DETROIT (Dec. 19, 2008) — The organizers of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix have cancelled the 2009 event — featuring both IndyCar and American LeMans Series (ALMS) races — citing the global economy in general and the Detroit region's struggles specifically.
The Grand Prix weekend, scheduled for Sept. 4-6, returned to the city in 2007 to strong reviews after a six-year absence. Officials hope to resurrect the race as soon as possible.
Longtime CART and IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske, who spearheads the event in his role as chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, informed Indy Racing League (IRL) and ALMS officials this week that the race will not be held in 2009.
Mr. Penske told AutoWeek, a sister publication of Tire Business, that Audi A.G.'s recent decision to quit ALMS in 2009, combined with Porsche A.G. pulling the plug on its factory RS Spyder prototype program — a program Penske's team ran — hurt the race, as did Detroit´s poor economy overall.
“Obviously, it's something we´re disappointed in, but as good businessmen we've got to make a call,” he said. “We have the assets to continue on, but there's no reason at this point to have an event that wouldn´t be first-class.
“This is a real economic time of distress for everyone and we couldn't sit here and count on a lot of things happening that we know weren´t going to happen, especially knowing we live in such a distressed area with unemployment and all the other things going on. We had to make the decision.”
Detroit has been home to international racing on and off since 1982 when Formula 1 cars took to downtown Detroit streets in 1982, racing annually in the Motor City until the event switched to the CART World Series in 1989. The race moved from the streets to the Belle Isle Park circuit in 1992, and continued as a CART weekend through 2001.
The IndyCar Series and AMLS returned as a result of a coordinated effort to improve downtown Detroit, led by Penske and the Downtown Detroit Partnership, that also brought SuperBowl XL to town in 2006 and has invested in various projects aimed at improving the city.
The move reduces the 2009 IndyCar schedule to 17 races, and the ALMS schedule to 10.
Calls seeking comment from IRL and ALMS officials were not returned immediately.