DETROIT – Every head-on photo of race cars navigating the start/finish straight at Detroit’s 2.3-mile Belle Isle Park street circuit shows the Renaissance Center towering over the Detroit River off in the distance.
The “Ren Cen,” as it is known locally, is world headquarters for General Motors and will serve as a constant reminder of the company’s Motor City presence for all six Cadillac DPi-V.R teams competing in Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic. Make no mistake, this is a home game for each of those teams.
“We’re proud to be the title sponsor of the Detroit Grand Prix, and feature our cars, powertrains and performance technologies,” said Jim Campbell, the U.S. vice president of performance and motorsports for General Motors, which sponsors the overall Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear weekend as well as the individual Chevrolet Sports Car Classic IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race. “Additionally, this event delivers around $50 million annually in economic impact to the Detroit area.
“This is a great race weekend for everybody. There’s something for the entire family. If you are a big race fan, there are five races to see. If you are new to racing, this is a great weekend to bring family and friends to Belle Isle to experience the event together.”
When it comes to IMSA racing on Belle Isle over the years, the experience for GM has been nothing short of outstanding. Since the first IMSA-sanctioned American Le Mans Series race back in 2007, General Motors race cars have won every single year.
Cadillac DPi-V.R race cars have won each of the past two years here, with Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran taking the checkered flag in 2018 in their No. 31 Whelen Engineering machine. In 2017, brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor claimed their fifth consecutive win of the season – and final win as co-drivers – in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac for their father’s Wayne Taylor Racing team.
Prior to that, the Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype was the dominant car on Belle Isle, with wins each year from 2012 through 2016 from either the Wayne Taylor or Action Express teams. The Detroit victories the past two years buoyed the No. 31 and No. 10 teams to the WeatherTech Championship Prototype season championship at year’s end.
“The IMSA race on Belle Isle is always intense and exciting,” Campbell said. “It has been exciting to watch Wayne Taylor and his sons race here. We started racing with Wayne many years ago. His record at Belle Isle is great. His son Jordan has five wins here. It’s a great family story.”
As Campbell mentioned, there’s no IMSA driver with more wins at Detroit that Jordan Taylor, and they’ve all come in GM machinery. His first, back in 2012 was aboard a Camaro GT.R in the GT class, followed by consecutive victories in Corvette DPs in 2013 and 2014. He won again in a Corvette DP in 2016 before the Cadillac win in 2017.
“I always look forward to going to back to Detroit,” said Jordan. “I think no matter the event, if you’ve had success there in the past, it feels good to be back there. Our team has a great history there and also at Long Beach, which is also a 100-minute, street-course race.
“It’s the type of event that caters to our team. You have to come in with good preparation, as there is not much practice time, and then you have to execute on all levels to have a good result. Since it is such a compact weekend, any little mistake or weakness shows up.”
The only driver who’s won more races than Taylor on Belle Isle is a former GM racing star, Johnny O’Connell, who has six victories. The first two came in ALMS races in 2007 and 2008 for Corvette Racing with co-driver Jan Magnussen, with the other four wins coming in World Challenge races for Cadillac.
“It was always fun racing in the shadows of the Ren Cen, and especially enjoyable when all the top GM motorsports people would come,” O’Connell recalled. “You can see around the track with all of the Chevrolet and Cadillac signage, pace cars, displays, etc. that this event is a very big deal for GM.
“Mark Reuss [President, General Motors Company] has a passion for competition and racing and seeing him there every year was always a big inspiration. He is always on the grid before the race with a hearty handshake and well wishes for a good run. It was also special to celebrate with him, seven times, in victory lane. You want to perform for a guy like that.”
That’s what all six Cadillac DPi teams will be looking to do again this weekend.