There are less than two weeks until the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and Grand Prix organizers have made an important change to the Belle Isle racetrack in an effort to make the race safer and more competitive.
Grand Prix Chairman Bud Denker said Roger Penske and his team spent some time between last year's race and this year's to grind down the race surface in two key areas on the track.
With a special machine brought in from Texas, they ground down the concrete from turn six to turn 7, which is the strand, and is the longest back straightaway on the course, between 1/2 mile and 3/4 of a mile. IndyCar drivers reach a speed near 175 mph during race weekend on that stretch. Denker also said the ground down concrete from turn 13 down the front stretch to the start/finish line.
"It wasn't to the point of being dangerous but it was to the point of being uncomfortable for the drivers. I think now we have more competitive racing as a result of that," Denker told 7 Action News at the Grand Prix's Hot Laps event on Tuesday. "They can brake harder, they can brake easier in some areas, and see better passing."
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is the only double-race on the IndyCar circuit this season, with drivers having to race on Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4. It is also one of the bumpier tracks on the season being a street course.
"They've actually done a really good job, it's actually going to be a bit nice, I think, on the body," 2016 IndyCar Champion and Team Penske Driver Simon Pagenaud said. "In the IndyCars, we're one inch from the ground, so we hit the ground when it's really bumpy. It's really bad on your back, so it's going to be better, be a little bit more comfortable."
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While the track is smoother is some areas, Denker expects teams to learn how to set their cars with the improved racecourse when they come in next week.
"They're used to setting their cars up for the springs, the dampers, the loads very differently," Denker said. "You still have to keep it set up for some bumpiness because the rest of the course still has some character to it, but in those cases where it's smooth, you have to prepare now for hard braking, and some passing as well too."
"It still is a bumpy racetrack, it's still a lot of fun," Pagenaud added. "There's a lot of passing going on here already, it's one of the most exciting races we have."