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Track map of the Grand Prix of Cleveland

The Grand Prix of Cleveland was an open wheel automobile racing event in the Champ Car World Series, held annually at Burke Lakefront Airportmarker in Cleveland, Ohiomarker, 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 attempts to revive the race for 2009 did not come to fruition. The Indy Racing League is considering a return to Cleveland in 2010 according to Terry Angstadt, the league's president of the commercial division.

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. When you look at track configuration from a helicopter or in the air, the track is in the shape of an IndyCar. The first turn was often the trickiest and most accident prone parts of the race. Many drivers have known this fact and still been eliminated from the race due to this turn.

According to the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Grand Prix of Cleveland grossed $30-50 million dollars to the Northeast Ohio economy. Some 100,000-150,000 tickets were normally purchased for three days of festivities. There are some 1,000 media passes distributed for the race. The race could be seen in Canada, Europe, and other locations. There were rock concerts, contests and from 1982-1999, there was 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 Statesmarker 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 driver Bobby Rahal (from nearby Medinamarker) 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 - as the race began and the drivers tried to gain position they would arrive at the corner and all at once be "sucked" into the best racing line as all of the drivers attempt to dive down into the corner, frequently resulting in crashes at or just past the corner at the very beginning 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 has owned them since 2003. The full name of the 2006 event is 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 will not take place in 2008 with the merger between the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League. The race has also been left off the schedule for 2009, but with negotiations still ongoing with the hope of the race returning in 2010.

In 1990, a round of IROC XIV was held as a support race, won by Martin Brundle. Formula Lightning also participated as a support race in the mid-1990s.

Indy Racing League Controversy

The race nearly went to the IRL 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 improvements the city deemed 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.

Miss Cleveland Grand Prix

2005 marked the first year for The Face of Champ Car competition in which Sarah Marie Blanton of Ashtabula, Ohiomarker was chosen as the inaugural Miss Grand Prix of Cleveland. Sarah traveled to Mexico Citymarker to compete against five other finalists from around the globe for the title of The Face of Champ Car 2006. She did not win; the title going to Brandi Latimer of Toronto, Canada. Sarah handed over her crown on June 25, 2006, to Skylar Starks and went on to accept a job with the Grand Prix of Houston and Cleveland within their Marketing Department in 2006 after she graduated from Cleveland State University.

Skylar Starks of Beachwood, Ohio was Miss Cleveland Grand Prix 2006. During the 2007 Grand Prix of Cleveland, Skylar passed her crown over to North Royalton native Melanie Soster. Melanie subsequently traveled to Mexico City in November to compete for the title of the 2008 Face of Champ Car.

Past race winners

Season Race Winner Winning Chassis Winning Engine Winning Team Pole Winner Report
1982 Bobby Rahal March Cosworth TrueSports Kevin Cogan Report
1983 Al Unser Penske Cosworth Penske Racing Mario Andretti Report
1984 Danny Sullivan Lola Cosworth Doug Shierson Racing Mario Andretti Report
1985 Al Unser, Jr. Lola Cosworth Doug Shierson Racing Bobby Rahal Report
1986 Danny Sullivan March Cosworth Penske Racing Danny Sullivan Report
1987 Emerson Fittipaldi March Chevrolet-Ilmor Patrick Racing Roberto Guerrero Report
1988 Mario Andretti Lola Chevrolet-Ilmor Newman/Haas Racing Danny Sullivan Report
1989 Emerson Fittipaldi Penske Chevrolet-Ilmor Patrick Racing Michael Andretti Report
1990 Danny Sullivan Penske Chevrolet-Ilmor Penske Racing Rick Mears Report
1991 Michael Andretti Lola Chevrolet-Ilmor Newman/Haas Racing Emerson Fittipaldi Report
1992 Emerson Fittipaldi Penske Chevrolet-Ilmor Penske Racing Emerson Fittipaldi Report
1993 Paul Tracy Penske Chevrolet-Ilmor Penske Racing Paul Tracy Report
1994 Al Unser, Jr. Penske Ilmor Penske Racing Al Unser, Jr. Report
1995 Jacques Villeneuve Reynard Ford-Cosworth Team Green Gil de Ferran Report
1996 Gil de Ferran Reynard Honda Jim Hall Racing Jimmy Vasser Report
1997 Alex Zanardi Reynard Honda Chip Ganassi Racing Alex Zanardi Report
1998 Alex Zanardi Reynard Honda Chip Ganassi Racing Jimmy Vasser Report
1999 Juan Montoya Reynard Honda Chip Ganassi Racing Juan Montoya Report
2000 Roberto Moreno Reynard Ford-Cosworth Patrick Racing Roberto Moreno Report
2001 Dario Franchitti Reynard Honda Team Green Maurício Gugelmin Report
2002 Patrick Carpentier Reynard Ford-Cosworth Forsythe Racing Cristiano da Matta Report
2003 Sébastien Bourdais Lola Ford-Cosworth Newman/Haas Racing Sébastien Bourdais Reportmarker
2004 Sébastien Bourdais Lola Ford-Cosworth Newman/Haas Racing Paul Tracy Reportmarker
2005 Paul Tracy Lola Ford-Cosworth Forsythe Racing Paul Tracy Reportmarker
2006 A. J. Allmendinger Lola Ford-Cosworth Forsythe Racing A.J. Allmendinger Report
2007 Paul Tracy Panoz Cosworth Forsythe Racing Sébastien Bourdais Reportmarker

Lights/Atlantics winners

Season Series Race Winner
1987 Indy Lights Didier Theys
1988 Indy Lights Juan Manuel Fangio II
1990 Indy Lights Paul Tracy
1991 Indy Lights Mark Smith
1992 Indy Lights Franck Freon
1993 Indy Lights Bryan Herta
1994 Indy Lights Eddie Lawson
1995 Indy Lights Greg Moore
1996 Indy Lights Gualter Salles
1997 Formula Atlantic Bertrand Godin
1998 Formula Atlantic Kenny Wilden
1998 Indy Lights Luiz Garcia, Jr.
1999 Indy Lights Derek Higgins
2000 Formula Atlantic Buddy Rice
2001 Formula Atlantic Hoover Orsi
2002 Formula Atlantic Ryan Hunter-Reay
2003 Formula Atlantic A.J. Allmendinger
2004 Toyota Atlantic Ryan Dalziel
2005 Toyota Atlantic Charles Zwolsman
Charles Zwolsman
2006 Champ Car Atlantic Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal
2007 Champ Car Atlantic Raphael Matos

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 include 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.


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