No, I didn’t race my bike in the Grand Prix, and I didn’t see any other bicyclists out on the Belle Isle racetrack this past Sunday. In fact, bikes weren’t allowed inside the race venue at all. Imagine that? So I did the next best thing and checked out the Grand Prix from the outside looking in. I did so on my bike, a perfect means of transportation for an event of this size; an event that was spread over many acres on the west end of the island.
I was there for the early practice sessions on Sunday morning, a few hours before the actual race. Not many fans had arrived yet, but they were slowly working their way to the island via shuttle buses or by walking across the Belle Isle Bridge. Once on the island, race fans were being funneled through security checkpoints at the entrances before heading to their grandstand seats.
Since I didn’t have a ticket, I rode along the eastern boundary of the fenced off area to see if I could find an open view of the track. The miles of cement barriers and chain linked fencing lining the track were covered with advertising banners, making it almost impossible to get a look at the race cars humming by. Fortunately, there were a few cutouts in the banners that were being used by professional photographers, and race personnel. It was at these openings where I was able to get a glimpse of the cars.
As I pedaled along the perimeter of the course, I spotted cameramen perched high on lifts. They were filming the speedy Indy cars as they sped around the winding track at speeds well over one hundred miles-per-hour. The live video was being shown on giant TV screens that were strategically placed along the track.
Cutting across a grassy area of the island park, I came across an auto corral. In that roped off area were a number of sports and classic cars. They were all perfectly lined up, like dominos on a table top. In that section of the park I saw spotless Ferrari’s, a variety of Porsches, Ford Mustangs, vintage Corvettes, Cadillacs, and sporty Camaros. Unfortunately, there were no vintage bicycles, just one outfitted with a battery operated motor, silently rolling by.
As I rode my bike across the Belle Island Bridge to the Detroit mainland later that morning, I couldn’t help but think of the brutal contrast between the city’s huge deficit and the millions of dollars spent by private companies to put the auto race together.