Race Notes: 2008 Detroit GP at Belle Isle

IRL IndyCar Series
Detroit Indy Grand Prix
The Raceway at Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Coverage: IRL world feed from ESPN
Commentary: Gary Lee & Larry Rice
Pit reporters: Jack Arute, Vince Welch, Brienne Pedigo

I go into this with a bit of trepidation after reading on the DigitalSpy forum that the world feed commentary for this race was pretty bad compared to the usual standards. But after the debacle of the US coverage at Sonoma, the ad-fest truckfire-fest of California, I’m jumping in anyway!
It has been about a year since I last heard the international feed so let’s see if they have changed. Both of them know their stuff very well indeed, but they don’t have the ‘excitableness’ of the domestic feed, if that is even a word.

For the second week running I got spoiled so I know who the winner is. On Monday I went to GrandPrix.com, one of the best F1 news analysis sites there is, to be faced with the story at the top of the page. They don’t usually report every IndyCar race result although it looks like they are doing so more often this season.

Okay let’s start this thing.

Quick recap of how Sonoma changed the points standings, the gap is now 43 points. Now we go to Detroit which last year ‘created bad blood and bad memories’ because of the Dixon/Franchitti incident.
Titles. Same as the US coverage! Excellent, I like that.

Helicam over Detroit, pan to the Isle, nice. Clips of Helio at Sonoma, then qualifying at Detroit.
Dixon on pole, Helio starts 2nd!
Arute with Scott after quals: “I had a smoking lap going and seemed to balls it up in the middle of it. Just need one more point than Helio and we’re looking good.” You’ve been making fuel all year. Dixon says it’s going to come down to the wire.
Gary says this place is always – and sometimes impossible – to pass on.
Vince with Helio: “We’re going to take a lot of chances, was difficult. We have a very fast car. Going to be a lot of fun!”

Gary with the points, they put national flags on the graphic although Dan is shown with the English rather than British… why is that I wonder? Hah, hey Pressdog, Gary dropped a ‘markers’ reference!
Graphic showing how points are scored, bonus points for leading most laps.

Gary – Canada is the Northern border of the US but look at the map, North is Detroit and South is Canada, get out your maps and work that out! Goes on to some history of the place.
Larry – pretty amazing you can build a 900 acre island by hauling dirt out here.

I just noticed the Canadian flag alongside the US one on pit straight.

Graphic of previous winners, Kanaan last year and Helio in ’00/’01 in CART. Bruno J. and Servia also raced here with CART.

‘Drivers start your engines’ from a Detroit hockey player.

I found some Earl Grey in the cupboard while cleaning it out earlier, so that’s my drink of the race this evening. [……………………..] Here’s some space for you to make your own Jean-Luc Picard reference!

15 turn, 14 and a slight dogleg, 3.3km, 90 laps just under 300km. Gary is giving kilometres rather than miles for this international audience (despite us in the UK still on miles).

Start order complete with national flags:
Fast six: Dixon, Helio, Servia, Wilson, Briscoe, Rahal
Next six: RHR, Kanaan, Viso, Patrick, Wheldon, Power
Remainder: Andretti, Vitor, Manning, Mutoh, Foyt, Rice, Moraes, Carpenter, Tags is back!!, Camara, Duno, Junky, Roth, Scheckter
Roth will not start, Gary says “he’s been scratched”.

Good Q runs from N/H/L’s two guys and from KVR for Servia, but Power must have struggled.

Circuit guide – Onboard complete with map!

In the UK, Sky Sports would skip everything noted thus far to show us some people talking in a studio in London. Luckily I found this other recording..
Graphic:
Race distance 188.64 miles / 303.586km
Pit window 27-31 laps
Temp 30C
Gary – This is a holiday weekend in America.
Cars increasing speed, two wide, GREEN
Gary strangely quiet… no screaming and shouting about it…

L1 Duno spins already, local yellow.

YELLOW – we got FCY for this as the cars get halfway around the circuit.
Oh she made contact with Bruno. Did she turn in too soon or did you brake too late? She’s on the racing line so that’s why we’re yellow. Looks to me like six of one and half a dozen of the other, I call ‘racing incident’.

Gary says the racetrack isn’t very wide, 10 metres in places up to 20m in others. Love the use of a measuring system I can visualise. He also says this could be a timed race because of the cautions.
“Tagliani is a relief driver, Bernoldi with a wrist injury”. Caption says he usually races in NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

Lap 3 – Both Conquest cars pit to get off-sequence. I’m not sure if I were a team owner I would commit both cars. Scheckter is in. Gary says of Viso: you either love him or hate him.

