Grand Prix of Cleveland
|Location||Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
|Most wins (driver)||Danny Sullivan (3)
Emerson Fittipaldi (3)
Paul Tracy (3)
|Most wins (team)||Penske Racing (6)|
|Most wins (manufacturer)||Lola (8)
|Length||2.106 mi (3.389 km)|
The Grand Prix of Cleveland was an open wheel automobile racing event in the Champ Car World Series, held annually at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America. The 2006 race, held on June 25, marked the 25th anniversary of the event. With the absorption of the Champ Car series into the rival Indy Racing League, the 2008 race was cancelled and no race was scheduled for 2009 due to contractual obligations. Discussions were held to resume racing in 2010 but attempts to revive the race in future years did not come to fruition. The last race was held in 2007.
Normally a fully functioning airport year-round, Burke Lakefront Airport was shut down for the week leading up to the event each year, requiring careful maintenance of the runways in order to keep them safe for cars at high speeds. Even so, drivers regularly note the race was one of the toughest to drive in the Champ Car series as the track, designed for aircraft and not lightweight race cars, makes for a bumpy ride where grip is paramount. The first turn was often the trickiest and most accident prone parts of the race. Many drivers have been eliminated from the race due to this turn.
According to the Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Grand Prix of Cleveland grossed $30–50 million to the Northeast Ohio economy. 100,000-150,000 tickets were normally purchased, and 1,000 media passes distributed, for three days of festivities. The race could be seen in Canada, Europe, and other locations. There were rock concerts, contests, and a kickoff parade for the race. The parade was postponed in 2000 due to a Cleveland Patrol Officer who was killed in the line of duty and did not continue in future years.
No other active airport in the United States hosted such an event at the time, which made the Grand Prix of Cleveland unique in all forms of American motorsport.
History as a CART/ChampCar race
Originally known as the Budweiser Cleveland 500, it was first held on July 4, 1982 as part of the CART series. Kevin Cogan started from pole position, however to the delight of the Cleveland crowd, local rookie driver Bobby Rahal (from nearby Medina) won the race.
From 1982-1989, the race was held on a 2.48-mile layout. In 1990, the track configuration was abruptly changed. After practice and qualifying, several cars were experiencing problems in a bumpy section after turns one and two. Prior to the start of the race, the track was slightly reconfigured, eliminating the left-right combination of turns one and two. The main straight was extended towards the location of what was turn three, which then became turn one. The new layout measured 2.369 miles, and the segment eliminated became instead an extended exit to the pit road. The new layout was then adopted permanently. The current layout is known for its turn 1 "vortex" at the start of races - after the green flag dropped, drivers would fan out on the wide concrete to gain position and then arrive at the corner sometimes five or six cars abreast, and all at once be "sucked" into the apex of the corner, frequently resulting in multi-car crashes at or just past the corner and leading to cars retiring before completing a single lap of the race.
The event's name has changed several times over the years to reflect naming rights sponsors of the race, however from 1984 the event has been principally known as the Cleveland Grand Prix. The name was switched around in 1992 to Grand Prix of Cleveland and has remained the same since.
Budweiser retained naming rights through 1994. Cleveland-based pharmacy chain Medic Drug owned the rights from 1995 to 1999, Marconi (now Telent plc) from 2000 to 2002, and US Bank owned them from 2003 to 2007. The full name of the 2006 event was Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank.
In 2007, it was announced the race would continue at Cleveland through to 2012. However, the race did not return in 2008 with the merger between the Champ Car World Series and the IndyCar Series. Race promoters need a title sponsor to bring the race back for 2012.
2006: 25th anniversary
The 25th running of the Grand Prix of Cleveland was held in June 2006. As well as the Champ Car race, scheduled support events included Champ Car Atlantic, Formula Ford 2000 and Touring Challenge for Corvettes. It was commemorated by a painting of memorable grand prix events, with the background being every winning car entering the first turn.
Indy Racing League Controversy
The race nearly went to the IRL in 2000, but the plan was scuttled.
On June 29, 1999, it was announced that the race would switch alliances and become an event on the Indy Racing League schedule for 2000. The original course layout would be transformed into an oval configuation approximately 1.2 miles in length. A three-year initial contract was signed. The decision was not well received by fans. Weeks later, however, it was determined that construction necessary for the oval configuration would require FAA approval, and the city deemed the improvements excessive and not enhancing to the airport. On September 9, 1999, Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White announced he was withdrawing his support of the event. In 2000, the race returned as a Champ Car event on the original course.
Past race winners
- Champ Car > News Thursday, November 8, 2007
- Is time running out on reviving Cleveland's tradition of open-wheel racing? - Cleveland.com, July 11, 2010
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