It’s Been Two Years Since the Last WeatherTech Championship Street-Course Race
By Jeff Olson
DETROIT, Mich. – It’s been so long since the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has raced in front of a crowd on a street course, it might require an adjustment.
“We have to ask (fans) to take it easy on us because we’re not used to them anymore,” Renger van der Zande joked when asked about the increased fan presence this weekend at the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic. “(But) it’s really cool to have them around again. That’s what we do the sport for. Together with the fans, we make it a show. I’m happy they are back at it and happy it’s in Detroit.”
Van der Zande, co-driver of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R with Kevin Magnussen, will compete in the 100-minute sprint race around The Raceway at Belle Isle street circuit Saturday afternoon (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN and IMSA Radio). They’ll be welcomed by a crowd larger than originally expected and one with more access to drivers and teams.
“It’s awesome,” said Felipe Nasr, co-driver of the No. 31 Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R with Pipo Derani. “I was super happy to hear the fans were going to be back there. It just spices up things better. It looks more like a race weekend, right? You can get the fans close, you can hear them, you can see their excitement.”
The state of Michigan has lifted restrictions on seating capacity for outdoor events, which allowed the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear to sell more tickets than the 20 percent initially planned. While not at capacity, the weekend will have a much fuller feel – including fan access to the paddock area where teams work on cars.
Bringing fans back for a street race, where fans are generally closer to the action, is fitting. Because of the COVID interruption, IMSA hasn’t competed on a street course since Detroit in 2019.
“You have that relationship with people (at a street race) because they are circling around,” Nasr said. “I’m very happy. Well done to IMSA and everybody for really making this happen. I can’t wait to see them on track and give them a good show.”
Grand prix officials announced Thursday that no more tickets are available for Friday’s “Free Prix Day” activities that include WeatherTech Championship practice and qualifying. Only about 1,000 remain on sale for Saturday.
GT Daytona Detroit Notes
- Townsend Bell will co-drive the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 this weekend with Frankie Montecalvo. Bell replaces Zach Veach, who tested positive for COVID-19. Bell has four career IMSA wins and drove the past two seasons for Vasser Sullivan, including last year when he and Montecalvo won at Road America. “I’m super happy to get the opportunity to race the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 this weekend at Detroit,” Bell said. “Obviously, I wish it was under different circumstances and I want to wish Zach a speedy recovery. Detroit is a place we have had some success at, winning the race and putting two cars on the podium a couple of years ago. The track is challenging and it’s a great event.”
- Marco Mapelli will make his first WeatherTech Championship start outside the Rolex 24 At Daytona when he teams with Misha Goikhberg in the No. 19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Mapelli has four Rolex 24 starts in the past five years, including a second-place finish in GT Daytona (GTD) last year driving a GRT Magnus Lamborghini with Spencer Pumpelly, John Potter and Andy Lally.