Gary: “We anticipate these guys to get off-sequence. I remember the first race I did in Champ Car racing on television in 1981, Mike Mosely qualified dead last at Milwaukee and won the race by passing on the racetrack.”

Scheckter is still in the pits and is about to lose a lap. This team is hoping to go to 2 cars next season.

L4 – GREEN FLAG

Larry – you can see everyone wants to go into turn one pretty much single file, its not a slow enough corner. Tyres not up to temperature yet, sliding around.
This race track is very bumpy. Surface changes from asphalt to concrete to asphalt.

L6 Panther Racing are sending a transporter with supplies to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. Great gesture but they are still assholes for the next day firing Vitor BY EMAIL! You just don’t do that to a guy you’ve hired for what, four years?

L8 “Question mark right now, who is going to be Dixon’s team-mate next year? Wheldon’s contract not signed and guess who is here this weekend – Dario Franchitti. Could he be back in IndyCar” I had to laugh when I heard this given what we know now!

Brienne with Tomas: “Just broke another driveshaft. I’ve broken more driveshafts this year than I ever have.” Struggle to hear him over engines. They will try and get another driveshaft fitted and use the race as a test session as they don’t test much.

L10 – On this feed the captions for the drivers show useful facts and a slightly zoomed in flag of the driver. Oriol Servia has a degree in mechanical engineering. I didn’t know that. It’s such a shame that on forums and such the Americans seem so anti non-American drivers, they should use the flags on the domestic coverage. There are quite a few US flags in there.

L12 – Tone of the coverage is fairly flat and factual. I like the factual but it needs some excitement. So does the race. Wheldon pits, fuel only, we don’t cross to a pit reporter because frankly we don’t need to. I love not being patronised during an IRL race, a breath of fresh air.

L13 – Larry – around lap 20 we’ll see these frontrunners pitting
L14 – Wouldn’t mind a rundown of the field… Pictures are showing the leaders (and Danica). Oh! Power passed Patrick, banzai move and nearly loses it, well held. I think the divebomb is the only way to pass here. Send it up the inside and hope it works. Actually I think the ALMS guys relied on that last year.
L16 – focussing now on Bruno at the back, he hasn’t made any impression in this race since the start despite his experience here and in these types of cars generally.
Now aboard RHR for a little bit, cut to Wheldon who is catching Camara fast. Both stopped but Wheldon dropped back because his was under green. Dixon will be on these guys soon to lap them so Dan needs to get a move on.
Crash! Dan goes for it,t akes out Camara. Local yellow.

YELLOW – FCY – they held it for a few seconds then reverted to full course caution.
Wheldon is restarted.
Replay: Camara just turned in on him, Larry says he didn’t see him, didn’t intentionally take him out but just didn’t see him. Gary wonders how, Larry says no spotters here, nowhere to put ’em. Maybe they have a few dotted around the track.

L19 – Larry expecting everyone except Dixon and Helio to pit because they’ll want to stretch the mileage and go to say lap 30. He’s wrong, Dixon pits, but he’s right about Helio who stays out. Penske covers Dixon by pitting Briscoe. I’m not sure if that was a late call or if that was pre-planned by Penske, maybe it was a case of “do whatever Dixon does”.

Distinct lack of pit reporting on this coverage.
Pre-race interviews with Helio and Scott about the championship but we got back for the restart.

GREEN
Manning outside of Vitor, Patrick going past Milka who is 5 laps down, Vitor follows. Dixon is now 18th, make that 17th as he takes Rice.
Rahal takes a look at Rice but thinks better of it. Tags does the same to Ed at S/F with Dixon on the tail of both. A crash between Tags and Ed could end Dixon’s race, he needs to be careful!
L23 Ooh close..
Tagliani gets Ed in a very good move and is clearly faster, he pulls away. Dixon still bottled up.
L24 – Dixon gets Ed into turn one for 16th, he’s now 19 seconds behind the leaders. After half a lap he catches the train again, where Tags is now working on Bruno. There’s a long line of cars in front of them, can’t see who’s the one holding them up because the colour scheme on that car is so vague. Could be Mutoh. They keep pulling the leaderboard ticker so I can’t tell.

L27 – Up To Speed graphic appears but we don’t cross to the pits for the reports, we just get the map with the leader and current driver icons. Frustrating. I like those quickfire reports, I don’t see them in any other series.
Actually I’d quite like F1 /FOM to do this. Just run through the order with a map, timing, icons, without pit audio. Let the each TV company talk about each driver if they want to.

