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VISIT FLORIDA Racing took delivery of its new Gibson-powered Riley Technologies Mk. 30 on Saturday as the team put the brand new LMP2 machine through its paces at Carolina Motorsports Park.

 

Both Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande, who were recently announced as VISIT FLORIDA Racing’s full-time drivers for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign, were on hand to take their first laps in the car. 

 

IMSA has established all-new regulations for the top Prototype class in IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship competition, which will officially launch with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28-29.

 

Saturday’s test served as an initial shakedown for the Daytona Beach-based team prior to the first official IMSA outing next week at Daytona International Speedway.

 

VISIT FLORIDA Racing will take part in an IMSA open test on December 13 and 14 in preparation for the 2017 season. The new season officially kicks off with the annual Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway January 6-8.

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With the city of Detroit being widely known as “The Automotive Capital of the World,” it is only fitting that North America’s premier sports car racing series visits the Raceway at Belle Isle Park each year.

 

Nicknamed the “Jewel of Detroit,” Belle Isle is a 982-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River managed as a natural, yet recreational state park for people to visit. The island itself is owned by the city of Detroit, while the Penske Corporation, led by racing legend Roger Penske, works with city officials to host the annual Detroit Grand Prix.

 

The Chevrolet Sports Car Classic featuring the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is one of two street-circuit races on the IMSA schedule, and Belle Isle Park is one of the only places in the Continental United States where one actually looks south to see Canada. Windsor, Ontario is just a stone’s throw from the island, making this event particularly popular with Canadian fans.

 

“We’re truly an international event because a good percentage of our attendees are from Canada,” said Bud Denker, executive vice president at Penske Corporation. “It’s a very important place for IMSA to race at because you’re right in the bullseye of an automotive world. All the competitors have a great deal of pride coming into Detroit and winning here because of how important this city is to the automotive history that we have.”

 

The Raceway at Belle Isle is unique in that the 2.35-mile road course is constructed and taken down each year as part of a lengthy process that also must respect the island’s true purpose as a natural resource.

 

“It's a pretty complex task because we have to allow people access to the island almost the entire time we’re building it,” Denker explained. “It takes us eight weeks to build the infrastructure involved- the fencing, the barrier walls, the suites, the grandstands- all those things that are required of a world-class event such as ours.”

 

The take-down time though, is not nearly as long.

 

“Three weeks after the race, we have one of the largest fireworks shows in the country in the middle of our river, and Belle Isle is required to house about 100,000 people to watch the fireworks,” Denker said. “We have three weeks after the event to ensure its return to its owners, which are the people of the state of Michigan.”

 

 

HISTORY

 

Following the Civil War era, American landscape architecture began to change and Frederick Law Olmsted was the leader of the movement. Olmsted, the father or American landscape architecture, became famous for designing New York’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace, but he also influenced the layout of Belle Isle Park.

 

The park incorporates many elements specific to Olmsted’s other designs, including the extent of development throughout the island. The western side of Belle Isle Park houses the James Scott Fountain, a casino for events, an aquarium, a conservatory and in June each year, the Detroit Grand Prix. Yet as one moves to the eastern side of the park, development begins to taper off, allowing part of the island to remain in a natural state as intended.

 

Auto racing in Detroit began in the 1980s with Formula 1, but originally took place in the streets of downtown until moving to the island in 1992. CART/Champ Car races continued to be held on Belle Isle throughout the 1990s but ceased in 2001.

 

In 2006, Roger Penske teamed up with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, determined to bring racing back to the automotive city. The American Le Mans Series and the IndyCar Series were featured in the return until 2008 when the economy declined and forced the event to close again.

 

However, the Detroit Grand Prix returned bigger and better than ever in 2012 and has continued ever since, with millions of dollars being brought into the city each year as a result of the event.

 

“This event will bring about $40 million in benefits to our city,” said Denker. “Besides the stage on television that people can see how beautiful our island is and how beautiful our waterfront is, having that showcased to the world is very important to us. Our city is on the rise and this race at Belle Isle, including the IMSA series, is one more way for us to castoff the perceptions of the past and to show the future of our city.”

 

DRIVER PERSPECTIVE

 

Ozz Negri Jr., Michael Shank Racing driver: “Starting from when you go to the island and then you walk to the paddock, everything is immaculate. It’s so well done. I would say it’s probably one of the hardest street courses in the world because of the layout and the characteristic of the surface. At Detroit, there are no long straights. You’re busy all the time and you’re bouncing in the car. Physically, you’ve got to be in top shape and be focused. There’s absolutely zero room for mistake. You go there and win the race and either your manufacturer is from there or if it’s not, then you’ve just beaten a manufacturer from there. There’s definitely a little bit of spice with this race which comes with a little bit of pressure as well. It’s one of my favorite, if not my favorite, street tracks.”

 

TRACK PERSPECTIVE

 

Turn 1, Front Stretch: The view from the top of the grandstands between Turns 1 and 2 is one of the most iconic scenes from the Belle Isle Grand Prix. Cars racing down the short front straightaway are almost secondary to the picturesque Detroit skyline, including General Motors’ Renaissance Center headquarters, prominently centered in the background.     

Turn 3: The entry to Turn 3 represents the heaviest braking zone on the entire circuit, and as such, it is one of the most prevalent locations for passes to occur. Drivers must reach deep down for courage to either dive down the inside or nail the perfect line through the corner to get a solid run on exit.

Turns 7 – 11, Inner Loop: Drivers exit the second-fastest section and enter the most technical series of corners of the circuit. Fans standing on the outside of Turn 8 are able to score a great view of the transition from heavy braking to throttle and back to heavy braking that is required to navigate these turns.

 

         

 

 

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