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Helio tests Belle Isle circuit
He earned his first major open-wheel racing victory at the Belle Isle circuit, he’s the last auto racer to taste victory in the Motor City and on Tuesday, Helio Castroneves became the first driver to test out the new and improved picturesque island road course on the Detroit River.

Castroneves, driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone in the IndyCar Series, fought through some early raindrops and tested the layout of the 2.125-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park in the first on-track activity in six years on the island. The 32-year-old Brazilian racer was joined at Belle Isle by representatives from the Indy Racing League and the American Le Mans Series as officials received valuable feedback from the two-time Detroit race winner in preparation for the upcoming Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, August 31-September 2, 2007.

The test consisted of the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner turning nearly 30 laps in varying conditions on the challenging circuit. Castroneves began the morning running his IndyCar Series car on Firestone rain tires in damp track conditions before switching to slicks and completing the compatibility test in warm temperatures under sunny skies.

“The course is similar to what I remember but there’s a new surface, new concrete and the corners are wider which should make for more exciting racing,” said Castroneves, who won the last two Grand Prix events held at Detroit in 2000 and ’01.  “There are some areas of the course that are bumpy, but you expect that in a street circuit and they plan to work on some of that before the race. It’s a very unique racetrack and everything here looks great. Coming back to Detroit and Belle Isle brought back some nice memories. I’m really excited about racing at Belle Isle Labor Day weekend.”

In addition to the repaving of the Turn 1 area and the reconfiguration of the turns around Scott Fountain, the signature landmark of the Belle Isle track, other changes to the circuit include 460,000 square feet of concrete designed to improve the paddock and fan areas.

“We learned a lot about the track layout today and we appreciate all of the good information from Helio and Team Penske as well as the IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series,” said Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Event chairman Bud Denker. “We want to make sure we have the best possible racetrack available to the competitors when world-class auto racing returns to the Motor City in just a few weeks and what we witnessed today will certainly help us reach that goal. It’s going to be an incredible event.”

The 2007 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix features the exotic sports cars of the American Le Mans Series and the high-powered open-wheel machines of the IndyCar Series. The Detroit Sports Car Challenge presented by Bosch American Le Mans Series race takes place on Saturday, September 1, while the IndyCars compete in the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone on Sunday, September 2. The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is part of the “3 Days in the D” celebration taking place Labor Day weekend, consisting of the Grand Prix, the Detroit International Jazz Festival and Oakland County’s Arts, Beats & Eats celebration. For more information, please log on to www.visitdetroit.com. To learn more about the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and to purchase tickets, please visit www.detroitgp.com.

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