L31 – Larry – “The current frontrunners will be stopping soon. Looks like somebody is running slow back there..”
Servia pits from 3rd, looking to get out ahead of Dixon who is now 27sec back. Several others stop including Kanaan, we don’t see who the others are and are not told.
Remember Dixon did not change tyres.

L32 – Helio and Wilson pit from 1st and 2nd. Larry says pit speed is 96km/h.
Helio is out but Wilson has a slow stop, loses time but not position and actually gets out ahead of Servia.
Danica Patrick slow on the track, not at racing speed but not far off, enough to hold up others, blocks Rahal and Meira who go three wide – Vitor is punted off! He has a puncture. Danica parks it in the middle of the road, now Viso is in the wall. As this happens enough people have pitted that Dixon is now 5th.
Blatant blocking from Danica, that wasn’t defending (which IMO is okay), that was a block (which isn’t). Looked almost like a brake-test which is absolute no-no. Oh on the replay, something broke on the car, it doesn’t turn right (ha!) so she doesn’t make it around the corner.
Viso replay: runs wide and hits the wall, unassisted. Back end got loose but there’s no runoff so he hits the wall.
L35 – Danica somehow back to the pits, Vitor crawling around to get his tyre fixed. Wow lots of action at once! Okay let’s calm down…
L36 – Tagliani is two laps down. Did we see why? Can’t remember but I don’t think so.
Scheckter heads back out, unmentioned by the commentary. Danica is running again but the pits were closed when she pitted then.

Gary – too bad for Meira, in the last few races he moved from 18th to 11th in the points standings.
Gary – there’s a tunnel to Canada just a mile from here.
There’s a seemingly random fact of the day.

Vince – where are we next going to see Dario Franchitti? “I’m talking to Chip this afternoon and see what he says, we’ll see what happens with the 41 car”. 41 car is in NASCAR where they are obsessed by car numbers. Gary said he hopes Dario returns, he brought a lot to IndyCar. I agree, this year didn’t seem right without him. I’m glad he’s back for the real unification next year when the ChampCar guys are more up to speed on more tracks. Next year will be excellent with the type of competitiveness we’re seeing here at Detroit! Really mixing it together.

Road course points: Helio 190, Briscoe 154, Kanaan 153, Power 146, Servia 143, etc.

L39 – GREEN
Manning takes Mutoh. Moraes then gets Mutoh, Mutoh may have a problem. The problem may be with the car, may be the nut behind the wheel.
L41 – Wilson is pushing Helio, looking racey. Helio has clear air and is trying to pull a gap on Dixon, doesn’t need Justin in his mirrors!
Bruno and Manning touched on the last lap, replay. Manning braked and Bruno ran in a little hotter. IRL charges Darren with blocking and tells him to move behind Bruno! Did Manning brake too early to block Junky? Brian Barnhardt obviously thinks so..

L43 – Larry says Wilson was okay but not as fast as Helio in the 1st segment, now the car is better and he’s fast. Dixon won’t lose as many points as last weekend if he stays there. Gary says he’ll still lose up to 25 points if you count the bonus points so it could still go all the way to Chicago.
Larry suggests Dixon’s tyres may have gone off because he didn’t change them earlier and hasn’t pitted since.

L45 – Timing graphics show Wheldon has unlapped himself after his clash with Camara. I’m not sure how he did that, must have been during the Helio/Justin stops. Larry says Dixon will have to pit in about 3 laps, maybe 4.
We are at half distance.
RHR is closing on Dixon with Power coming along for the ride.

L48 – Helio laps Vitor and has opened a big gap to Wilson now. Oh man Duno is just in the way here. Run at full speed and let them through at the slow corners, don’t drop to 80% pace, it puts you in everybody’s way. You’d think someone lapped as often as this would know how to do it properly by now. Ironically she’d be lapped less often if she did this. This also applies to Marty Roth. BTW, Duno is better than Roth.

