Detroit Grand Prix Circuit on The Beautiful Belle Isle

  • Detroit Grand Prix circuit at Belle Isle island in Detroit river

Detroit Grand Prix circuit is currently one of four street circuits included in the IndyCar Series, together with St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Toronto. The temporary street circuit at Belle Isle island in the Detroit river hosted the first race in 1992.

F1 Grand Prix race track in the Downtown Detroit

The year was 1982 and one of three Formula One World Championship Grand Prix races in the United States was the Detroit Grand Prix. The race was held at the temporary street circuit which was set up near the Renaissance Center and Cobo Arena. Seven Formula One Grand Prix races took place in Detroit between 1982 and 1988. After Formula One left Detroit, the CART Indy Car World Series came to town in 1989.

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix map

Map: Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix circuit layout

The Belle Isle circuit was constructed in 1992

The circuit in the city center was used until 1991, when the new temporary street circuit was constructed on the Belle Isle island in the Detroit river. The island hosted ten CART events from 1992 to 2001. The racers then left the Detroit’s race track for the next five seasons.

Economic crisis caused the cancellation

In 2007, the racing at Belle Isle resumed, as the track got included in IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series. In December 2008, the scheduled race for the season 2009 was canceled. The main reason was the world’s economic crisis, which especially impacted the automotive industry and Detroit as the United States automotive capital, because the biggest manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Chryler) have headquartes in the Detroit area.

IndyCar, Detroit Grand Prix circuit

IndyCar race at the Detroit Grand Prix circuit

Island’s return to racing series in 2012

In 2012, the race car drivers returned to the Belle Isle street circuit, with three racing series included – IndyCar Series, Tudor United SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge. Since then, Detroit Grand Prix was held without interruptions. IndyCar Series had the so-called double-header race at Detroit since 2013, with two separate races in one weekend.

Aerial view of the start-finish line and pit-line of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix circuit

Aerial view of the start-finish line and pit-line of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix circuit

Two layouts of the Detroit Grand Prix track

Since the opening, the Belle Isle road course has had two layouts. The original was the 2.1-mile layout around the park and it was used until 1997. In 1998, the circuit gets an extension of the main straight and the new layout was 2.36 miles long, used until 2001. In 2007 and 2008, when racing returned to the island, the short layout was used, and then again in 2012. Since 2013, the longer layout was again in use.

Belle Isle

Aerial view of the Belle Isle

Fourteen turns on the narrow and twisty circuit

The circuit features fourteen turns in the clockwise direction. As usual, when it comes to street circuits, the Belle Isle street track is narrow and twisty, with not many passing opportunities. However, if we are to compare it to the old Grand Prix track in the city of Detroit, the island’s circuit offers better facilities for spectators.

The circuit on Belle Island is connected to Detroit by the MacArthur Bridge. On race weekends, there is no parking on the island and fans are required to use the shuttle bus facilities. The record attendance on the racing weekend was over 110,000 spectators in 2014.

United States, Detroit Belle Isle, Indy Car series, prototype and GT racing

Except the IndyCar Series, Belle Isle is the venue of prototype and GT racing

First winner at Belle Isle was Bobby Rahal

Since 1992, the spectators had a chance to see nineteen Indy Car Grand Prix races at the Belle Isle circuit. The first winner of the Indy Car Detroit Grand Prix was Bobby Rahal. The next on the winners’ list were Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy, Robby Gordon, Michael Andretti, Greg Moore, Alex Zanardi, Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves. In 2001, Castroneves became the first double Grand Prix winner at the Belle Isle racing track.

Scott Dixon set the record lap time

In 2007 and 2008, Tony Kanaan and the late Justin Wilson were the winners. Between 2012 and 2015, Scott Dixon, Mike Conway, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Carlos Munoz and Sebastien Bourdais were the new names on the list of Grand Prix winners. Helio Castroneves has won one more time in 2014, to become a triple winner at Belle Isle. The record holder with the fastest lap in the IndyCar Series is Scott Dixon. In 2012, he lapped around the Grand Prix track for one minute and 10.3162 seconds.

Helio Castroneves, 2014 Detroit Grand Prix podium

In 2014, Helio Castroneves scored his third win at Belle Isle

Castroneves and Kanaan acquired three wins

Since 2007, sports car races were a part of the Detroit Grand Prix at the Belle Isle circuit. The first winners were Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard in Penske Racing’s Porsche RS Spyder Evo. In 2008, Franck Montagny and James Rossiter took the honors in the Andretti’s Acura ARX-01B. Between 2012 and 2015, both Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing scored two victories at Belle Isle track. The only driver who won two times was Jordan Taylor.

Some other series also had raced at the Belle Isle racing track, such as Indy Lights, Trans-Am or Pirelli World Challenge. It’s interesting to know that Tony Kanaan, the current IndyCar driver, scored two wins as an Indy Lights competitor, so he has the same number of wins as Helio Castroneves.

Address: Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, 300 Renaissance Center, Suite 2311 Detroit, Mi. 48243.

Phone: +1 313 748-1800

Official website:


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