The Raceway, Belle Isle Park

Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear
3 – 5 June 2022

It has always been on our wish-list to have a support race to INDYCAR and IMSA!

It proved to be a good decision for MEL to join in the last race at Raceway at Belle Isle Park, giving drivers and teams a chance to soak up the atmosphere and awesome racing!

RACE REPORTS

Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 1
Craig Bennett converts pole to win in first Masters Endurance Legends USA race in Detroit.

In front of the IndyCar crowd for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, Craig Bennett converted pole position into victory in the first Masters Endurance Legends USA race on the Belle Isle circuit. In his Lola B12/80, Bennett stayed clear of George Krass who from fourth on the grid came through to pass the Brandon Kidd/Kurt Schultz Chevrolet DP and Kirt Bennett’s similar Chevrolet C5.R.

Kirt Bennett ran second in the opening stages but was unable to keep Krass behind, who then proceeded to open up a one-minute gap to the other Corvette. Loren Beggs rose to fourth in his Porsche 996 RSR, with Travis Engen coming through to take fifth in his Audi R8.

During the stops, the Kidd/Schultz Chevrolet DP remained stuck in the pits for much longer than planned, the delay dropping it down to sixth ahead of Frank Moceri and Sebastian Coppola in the two Ferrari Challenge cars. Both Ligier JSP3-15s failed to make it to the finish, Brad Hoyt and Bud Bennett dropping out in the second half of the race, as did Douglas Baron’s Porsche 991 GT3-R.

On a lovely Saturday morning under a clear blue sky, the Masters Endurance Legends USA field got going for their first race on IndyCar’s Detroit weekend. As Craig Bennett led away, the two Corvettes followed him through, as did Loren Beggs in the 996 RSR to leave Brandon Kidd in the Daytona Prototype in fifth. The first casualty of the race – before it even started – was David Nikolas in the pretty Fabcar GTP, still struck by the oil leak that cut his qualifying short. A similar fate befell Jon DeGaynor’s Riley & Scott Trans-Am Mustang and David Roberts’ Audi R8 LMS GT3.

Three laps gone, and Craig Bennett had his ex-Status Lola B12/80 into a lead of over four seconds over Kirt Bennett in the first of the C5.Rs. Krass in the second Corvette was two seconds behind, with another two ticks separating him from Beggs. Meanwhile, Travis Engen had got up to sixth, moving his Audi R8 past the Porsche 911 GT3-R of Douglas Baron, but trailing Kidd’s Chevrolet DP by 18 seconds already. Bud Bennett in the Ligier JSP3-15 was eighth, followed by Brad Hoyt in a similar French LMP3 car. Behind them were the two Challenge cars of Sebastian Coppola (458 Challenge) and Frank Moceri (488 Evo Challenge).

At the front, on lap 6, ten minuts into the race, Bennett (C.) had increased his lead to six over Bennett (K.), but Krass was closing in on his fellow Corvette driver, now less than a second adrift. Behind them, Kidd made his way past Beggs into fourth overall, as Engen set about to slowly close the gap to the top five.

As the pit window approached, Krass had pipped Kirt Bennett for second place and was now in fact lapping quicker than the leader. With a fastest lap of the race of 1.38.0, Krass cut the Lola’s lead to just three seconds, while Kidd in fourth was also closing on the Corvette in third. In fact, Krass was now flying, as he beat his own fastest lap by another eight tenths to cut Craig Bennett’s lead to under a second, now nine laps into the race. On lap 10, however, Bennett responded with a fastest laps of the race himself to increase the lead back up to two seconds. Behind the leading pair, Kidd had swamped Kirt Bennett’s C5.R to take third in the Chevrolet DP.

As the first pitstops got going, the field was about to be shaken up for a few laps before order would be restored. Bud Bennett, Brad Hoyt and Sebastian Coppola were the first to stop, soon followed by the two leaders, as Kidd stayed out to inherit the lead while setting his personal best lap of the race. The rest were now in as well, before on lap 14, Kidd was the last one to take his pitstop and hand over to Kurt Schultz.

This elevated Craig Bennett back into the lead, but the Lola was chased hard by Krass, who in turn had dropped the second Corvette of Kirt Bennett by half a minute. Beggs trailed by another 14 seconds who in turn led Engen by 53 seconds, their placings seemingly set in stone, as Schultz had dropped back to sixth after a long stop but was still ahead of Baron’s 991 GT3-R in seventh.

Meanwhile, the leading Lola had increased its advantage back out to nearly five seconds over Krass, whose lead over Kirt Bennett was now 46 seconds. Beggs was fourth with a 42-second lead over Engen’s Audi, with Schultz in sixth, Moceri seventh and Coppola eighth, the latter two inheriting places from Brad Hoyt’s Ligier that ground to a halt on track, Baron’s Porsche which ran out of power steering and brakes, and Bud Bennett’s Ligier that brushed the wall.