L52 – Penske are trying to salvage the burned out tubs of the cars in the fire last week, clean them up for use next year. The cars running here are the ones used in Sonoma last week.
L53 – Dixon is still out there but his tyres are shot. Marco is 11th being chased by Briscoe, who hasn’t been able to follow Dixon through on that same strategy, maybe he changed tyres which put him back more spots?
RHR has dropped a way behind Dixon now, Power looks faster, makes a move and gets bit of wing stuck on his own wing, probably his own wing come loose. Blasts by RHR now. Ryan is slowing, he has a flat. Power’s wing hit H-R’s tyre.
L55 – Dixon pits. Can he go 35 laps on a load of fuel? That’s the remaining distance. Might need a yellow. RHR pits to get that tyre changed. Power still circulating, you’d think they’d flag him to fix that.
Replay: Power got an overlap, Ryan turned in, fairly light contact but enough to derange the wing and cause a puncture.
L57 – Wilson pits. Should be his last stop. Kanaan is also in, Power is now in and takes a new nosecone. Briscoe also in.
Helio and Servia still need to pit.
L58 – Helio is now in. Larry thinks Helio came in quite quickly, maybe too fast?
Servia leads, temporarily. Helio was in and out and is still in 2nd, Gary says when Servia pits he will retake the lead.
L60 – Servia is in now. He emerges just behind Kanaan. Helio leads.
Bruno is in from 6th, will drop back several places to 11th. Emerges ahead of a charging Will Power.
Helio leads, Wilson +12, Kanaan +15 to Helio, Servia +18, Dixon +18, Moraes +30
Dixon is on the tail of Servia. Dixon wants those points for the title, Servia (and KVR) wants another good result on a road/street course because they might not get the chance on the oval next week.

L63 – Caption: Points as of right now: Helio will be 20 points behind Dixon if the race ends now.
Hell of a comeback to go from 75 to 20 points gap in two races.
Dixon takes a look inside Servia, thinks better of it. Both are catching Kanaan who seems stuck behind a slower-than-earlier Wilson.

Larry is saying he’s surprised at the pace of Dixon, he’s fast right now and should be saving fuel, short shifting etc., to make the 36 laps he needs since his last stop to to the end of the race. If he keeps this up he’ll need a splash and go.

Moraes has dropped from sixth (see above positions) to 11th, Rahal is now 6th at 30sec back from Helio.

Gary realises Scheckter is back on.

L65 – YELLOW – Wheldon in the tyre barrier. Moraes stopped in the runoff.
Gary – Did Wheldon do this to help his team-mate?
Larry – Ahhh I don’t think so!!
Gary – Nah I don’t think so.

Moraes is refired.
Replay – Wheldon by himself with a tyre donut on his side.
Moraes runs straight in to the runoff. Larry insists there must be liquid on the racetrack somewhere. These were independent incidents at different places, they didn’t take each other out.

L67 – Tagliani pits but he’s now 12 laps down, no clue as to why. Wheldon took his steering wheel off, can’t put it back on to refire the car, so he jumps out of the car.
This yellow will help Dixon’s mileage.

Replay of Helio winning in the Lola in 2000 and 2001, I keep forgetting how fantastic those cars looked… I watched CART in that era before moving away from it in ’02 when I lost access to Eurosport. ’07 was my first year back to what had become Champ Car and my first year with IndyCar. 2000/01 were great years of racing.

Gary is hoping this doesn’t become a timed event.

L70 – GREEN
Single-file through the first section.
16 cars are on the lead lap.
Wilson is faster in the tight sections, Helio is faster in the quick stuff.

Wilson going for a move while Gary is talking about Dancing With The Stars.
Whoa darting around everywhere. He’s suddenly at speed everywhere, was he saving fuel before??
Race Control has just said Helio has to give up the place for blocking!! FFS that’s stupid. He held his line, didn’t brake early, Justin was trying every move but Helio was solid. Nothing wrong there. That’s crazy.
Helio responds by pulling away!
Now he runs wide on the straight and lets Wilson through, but doesn’t lose too much, just breathes out of the throttle.
L73 – Larry agrees with the call, he says it was a blatant block. I disagree. This is not how I wanted to see Wilson win, I bet he’ll say the same when he gets out of the car. (note – I haven’t read his post-race quotes)
What happened anyway, I thought they gave several warnings before they actually moved someone?

The yellow closed up the field which put 6th-placed Rahal right behind Dixon, he’s close behind Dixon now. Bruno doing well, started 24th now 8th. We’ve got a slippery surface flag shown in the first sequence of corners.

L79 – Shots of Carl Haas replete with unlit cigar, as ever. Gary asks if he has actually ever smoked one of those cigars or just chewed them! A mention of Paul Newman.
L80 – we are switching to a timed race, they say we’ll be 2 or 3 laps short of the scheduled distance even though they are at full tilt now.
As L81 ticks over, the clock appears at 8m 15s to go.
Helio isn’t making an impression on Wilson. Ticker shows Rice is out, didn’t see why.
L83 5:50 The leaders are now 15 seconds up on 4th placed Servia, who is holding up Dixon, Rahal on his arse and another three cars close behind him. Ticker now lists Andretti as ‘Out’ – yet we get no mention of it.

L85 2:50 oh Rahal has to pit, splash and go they surmise. That’s a shame I was hoping for a good finish from him. We get a look at Marco now who is out of his car sitting on the pitwall. No clue as to the reason for his retirement.

