The Detroit Grand Prix has been taking place in Motor City off-and-on since 1989, and it presents a prime opportunity for thousands of fans to witness some great cars and competition. We attended the event courtesy of Honda and watched high-speed motoring around the 2.3-mile road course. We started the weekend by joining the Honda team at the Automotive Press Association’s luncheon to hear Honda's Senior Vice President, Henio Arcangeli, present on the future of the passenger car, and Honda's integral role in the segment. We then set out to explore Detroit in the 2019 Honda CR-V Touring for the weekend.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to race the 1.5 L 4-cylinder, 190 horsepower CR-V at Belle Isle (what, they don't trust us?) but it provided a comfortable, spacious and easy-to-maneuver city crossover that got us to great food, coffee and most importantly, the race shuttle parking.
The remainder of the weekend was dedicated to the 'edge of our seat' races at the Detroit Grand Prix. The history of this racing event is equally interesting as it is turbulent. Although this year officially marked the 30th anniversary of the Grand Prix, Detroit's modern racing history goes back to the early 1980s when Formula One cars raced around Motor City's downtown streets on a 2.5-mile circuit.
After 1989, the race was replaced by a Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) race and moved over to Belle Isle in 1992. Due to Belle Isle's narrow raceways and lack of real estate for teams' support activities, the race was canceled in 2001. Several years later, in 2007, the race was revived and renamed the Detroit Grand Prix presented by Firestone. It faced headwinds again in 2009 when it was called off because of the automotive economic crisis.
In 2012, race fans were once again able to cheer on their favorite drivers when the Grand Prix returned to Detroit. In 2018, the race was renamed the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear Corporation. Today's race offers fans the opportunity to experience the NTT IndyCar Series, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli all in one weekend.
When we arrived at Belle Isle, the sun was shining, fans were pouring in and there was no shortage of things to see and do around the grounds. We enjoyed the 30th anniversary celebration displays and access to the Paddock which was opened to all ticket holders for the first time in race history. The Paddocks allow for a "locker room" experience to get an up-close view of IMSA and IndyCar vehicles. We lucked out to get pit access tickets which put us as close to the action as possible without actually being out on the course.
After a couple of laps walking around Belle Isle, we headed to Honda's Chalet to catch the start of the IMSA Sportscar championship. Detroit's Sports Car Classic includes two races at once, the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and the GT Daytona races for non-stop action. The DPi winners were co-drivers Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya who made history by breaking GM's winning streak and bringing home a win for Acura Team Penske - the first since 2008.
The IndyCar race was slotted to start shortly after the conclusion of the Sports Car Series, but the storm clouds beat the start time with heavy rains and lightning rolling in to delay the start of Dual I. The storm delay resulted in cutting the race in half from the scheduled 70 laps to a 75-minute timed race. The condensed race kicked off with a wet and slippery track causing several collisions including reigning IndyCar Series champion, Scott Dixon's encounter with the inside wall forcing him to finish dead last. Emerging victorious in Dual I was Josef Newgarden, driving the Hitachi Chevrolet. Newgarden held onto the lead in the final 25 laps of the event.
After a disappointing last-place finish in Dual 1, the Dual II IndyCar race on Sunday brought better fortune and a comeback for Scott Dixon of New Zealand. Driving a #9 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon was able to drive his way to the 45th IndyCar win of his career.
There wasn't a dull moment during our entire weekend in Detroit, between exploring Motor City, the action-packed races of the Grand Prix, and celebrating the wins for Honda Motorsports with the Honda team. If you're considering attending the Detroit Grand Prix next year, we'd recommend making a weekend out of it and experiencing the culture, welcoming community and automotive history that Motor City has to offer.