As we headed towards the chequered flag, Craig Bennett was safe for his win in the Lola B12/80, followed home by Krass, Kirt Bennett, Beggs, Engen and Schultz. Krass had kept the gap to Bennett at an impressive six seconds while he himself finished over a minute ahead of the other Corvette.

Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 2
Craig Bennett copied his performance in the first Masters Endurance Legends USA race on Detroit’s In command from the start, Bennett pulled out a dominant lead over George Krass in the Corvette C5.R before deciding to coast towards the chequered flag.

In front of an expectant IndyCar crowd, Krass took his second runner-up spot and GT class victory in two days, while Bennett and Krass were joined on the podium by Brandon Kidd whose Chevrolet Dallara DP moved up from sixth to third. In the second Corvette C5.R, Kirt Bennett was fighting Kidd over third place when he was forced to retire with a broken gear linkage. This elevated Travis Engen’s Audi R8 into fourth, Engen having battled with Loren Beggs in the Porsche 996 RSR all the way.

Douglas Baron took sixth in his Porsche 991 GT3-R, ahead of Frank Moceri’s Ferrari 488 Eco Challenge, Bud Bennett in the first of the Ligier JSP3-15s, and Sebastian Coppola in the Ferrari 458 Challenge. Brad Hoyt’s Ligier was another late retirement from the race.

On the Sunday morning preceding the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear, the field was sent on its way in the order in finished in race 1, so Craig Bennett (Lola B12/80) from the Corvettes of George Krass and Kirt Bennett, with Loren Beggs in the Porsche 996 RSR in fourth from Travis Engen’s Audi R8 and Brandon Kidd driving solo in the Chevrolet DP. Frank Moceri and Sebastian Coppola in the two Ferrari Challenge cars occupied row 4, ahead of Douglas Baron’s 991 GT3-R and Brad Hoyt and Bud Bennett in the two Ligier JSP3-15s. Sadly, David Nikolas’ Fabcar GTP was again a non-starter, as were the Trans-Am Mustang of Jon DeGaynor and the Audi R8 LMS GT3 of David Roberts.

In the first four laps, the order among the top three remained unchanged, but Kidd was the man on the move, passing Engen and Beggs to be fourth, while Baron moved ahead of Coppola and Moceri to take seventh. In the intra-Ligier battle, Bud Bennett had passed Hoyt and was ninth – with Moceri still ahead of them, but now leading Coppola.

At the front, the Lola’s advantage had increased to 14 seconds, with the two Corvettes split by two seconds. Kidd in the Chevrolet DP was eight seconds further down the road, by now 14 seconds ahead of Engen, who had managed to vault Beggs for fifth. As Craig Bennett improved his fastest lap of the race on lap 7, the gap to Krass was now up to 19 seconds while Krass himself continued to put additional distance between himself and Kirt Bennett.

As the pit window approached, the ex-Status GP B12/80 had hurried its way to a 26-second lead of Krass, who now had nine seconds in hand over Kurt Bennett. The latter now had to worry about Brandon Kidd who had closed the gap down to four seconds. Further back, Frank Moceri in the 488 Evo Challenge had nipped ahead of Baron in the 991 GT3-R to reclaim seventh.

On lap 12, the leader was the first one in, followed by Kirt Bennett, Beggs, Engen, Moceri, Hoyt and Coppola. For the moment, this elevated Krass and Kidd into first and second, while Bud Bennett came in on lap 13. Saving it for the last possible opportunity, the Corvette C5.R and the Chevrolet DP pitted at the end of lap 14.

When the field had settled back into its rhythm again, less than eight minutes still remained on the clock. Craig Bennett resumed his position at the top, now well clear of Krass, who followed 41 seconds behind. Kidd, meanwhile, had pipped Kirt Bennett for third after the latter was forced to retire the second Corvette with a broken gearbox linkage. Almost simultaneously, Hoyt was into the pits as well, dropping out of tenth place in the Ligier.

As the clock ticked down, Bennett reeled off the remaining laps at a conservative pace to win by a margin of 21 seconds, initially helped by Krass having to recover from a late spin. After his runner-up spot in the first race, Krass again took second as well as an emphatic GT class win, with Kidd moving into the final overall podium position this time. The Chevrolet DP ran the Corvette C5.R very close, the two separated by just two seconds at the chequered flag. Engen was fourth ahead of Beggs, after the two seemed inseparable the entire race, with Baron, Moceri, Bud Bennett and Coppola up next.