By Ian Shalapata
(DETROIT, MI) – The race is over, the checkered flag was waved, and #9 Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing led from start to finish. That’s about all that most know or remember when all is said and done. However the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix had a slough of stories that weren’t readily covered in the traditional media. The rivalries between drivers, the car problems, the collisions, and the track condition were just a few of the stories that didn’t get the press, but which added to the excitement of the day.
For The Square’s live commentary from trackside during the race click through to the Square Events Twitter page.
“That was pretty frustrating today,” Carpenter said. “In the morning session we had a braking issue and didn’t get many laps.I was almost spinning out at several corners.”
But Carpenter’s competitor, Dario Franchitti – who had won the Indianapolis 500 the week prior – took a different view.
“We really didn’t have the session we wanted. We kept getting behind Ed Carpenter and even on his slower laps he was getting in our way. I think if you’re going that slow you should be looking in your mirrors,” Franchitti complained.
Women are becoming more and more of a factor in racing at all levels. Those like Danica Patrick may be as well known for her commercial appearances for Go Daddy as she is for her racing. Coming up through the ranks are those like 2010 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Simona de Silvestro pictured above. In Simona’s first Indy Car start in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she led the race for a few laps. At Detroit last weekend de Silvestro finished 13th of 25 drivers and currently stands at 25th of 31 in the IZOD Indy Car points standing.
Brazillian driver Rubens Barrichello was the first car out of the race, completing only 11 of the 60 laps. Barrichello was one of 12 drivers who did not finish the Detroit Grand Prix. Leading up to the big story on the day, two separate incidents occured on lap 39. Takuma Sato finished his day nose first into the wall after a seeminly harmless S-turn. It was the second week in a row that Sato ended up on the hook after spinning out in the final lap at the Indy 500 when he made contact with Dario Franchetti.
Speaking of on the hook. Canadian James Hinchcliffe was none too happy with the track surface after becoming airborne and colliding into the tires at turn 6. Live coverage of the race broadcasted Hinchcliffe’s numerous F-bombs after he struck a chunk of track sealant that had come loose. The driver compared driving on the road track as “playing Russian Roulette.”
Crews were sent out onto the track to repair a number of points where sealant had loosened, posing a dangerous situation for drivers. With a shortened race (at 60 laps) after a two hour delay, the emphasis at Detroit was on safety. Holes were poured with fast drying resin while workers picked up the large pieces of old sealant and two vacuum trucks captured the smaller.
One eye-opening event during race weekend came when the teams were packing up to leave. Each team travells with a tractor trailer and I always thought that the race cars were transported in them. How it was done was a surprise. The trailer is outfitted with a hydraulic lift which hoists the car to the top of the cargo area. Below is carried all the tools, tires, and parts needed to keep the car on the track and performing at high speeds. Who’da thought?
Lastly, I would like to give a shout out to the Belle Isle Grand Prix organizers who acted as hosts to race fans and the media. As an accredited member of the media it gave me a view of the race from vantage points not enjoyed by the paying customer. In addition to being shuttled by golf cart from location to location, flashing the media badge gained us instant access to the grandstands, the media centre, and behind the scenes to the Paddock, the Pit Lane, and directly trackside. I was shooting the start f the race standing beside the lead photographer for the Grand Prix.
The big winner was the City of Detroit. An estimated $70 million in tourism dollars as poured into the city due to the Grand Prix. Add on the $6 million of repairs and lasting improvements completed at Belle Isle, and it is obvious the benefits of attracting big-name events to a city.
These are the stories that remained hidden in the paddock area, brought to you now by the Windsor Square. We’ll see what next year’s race with bring.
For more photos check out the Grand Prix Photo Set on Flickr.