For all the pageantry and fanfare associated with Indianapolis, the subsequent race always has a difficult act to follow. This year, the duty falls with Detroit for the second year in succession at the always scenic on the cusp of the American summer Belle Isle Raceway within the Detroit River.
|Date:||01-03 June 2012|
|Lap Length:||2.300 miles / 3.703km|
|IndyCar Lap Record:||1:12.2861, Scott Dixon (Dallara Honda) – 2008|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:00-12:25|
|Qualifying Session – Race 1||Fri 15:00-16:10|
|Warm-Up Session – Race 1||Sat 09:15-09:45|
|Race 1 (70 laps, 164 miles)||Sat 15:50-18:00|
|Qualifying Session – Race 2||Sun 09:30-09:45|
|Race 2 (70 laps, 164 miles)||Sun 15:50-18:00|
|Past IndyCar Winners:||Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Dallara DW12 Honda)||2012|
|Justin Wilson (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Dallara Honda)||2008|
|Tony Kanaan (Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda)||2007|
Since its reintroduction to the series last year, Detroit has proven a popular decision among the IndyCar fanbase, especially those in the Motor City itself, who last year showed their support by packing the scenic Belle Isle circuit for what was a dominant, if interrupted performance by Scott Dixon in his Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara.
Infamous for its muddy and poorly developed passages, the sheer lack of space to try and fit everything in makes many wonder why the series visits at all. But the scenery is picturesque, and many classic races have been held in years gone by.
This year, Detroit’s original layout will return, which effectively only sees a longer straight employed after the opening right-left corner complex. It will increase the average speed of each lap and open up the following right hand corner as a new overtaking opportunity. Cars running close behind on the exit of Turn 2 will be able to get in the slipstream of their rival ahead and dart up the inside to make the pass. Overtaking is rare in other parts of the circuit, so this should make for a better show.
Rewind to 2012
Race organisers will want nothing less than a repeat of what happened last year. On Lap 39, James Hinchcliffe was the unfortunate victim of a rapidly deteriorating track surface. Upon running over a loose piece of tarmac which sent him into the tyre barrier, Hinch emerged from the car and in a blind rage, proceeded to literally rip strips of rubber from the surface with his gloved hand.
A red flag was promptly thrown, which led to marshals hastily adding quick-dry cement to the deep trench that Hinch had angrily installed in the road. For TV audiences, the delay was filled with alternative programming, but for fans at the track, it turned into a near three-hour delay which saw the race resume as a 15-lap dash under the rapidly fading daylight. In both instances, Scott Dixon was unable to be passed and won comfortably.
Looking to this weekend
Lucky medallion back in possession, Indy winner Tony Kanaan has a new lease on life and career. The proverbial Indy monkey is now off his back, and whether this leads to a string of strong results, only time will tell. Back at Indianapolis last year, the anniversary of the late Dan Wheldon’s last win the year before, Tony’s engineer leaned in to wish TK good luck prior to setting off, and Kanaan replied “as soon as I win this thing, I’m retiring”. Winning Indy was the final achievement left in American open-wheel racing for the likeable Brazilian, but whether he sticks to that pledge now or not remains to be seen.
Making its debut this weekend is the next of former series CEO Randy Bernard’s fan-friendly initiatives – the double-header weekend – aimed at spicing up the show for the attending fans. Put simply, it is twice the entertainment and twice the value for money.
Saturday’s race will begin in the customary rolling format, but Sunday will see the drivers have to learn to use their clutches again, as the race will begin as a standing start – something not seen in the US open-wheel scene since Champ Car folded in early 2008.
For the drivers and teams, it is twice the workload, but twice the points haul, which can mean for those with the perfect car a chance to pull out a strong lead in the drivers championship standings or to bring themselves right into the championship hunt with a pair of strong results. This format is untested and will be interesting to see whether it boosts attendances or TV ratings, and will be applied later in the season at Toronto and Baltimore also for the same reasons.
As a result, Detroit sees the series embark on a rapid succession of races – six full length points paying events in five weekends, with Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa to come in successive weeks.
It will prove to be a tough test for man and machine, and especially for the spare parts inventory if anyone pushes too hard too often and makes more than one dent in the bodywork courtesy of the wall. It is sure to lead to more than one late night (or possibly full night) of work for more than one team, all trying to settle back into the rhythm of the season to crown the overall 2013 champion.