Building a Heritage: The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix 2014

Article by Eugene Slesarenko. Photography by Eugene Slesarenko.

Detroit – to most people around the U.S., it represents a fallen automotive empire; a city that was once in its prime, yet which has fallen to the greed, corruption and a poor (for lack of a better word) economy. However, to many locals it is a city that still has the automotive passion and the drive to live up to its heritage. Perhaps this is exactly why every year thousands of spectators around the world invade Belle Isle Park to witness one of the biggest, celebrated automotive events in the world. Yes, we're talking about the Grand Prix.

Wait, you mean to tell me that the Grand Prix is hosted in Detroit? Yes, you read that right. The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is in fact a very impressive achievement; the event is perhaps one of the biggest events to hit Detroit, and that’s a hard truth to swallow. Among big events such as the North American International Auto Show, the Grand Prix has made its way toward the top of the event chart in Detroit. Although the event wasn’t always top notch for the Formula One teams, as it was criticized for the track’s quality, throughout the last few years the organization has drastically improved the course and the accommodations for the teams. It seems as if every time the race is dropped from the IndyCar Series schedule, it returns a few years later with a much stronger effort to win over the officials and the teams.

Although the Grand Prix made a triumphant return to Detroit only three years ago, thanks to Roger Penske, it was as if it was a first year event. The passion of many race fans was surely displayed on race day. Despite the ongoing rain the last few weeks, the teams were ready to face the challenges of the track. In the last decade, the Detroit Grand Prix has gained a great reputation in the circuit even though, due to unforeseen economical circumstances, the event was dropped from the IndyCar Series schedule between 2009-2011. With negotiations and financial support from Team Penske, we are glad to say that the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is back in full swing, and we definitely hope to see Detroit in the IndyCar Series schedule for many more years to come.

As for my personal experience with the Grand Prix, it was surely a day filled with excitement. This was the first year I had the privilege of photographing the Grand Prix. Although it was a little intimidating diving head first into a crowd of professional photographers that make a living photographing the IndyCar series, I had enough knowledge and experience behind me to jump in with confidence. As expected, very little amount of sleep was acquired the night before the race, the 5:00 a.m. alarm approached quickly. Camera gear in hand, I was off to the Grand Prix. Although I arrived early, hundreds of people were pouring into the new and improved Belle Isle. You could still smell the race fuel and shredded tires from the early morning practice runs. Energy was in the air as teams geared up for the 7:10 a.m. Pirelli World Challenge Qualifying (GT/GT-A/GTS). As we wrapped up the media meeting, qualifying was underway.

It was a sight to be seen as Audi R8s, Ferrari 458s, Lamborghini Gallardos, Chevrolet Corvettes, Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros and other TUDOR cars belittled our typical "race cars” as we know them. The sounds of these cars alone filled our ears with bliss as they roared by the abundance of speed hungry spectators drooling with excitement to see which team would place in the top ten.

The Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS brought some hardcore intimidation to the game. The team of Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub did not hold back as they pushed the car to its limits. Avid R8 fans like ourselves can certainly appreciate the creative styling paired with some raw power.

The new generation TUDOR Corvette displayed grace on the course. Besides its incredible capabilities on the track, the aerodynamic styling was beyond impressive. The front fascia sat nearly millimeters away from the asphalt.

Driver Marco Andretti ripping passed turn one at lap fifteen.

TUDOR teams eagerly prepping their cars for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic.

Turn eight was a ninety degree turn after a lengthy straightaway; it proved to be a challenge for many drivers from the IndyCar and the TUDOR Series. There was certainly some paint left on the cement barricades on the outside of turn eight.

The Indianapolis 500 winning team, Bryan Herta Autosport driven by Jack Hawksworth, had a color theme unlike any we’ve ever seen in the series. The vivid monster-like green made this IndyCar the center of attention to many photographers around the track. Well played Bryan Herta Autosport, well played.

Without a doubt, the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix had a very successful year once again. With the right amount of planning, and enough monetary support from countless sponsors around Detroit, this event may very well continue to grow year after year. As long as the Penske Team is involved and has interests in the well-being and prosperity of Detroit, it will certainly be an event that we recommend visiting. We only hope that Mother Nature is as forgiving next year as she was this year – however, without the endless rain in the weeks before, other ways bring your waders and an umbrella; Detroit will still be happy to host you for the spectacular Grand Prix!


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Imprezions's Profile Image

Great shots and article Eugene, happy to have you as part of the team. Small world, some of my good friends actually know Jeff Westphal and are great friends with him. Pretty badass he took home a win. Glad you got some great snaps of his car in there.

Eugeneslesarenko's Profile Image

Thank you sir, I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of a team that possesses so much talent. It is a small world indeed! Hopefully small enough for me to meet the rest of the Revvolution team! :)