feared, given there is less than 100 metres between each car on average when the track is full.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Kirkwood. “I think there’s a lot of people that went off in the run-offs but no one actually hit the wall, I don’t think, which actually surprised me. So hats off to them for keeping it clean. Including myself!

Marcus Ericsson, Will Power, IndyCar, Detroit, 2023
Drivers expect passing will be difficult
“It was pretty good. It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected, maybe a little bit more bumpy down into turn three than everyone expected. But overall, they did a good job.”

The longest acceleration zone on the track runs to turns three and four, a pair of 90-degree left-handers. However Kirkwood says the bumpy approach to the corner will impair passing attempts.

“It tunnels in and then it’s strange because it’s such a long brake zone,” he said. “It’s the only place on the calendar that we brake near a 500 [yard] board, so far.

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“So it’s such a long brake zone that you kind of lose feel of how close you’re getting to the corner, almost. It’s a bit strange, but that’s just due to the surface of the track because it’s so bumpy heading down into there. You’re playing with the brake pedal the entire way through there just so you don’t lock up, or the car jumps on you sometimes in the middle of the brake zone, it’s a bit awkward.

Agustin Canapino, Juncos Hollinger, IndyCar, Detroit, 2023
Several drivers headed off-course during practice
“So I think people are going to be a little bit more hesitant because of that to want to make passes happen.”

Kirkwood suspects turns three and four could be the scene of drama during the start and any restarts. “It’s such a tight radius corner as it is that any radius that you’re cutting is not going to be good. So everyone’s going to be, I imagine, trying to get through their single file.

“But that that’s really never the case, right? It still creates a passing opportunity, but not as much as what it looks like when you first go walk the track. It seems like this is wide open and it will be pretty easy but once you’re doing 180, 190 [miles per hour] down into there, it doesn’t feel as wide.”

Despite the difficulty of passing at that point on the lap, Kirkwood sees few better passing places elsewhere around the circuit.

“I really don’t see a lot of opportunity without it creating carnage,” he said. “You can pass into one, you can pass into eight, you might build a pass into five, but you’re not going to be able to go double-file through there. I think the outside guy is going to go into the wall in a few of the places that people will try and pass, to be honest.”

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IndyCar has returned to the downtown Detroit area 32 years after the CART series left it to race on the nearby Belle Isle. The track shares some sections previously used by that series and Formula 1 when it raced in Detroit between 1982 and 1988.

Pato O'Ward, McLaren, IndyCar, Detroit, 2023
O’Ward was a fan of former Belle isle course
However Pato O’Ward, who was quickest in today’s first practice session on the new circuit, was a committed fan of the previous circuit, and said the layout which has replaced it lacks variety.

“Belle Isle is busier,” he said, “there is a lot more fast corners in Belle Isle. Here there’s really one and that is turn two and it really isn’t that fast. Belle Isle, turn one and two, the last corner, those are fricking fast corners to be in a street course with a lot of bumps.

“I’m a very big fan of Belle Isle, I was very sad to see it leave the calendar. But this is a different track, it’s a new track, it’s going to be a great event.

“I feel like Belle Isle has a lot of very different corners that get the circuit together and here we’ve just got nine corners. We’ve got one chicane and then a lot of very similar for speed corners, I’d say, and one hairpin.”

Pictures: Practice at IndyCar’s new Detroit street cicuit

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on “Little room to pass on IndyCar’s new Detroit track without “creating carnage””

  1. What was the reason for leaving Belle Isle, given how much everyone seems to love it there?

    1. Something about new noise regulations in the park? Not totally sure, but it was a park issue I believe.

    2. According to reporting, the local organizers of the race wanted to move it downtown, while the island and the state organization that runs it didn’t really have a role in it and was fine to keep the Indycar contract and the options they had for this and next season.

      You have to read through a lot of fluff about it being a benefit to the local economy, etc., etc. but it seems enough people with enough influence wanted the race to be moved – “for whatever reason”, as Ron Olson, chief of parks and recreation for the DNR summed it up.

    3. From the Detroit News, the answer is,

      For years, an activist group called Belle Isle Concern has spoken out against using Michigan’s most popular state park as a race track. The races take away time from park users, they have argued.

  2. I’m watching the free practice right now and this circuit is a joke. Some sections are terribly narrow and the bumpiness is too much as well. And it’s only 2.6km for crying out loud!
    Detroit is a garbage city in downfall and this circuit is a perfect representation of it.

    1. And Monaco is such a great circuit… Pretty much a Formula E track with more money.

      1. And unlike every F1 race it will NOT be boring, and you have no idea who’s going to win.

  3. this has to be one of the worst excuses for a race track ive ever seen.

    very reminiscent of the failed street circuits in the us that both f1 and champcar tried to get off the ground, all of which were seen as been awful and quickly forgotten as soon as they were dropped.

    its just a very uninspiring 90 degree corner street circuit very much like the f1 detroit circuit from the 80s that took place in this same area. that was an awful circuit and this is worse.

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