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Remembering the “Grand Prix of Cleveland” and Its Glory Days

The city of Cleveland in Ohio takes pride in being one of the few American cities that has three (3) out of four (4) major professional sport outfits, namely the Cleveland Indians (Major League Baseball), the Cleveland Browns (National Football League) and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland Ohio is also best remembered for the motorsport events that took place during the days of the “Grand Prix of Cleveland.” Yet by some strange superstitious belief, the city is also known for having the “Cleveland Sports Curse.”

 

Through the years, starting from 1964 to 2016, Cleveland professional sports teams endured 52 years of not winning any championship for an unprecedented record of 147 seasons. The curse was said have been broken in 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, the breaking of the curse did not take place before the “Grand Prix of Cleveland” stopped running motorsport events in 2008.. Up to now, many racing fans are still hoping for its revival, a promise that has not been fulfilled despite numerous previous attempts to do so.

Remembering the “Grand Prix of Cleveland Races”

American open-wheel car racing popularized as the Indianapolis 500 racing, experienced its golden era during 1980s up to early 2000. Indycar races became an integral event, featured by the Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (CART). In 1981, Indy 500 promoter Charles K. Newcomb proposed a local open-wheel car race in the style of Indianapolis 500, to be held at the Burke Lakefront Airport in the city of Cleveland Ohio. CART officials immediately agreed, signalling the start of many races that made the events a yearly favorite among racing fans and open-wheel car drivers.

 

The inaugural race was held in 1982, producing its first racing legend Bobby Rahal. However as other racing greats later succeeded in being the first to pass by the checkered flag, three other race car drivers made a name for themselves for having the most number of wins: Sebastien Bourdais (4), Emerson Fittipaldi (3), Danny Sullivan (3) and Paul Tracy (3). The Penske Racing team on the other hand, earned the highest record of six (6) wins.

Winning an Indy Car race in the “Grand Prix of Cleveland” raised the reputation of every open-wheel racer who was able to stay in the competition up to the finish. The concept of holding the race at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, was to test the ability of every driver in managing straight speed and turns, while running on circuits intended as runways for light aircrafts. Acknowledged by many drivers as one of the trickiest drives ever experienced, their views were validated upon reaching the very first turn, where several drivers had been eliminated.

The overall success of the Indycar events in Cleveland, started running on shaky grounds. In 1979 and in 1996 , organizational disputes between sanctioning bodies, created a rift that divided racing participants and fans alike. A year after celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2006, the “Grand Prix of Cleveland” held its final race in 2007, but with a promise to be back by 2012. Although a unification took place in 2008, the promise to bring back the Indycar races has yet to materialize.