Excellent IMSA WeatherTech Race on Streets of Detroit Gets a 'C' for Crazy

10 wayne taylor racing with andretti, acura arx 06, gtp ricky taylor, filipe albuquerque, podium, celebration, wayne taylor, michael andretti
IMSA Race Checked a Lot of Boxes in the Motor CityIMSA Photo

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How did the tight, bumpy Detroit Grand Prix street circuit work in the first appearance of the GTP and GTD Pro cars of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship?

The race gets a “C” for “crazy”—a comment heard from several drivers—and for contact. It also gets an “E” for excitement and an excellent finish.

Ricky Taylor’s winning pass in his Acura ARX-06 in Turn 3 was a late-braking masterpiece that took the lead from Mathieu Jaminet and his No. 6 Porsche Penske Porsche 963 with 26 minutes remaining. It was one of many risky passes for position on a track where crashing was as much as an option as passing.


After almost two decades on the Belle Isle circuit, last year the downtown street circuit around the GM Renaissance Center first designed for F1 was modified and re-adopted for IndyCar. IMSA raced its Michelin Pilot Challenge series in Detroit last year before the long wheel-based GTP machines arrived this year, paired with the GTP Pro cars.


It turned out to be a break for Taylor and Acura in Motor City. The No. 10 entry from Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti scored its first victory in 13 starts, dating back to Road America in 2022. On the cool-down lap, the victory brought tears to the eyes of Taylor, who shared the car again with longtime co-driver Felipe Albuquerque. It was if the team might not ever find Victory Lane again.

“This is Filipe and I’s fourth year together,” said Taylor, “and we’ve had a lot of success together. The No. 10 Konica Minolta car was on a roll for our first three years together, but we’ve had a really rough last year and a half. We were really struggling and hadn’t had a win in a long time, and it seemed nothing could go our way.

“The Porsche was really strong on short runs after restarts,” continued Taylor. “The longer it went (under green), we could claw our way back. The Acura guys and the WTRAndretti whole team have made a really strong car in the braking zones, and that was where we were able to get it done.”

Jaminet, who was briefly balked by a GT car prior to being relegated to second place, was understandably deflated. “During the safety car phases I found it really difficult keeping the front tires up to temperature,” he said. “That’s why the Acura could get past us. The competition is doing better, particularly when it comes to braking for tight turns. We can live with second place. But to be honest, I must admit that I didn’t perform at my best today. I’ll do better next time.”

The circuit, which gets a “D” grade for denture-jarring due to the bumps, gets an “A” for action. It made for an interesting mix of the two classes with just enough traffic to create passing opportunities. But there were also race-altering incidents aplenty. Leader Nick Tandy’s No. 6 Porsche was penalized with a drive-through after punting the Ferrari 296 GT3 of Conquest Racing. “I was having trouble with the radio,” explained Tandy, who was clearly frustrated by his error. But Jaminet soon returned the car to the lead.

77 ao racing, porsche 911 gt3 r 992, gtd pro laurin heinrich, seb priaulx
The GTD Pro winning No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) was driven by Laurin Heinrich, Seb Priaulx.IMSA Photo

Teammate and fellow front row starter Felipe Nasr was not so lucky in the No. 7 Porsche. He suffered a tire cut by contact with a competitor and recorded the most passes for position of the day after an unscheduled pit stop, but was relegated to fourth at the finish behind the third -placed Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

While Nasr described the circuit as “a huge challenge,” at least one driver found it to be unacceptable for the WeatherTech Championship’s top class.

“The track is not suitable for racing with prototypes in the top GTP class,” said Richard Westbrook, whose JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche was involved in an incident with Jack Aitken’s Action Express Cadillac V-Series.R at Turn 1 that blocked the track. “It was like being in a bumper car. The damage to the vehicles worsened lap by lap. It was unacceptable—simply unacceptable. I found it frustrating. I have such fond memories of the times we competed on the beautiful Belle Isle in Detroit.”

Safety car periods, which occurred five times during the 100-minute sprint, were no refuge.

10 wayne taylor racing with andretti, acura arx 06, gtp ricky taylor, filipe albuquerque
The Motor City rolled out the red carpet, albeit a bumpy one in places, for IMSA.IMSA Photo

The Ford Multimatic Motorsport team tried to steal a march in the shadow of GM’s corporate headquarters with a pit stop after just 10 minutes for the Mustang GT3 of Dirk Mueller. But a long shot at the podium ended with contact during the wave-around to re-set the field. “A competitor slipped—I think he was warming up the tires,” said Mueller. “I tried to accelerate around it, but unfortunately, he made contact with my left-rear corner. That destroyed our race.”

The GTD Pro race turned on an incident at the same Turn 3 corner where Taylor made his winning move. The leading No. 4 Corvette Z06 GT3.R of Nicky Catsburg was the class of the field until it was slammed by the Lexus RC F GT3 of Ben Barnicoat, whose car had developed a head of steam on the long Jefferson St. back straight.

It appeared that Catsburg made a late effort to block the pass by moving into the braking zone. “The (No.) 4 came across,” said Jack Hawksworth, Barnicoat’s teammate at Vasser Sullivan. “You can’t move in the braking zone.”

On a day when the Corvettes of Pratt Miller Motorsports occupied the front row of the GT grid, Catsburg was apologetic afterward.

“I would say that we didn’t get the result we deserved,” he said. “But we also have to look at ourselves and be better. In my case, I guess I should have known that the 14 was going to send it the way he did and should have anticipated it.”

In the absence at the front of the pole-winning No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia, which fell back early with an alternator problem, the incident collected the eventual winning “Rexy” Porsche driver Laurin Heinrich. That will enable AO Racing to add another gold tooth to its T-Rex smile at the front end. The young German was able to hang on to give his teammate Seb Priaulx and team a second straight win despite the altered front end on his 911 GT3 R. “It sustained a bit of damage to the front and I had to change my driving style because the car kept wanting to slide straight ahead,” he said. “It worked.”

Meanwhile, said Westbrook, “I’m looking forward to Watkens Glen. Now that’s a great circuit.”