IRL partnerships will help Belle Isle race IndyCar Series cars navigate the twisting 2.096-mile Belle Isle course with speed and precision, pass a restored Scott Memorial Foundation ringed with flowers and spectators 90 times, and race side-by-side to the finish to cheers from the overflowing crowd.
Bud Denker’s mental video of the Labor Day weekend IndyCar Series race is on a continuous loop. The Penske Corp. senior vice president, who is chairman of the event that will mark the return to major open-wheel racing to Detroit, doesn’t believe his mental images will have to be edited. He’s confident the underpinnings of the public-private venture will reap rewards for the city and its host site just northeast of downtown.
The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is being organized and promoted by the Downtown Detroit Partnership, whose chairman is Roger Penske. A special charitable organization has been established that enables the net proceeds to fund measures to improve the 982-acre island in the Detroit River.
In seven months, there’s considerable work ahead to prepare the site for the IndyCar Series and create a volunteer infrastructure. Denker sees short- and long-term opportunities.
“It will be six year since the last race was held there and a lot happened in six years on the Belle Isle course being a public property,” Denker said. “It hasn’t had the kind of funding it needs, hasn’t had the kind of resources it needs to make it a really standout island. It’s a beautiful place and a wonderful facility that has been there since the turn of the (20th) century. We need to now restore that island. The purpose of having this race on Belle Isle is to give back to Detroit and give back to Belle Isle.”
Racetrack and site improvements are scheduled to begin in early spring (some areas such as the designated paddock already are marked).
“There are a lot of infrastructure requirements needed, most importantly track improvements,” Denker said. “We’re going to fix all that by putting down about 10½ acres of concrete in the paddock area, the walking areas, the concession areas, the merchandise areas and the midway.
“Millions of dollars of investment are going to be put into that island, and that is our investment for the future. The city is not reimbursing us; that is part of our investment in this event. While Penske and I are behind the event to make it happen, the efforts we’re doing are going to help the city. We’re signing a five-year agreement with the city with a three-year extension after that so we plan for this to be a multi-year event.” More at Indycar.com