“I thought there’d be zero passes”: Drivers say Detroit race was better than expected


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IndyCar drivers were pleasantly surprised by yesterday’s first race on Detroit’s new street circuit, having predicted a processional and crash-filled race.

While the 100-lap event was not short of incidents, with seven caution periods covering a total of 32 laps, drivers found more overtaking opportunities than they expected around the angular track.

“I think we had more grip than I expected,” said race-winner Alex Palou, who was one of several drivers to criticise the circuit ahead of Sunday’s race. “The track kept evolving with our sessions and with other series, like Indy Nxt and Trans-Am cars.

“You could see the driving lane, it was black, all full of rubber. That allowed for some more overtaking. I was able to pass some cars that were a lap down or at the back. I was able to pass Will, he was able to pass me as well. Was able to pass Rossi, as well.

Drivers were able to make moves into turn three
“I thought there was going to be zero passes, honestly, without a crash. So it was better than I expected. Obviously we had quite a lot of yellows, but everywhere you go, if there’s a street course, you’re going to have a lot of drama.”

Several overtaking moves were made into turn three at the end of the track’s long straight. However the braking zone which led into it was extremely bumpy, and Palou says more work to flatten the approach “would help” encourage more passing.

“There’s big bumps on the right side, so it’s quite easy to just go on the left and defend. When you go on the right, it’s not that it’s bumpy, but you lose a little bit of speed by just touching. That’s why it made it more difficult.”

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Felix Rosenqvist, who rose from ninth on the grid to finish third, said the track gained more grip than other street courses as the weekend progressed.

Ilott hit Kirkwood at the start
“I thought during the race it really came alive,” said the McLaren driver. “It was cool. The steering was heavy, you’re carrying a lot of speed. Even on full tanks, we were doing like qualifying lap times.

“This is cool, you’re doing some good corner speeds. You have to be so focused. Bouncing between the walls, it’s insane how much effort goes into it mentally to do 100 laps out there, especially when you have to race other guys around you. I think it was a cool challenge and awesome show for everyone.”

Will Power also believes easing the bumps would create better racing. “Having that long straight with the hairpin is definitely good,” he said. “I think next year if they resurface the second half of the straight you would have more passing. It was tough to go on the outside.”

Detroit Grand Prix chairman Bud Decker said a lot of work was done on the turn three bumps this year but they may be able to make more improvements ahead of IndyCar’s return in 2024.

“The things we can look at improving upon are the turn three braking zone,” he said. “We ground the hell out of the concrete, which is why it really ate up those softer tyres because it was like a cheese grater. I told my guys, if you keep grinding, we’re going to have a dirt track.”

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The promoters will consider the views of drivers to determine what improvements to make for next year. “We did Lidar [scanning] at the end of February,” said Decker. “We had another scan done on Thursday, just this week.

Lack of space led to creation of ‘dual pit lane’
“We’ll take that and look at where those are. We’ll get the feedback of the drivers. I’m not a person that doesn’t want feedback. Their feedback is very valuable. We’ll get that and we’ll account for it.

“We’re not going to do a lot of that until probably next year because our roads change so much here, especially concrete, it moves so much around. But we’ll make those changes next year before the race.”

The 2.6 kilometre circuit uses some of the same roads as used for F1 and CART IndyCar’s Detroit races between 1982 and 1991, when the track measured over 4km in length. However drivers such as Palou hoping the current track will be extended are likely to be disappointed.

The race promoters originally hoped to make the new track closer in design to the original, including the tunnel section. “But we couldn’t do it,” Decker explained. “We couldn’t find a place after the tunnel to have the cars go back the other way through the tunnel. It would be pretty cool.

“We are where we are because once you go anywhere east, then you’re in a neighbourhood. You guys drove through the neighbourhoods to get here. We can’t go anywhere west because of the tunnel. We can’t go anywhere north because then you’re in business.

“We have what we have. At one time we were going to go all the way down Atwater and turn on Brevard – too much of a square. Our issue was finding a pit lane. The original pit lane was around Atwater Street, but we couldn’t fit it in there, so we did the dual pit lane. [So] we are where we are.”

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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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7 comments on ““I thought there’d be zero passes”: Drivers say Detroit race was better than expected”

  1. Well, in the end, it certainly made for a racing spectacle, with constant action and broadly the most deserving drivers rising to the top. As a racing contest, that’s what you wish for.

    As a piece of entertainment, it may have looked rough and ready vs the polish of F1 earlier in the day, but the Indycar race was way more compelling to watch from start to finish.

    1. The Indycar race was far and away better entertainment, too.

    2. The race was terrific! It will get even better as they tweak the circuit over time. F1 could only dream of a race this exciting.

  2. Compelling and entertaining race. The track isn’t a classic but the racing is why we watch. Much as I love (most!) motorsport, Indycar is the one that is doing it for me this season. Watching one guy drive off into the distance ever week is not entertaining.

  3. I just went to the indycar IMS road course race a few weeks ago and I was blown away by the quality and value you get for $65
    Covered grandstand seats for $65 ech, they let you bring all the food an drinks you want, getting in and out of IMS took liteally 5 minutes, there was never nothing going on on track, clean always open restrooms…it was such an easy and rewarding event I gotta go back and after watching the highlights of Detroit I think I’d like to go check that out as well! Now if only they had their own streaming service…

  4. greasemonkey
    6th June 2023, 16:39

    Is a little bit of the best of both worlds possible? Yes. 80s to early 90s IndyCar is an example of less “spec” than current IndyCar, but enough to not have the usual F1 degeneration to a single team dominating.

    My guess is that the key was the decoupling of teams from manufacturers. You had non spec manufacturers, with a sort of menu of chassis, (sometimes) tire, and engines to mix and match in any given team.

    That is not what F1 is, so F1 cannot be “fixed” this way. So one has to enjoy F1 for what it is, and look elsewhere for what it is not.

  5. some racing fan
    7th June 2023, 1:52

    I said the circuit was rubbish before- and I still think it is. But you know what makes it so good for racing? Is the corner at the beginning of the straight is fairly quick (3rd out of 6). If Liberty makes the Treasure Island corner (the corner at the beginning of the 1.2 mile Strip straight) at the Vegas track 4th or 5th out of 8, that would increase overtaking.

Comments are closed.