Detroit, MI - "Time Certain Scheduling" was quietly introduced by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) at the season opener at Homestead. A "Time Certain Schedule" means that if an activity, such as CART Practice, is scheduled to begin at 10:00...
Detroit, MI - "Time Certain Scheduling" was quietly introduced by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) at the season opener at Homestead. A "Time Certain Schedule" means that if an activity, such as CART Practice, is scheduled to begin at 10:00 am and end at 10:45 am; it does begin at 10:00 am and ends at 10:45 am. This is a fan, worker and team friendly program.
At Homestead, "time certain" scheduling worked very well, there were only two series racing, CART and Indy Lights. Both are owned by CART. A course with several sanctioning groups involved would be the real test. "Long Beach was the first street course where "time certain" was in effect - the first true test of the system. It was a success.
But for many the acid test would be at the Detroit Grand Prix, where in addition to the Indy Lights and the Champ cars, there were also Barber Dodge and Trans Am cars. There were also two Dodge Neon charity races.
Traditionally The Detroit Grand Prix is regarded as one of the toughest weekends on the circuit for the workers and crews. This year, on track sessions began at 8:00 am and ended after 7 pm. Only die-hard fans stayed until the end of each day's activities. In past years, the race on Belle Isle provided the longest days for teams and workers who have to be at the track long before the first on track activity begins. There were comments about "the 24 hours of Detroit" and pins handed out that said, "I survived the Detroit Grand Prix".
Enter "time certain scheduling", and this weekend became a very pleasant experience for all involved. CART is committed to the scheduling, the question was whether or not the other series would work with CART to keep everything running smoothly. They did!
Friday, everything went by the schedule, beginning with Barber Dodge practice at 8:00 am and ending with Trans-Am qualifying which was over at 6:00 pm. The weather was the only downside to the day, it was cold with rain, and some hail.
The fans were happy, the drivers were at the autograph sessions when they were supposed to be and were able to stay for the entire time. The crews knew how long they had to prepare the cars for the next practice, or qualifying. They knew when they had to be ready to grid their cars, and so on.
The happiest group of people was the course workers, the "Flagging and Communication" volunteers who in the past often worked from before 7 a.m. until after 8 or 9 p.m.. This year they worked from 7 a. m. until 6 p.m., with the exception of the late running Trans Am race. Even then they were able to leave the track within 30 minutes after the end of the race.
The qualifying sessions for CART on road/street courses must have at least 20 minutes of green per split. This is the only thing that put the schedule behind on Saturday. Even with that and a late starting Trans-Am race, the day ended before 7:00 pm.
Race Day began with Indy Lights Warm up at 8:00 am and ended with Alex Zanardi winning the Champ car race. The fans and workers were headed home by 6:00 pm.
In past years the line was, "I survived the Detroit Grand Prix!" This year the line was "The Detroit Grand Prix - a great weekend.
Jack Durbin - Motorsport News International