Detroit Grand Prix provides the ultimate fan experience
If you ask IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud, the 2013 Detroit Grand Prix winner, racing is all about the fans — and because officials of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear agree, fans will get closer to the action than ever before on Belle Isle.
The most impactful change in this year’s May 31-June 2 race on Belle Isle is full access for all fans to the paddock, where race teams and drivers work on their cars. At virtually every race worldwide, a special pass must be obtained for such exclusive access — but in Detroit it’s now open to all fans with either a general admission or reserved grandstand ticket.
This year, access to the paddock is open to all fans. The Detroit News
“It’s a good thing; there is no racing without fans,” said Pagenaud, who will race the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet IndyCar for Team Penske in the Chevy Dual in Detroit NTT IndyCar Series races on Belle Isle.
“I think (the new paddock access is) going to create a real buzz and will allow people to see the race cars closer, which are always so impressive to look at. This paddock access is pretty much not seen anywhere (else in racing), so it’s fantastic to see here in Detroit.”
With all fans having access to the Fifth Third Bank Paddock, affectionally known as the “locker room of motorsports,” all Grand Prix attendees will have the chance to essentially be arms-length away from where teams work on their vehicles and where drivers hang out between races.
Pagenaud, who won the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series championship with Team Penske, said it’s very obvious when he interacts with fans here, that he is in the Motor City.
“The fans are very knowledgeable,” he said. “Who the racers are, what races you won before, how you’re doing. That’s very enjoyable. Around Detroit, people are very aware of how our previous race went at the Indianapolis 500, and that’s pretty awesome. I’d say 90% of the time, before a fan goes up to us, they know what kind of a season we’ve had. It’s pretty amazing to see that following. It’s remarkable.”
Access to the paddock also means full access to the unique Autotrader Winner’s Circle, which was relocated in 2018 to the James Scott Memorial Fountain, Belle Isle’s historical landmark. That’s the same place where Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri had a “lightbulb moment” last summer that led to this year’s dramatic decision to open the paddock and winner’s circle area to all fans.
“I think the coolest part of this entire atmosphere of racing on the island is when you see the folks that come, enjoying themselves,” Montri said about the 100,000-plus fans who attend the race annually. “There was a moment last year on Friday’s Comerica Bank Free Prix Day … when I stopped to look at the new winner’s circle. There was this line up of kids waiting to get up on the podium in the winner’s circle and have their picture taken — such a cool moment seeing the look of joy on those kids’ faces, dreaming as if they had just won the race.”
The stars of IndyCar will compete in the Chevy Dual in Detroit — the only doubleheader weekend on the series schedule. Both Saturday and Sunday are separate, full-points races toward the season-long NTT IndyCar Series Championship. Race fans will also experience the exotic machines of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Saturday, plus races on both days for the long-running Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli.
More seating, more viewpoints
Improving the race experience year after year for fans is found in the details. One such advancement will be moving Grandstand 1 to the outside of the track at the Start-Finish Line where the double-decker corporate chalets used to be, and placing that structure behind Pit Lane where the grandstand has been previously located. The change was made in the hopes that it will dramatically improve the viewing of all the fans.
“This will give the fans in Grandstand 1 a much better view of the cars as they come around the curve and across the Start-Finish line because the cars are coming at them, not from over their (left) shoulder,” Montri said. “Fans will also be much closer to the track. Moving the chalets behind pit lane will be better as well because it’s a more vertical structure, where you get 16 feet up in the air — and being vertical, you are much closer to look straight down on Pit Lane and still get a good view looking at the track.”
A second grandstand has been added to Turn 3, doubling the seating capacity coming off one of the fastest parts of the track. Also, a general admission grandstand has been moved from Turn 5 to Turn 7 where fans can view the cars winding through the trickiest series of turns on the track.
“That’s an area of the track we call the Horseshoe,” Montri said. “It’s at the end of the longest and fastest part of the track, so the fans sitting in Grandstand 7, which is general admission, will see the cars coming head-on toward Turn 7, braking hard to turn right and going into the horseshoe. It’s a very cool vantage point to watch the race.”
Just one of dozens for fans to enjoy the weekend.
More information and tickets are available at www.detroitgp.com.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.