Gary drops a ‘winningest’ which isn’t a word. During the BBC Olympic coverage they showed a clip from NBC where they used it, they couldn’t believe it! Took the piss out of them a bit there, asked if they could invent a word.

L87 White flag.

L88 – JUSTIN WILSON WINS!
Great job from Justin and the ecstatic Newman Haas team.
Results graphic broke so I’ll grab the other finishers shortly Helio is pissed, he’s still at race speed to get back to the pits.
Carl Haas: “It sure gives us a good feeling, wonderful, very very happy. We’ll try and speak to him [Paul Newman] and I’m sure he’s very happy.” Good thinking from Brienne to ask about him.

Wilson stalls on his in-lap trying to do a donut!
Helio is out of the car, shakes hands with his guys. Arute trying to get him.
Helio – “Let me tell, I’m happy, I do not have anything smart to say right now.” Walks off. Good thinking Helio, don’t say anything stupid get yourself fined!
Replay: He made one move on Wilson before retaking his line. I thought one move was allowed, that’s the F1 rule. Any more than one move and you get a penalty.

Wilson is refired and making his way home.

Results:
Wilson, Helio, TK, Servia, Dixon, RHR, Bruno, Power, Briscoe, Foyt 4, Mutoh, Manning, Rahal, Carpenter, Moraes (-1 lap), Patrick (-1), Meira (-4), Andretti (out), Rice (out), Wheldon (-22), Scheckter (-31), Tagliani (out), Duno (out), Viso (out), Camara (out)

Those crazy strategies finally worked out for Bruno, good result. Not sure why Dan wasn’t listed as ‘out’.

Wilson has arrived in pitlane.

Points:
Dixon 606
Helio -30
Kanaan -125 (+1 place)
Wheldon -142 (-1 place)
Briscoe -192
Patrick -247
Servia gains two spots, Andetti drops one, RHR up, Mutoh down.

Jack Arute with Tim Cindric, Penske: “Usually we get a warning, the officials today chose not to do that. Helio will do best to put +ve spin on it. Good to see Paul Newman and that group win a race. Don’t know what else we could’ve done. We’ve been racing in the series since 2002 and we’re not sure that’s occured.”

Vince with Wilson, take us to the blocking: “I had a great run, got the power down, he obviously didn’t, I started to overlap, I was looking to get by before the brake zone, he kept coming over and over until I thought we’d crash. We would have been ahead anyway. Great to finally get a win. This is the most important win of my career, this has been a long and difficult year, this one means a lot, and this one’s for you Paul.”
Classy.
Paul Newman, who is ill at the moment, has been calling him and wishing him well during the year.

Dixon: “You get guys 2 seconds off the pace on alternate strategies and you can’t pass them.” Thanks Newman-Haas for winning the race.

More replays of the Helio/Justin thing. The more I look the more I see a deliberate move by Helio to push Wilson off. It isn’t what I would call “blocking”. I would call it “trying to ram the guy into the wall”, so perhaps the penalty is deserved after all.. I’ll think more on this one.

I enjoyed the coverage of this race and I liked the competitiveness of the ex-CCWS teams here. I think this race will be more representative of what will happen in 2009 as a whole – including the ovals – than next week’s Chicagoland race will be – and that’s a good thing. Newman-Haas vs Penske vs Ganassi. Indy racing as it should be.

Okay I’m done here, catch you on Sunday for the F1 Belgian Grand Prix which is a race you WILL NOT miss if you are any kind of race fan. Best track in the world.
My next IndyCar notes will appear on Tuesday (or Monday if time permits) for the Chicagoland finale and you CAN’T miss that race.
Like I said before, for every Sonoma/Valencia double-header you get a great one and Spa/Chicagoland is exactly that.

I’m off to read everybody else’s Detroit notes – cheers.

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1 thought on “Race Notes: 2008 Detroit GP at Belle Isle”

  1. It is probably bad blog etiquette to directly comment on your own post but I will anyway.I realised tonight where I’d seen a difference in coverage such as this before. It was in Champ Car. I watched some ’07 races on Race Director and that had US coverage. Other races I watched had Jeremy Shaw and James Hinchcliffe on board for the int’l feed (which Race Director also used during TV ad breaks).There was a very similar pattern there, the int’l feel was more factual and the domestic more hyped.. Although in this case the domestic feed had the major plus point of Jon Beekhuis and the other guy who’s name I forget was also pretty good.Ideally I’d pair Jeremy Shaw with Jon Beekhuis.

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