The original Detroit Grand Prix had its roots planted in 1982, when the prestigious Formula One World Championship held a race through the downtown streets of the motor capital of the world. This event was an immediate success. The sound of screaming Formula One engines echoing off the city's tall buildings was truly an experience to behold. Race fans and celebrities from around the globe were drawn to Detroit for this world class event. It immediately brought an international atmosphere to the city. Formula One included Detroit as part of its regular season schedule through the '88 season.
Unfortunately, additional requirements and demands from Formula One's sanctioning body, the Federation International de Automobile (FIA), put an end to Detroit's involvement in world racing. Several factors appear to have led to this decision. For example, demands were made by the FIA to construct a permanent garage structure. In addition, there were also numerous driver complaints regarding rough track-surface conditions. Apparently, the city streets proved to be too much for the delicate F1 cars and drivers to endure. Compliance with these demands would prove costly for the city of Detroit. Therefore, city officials decided the cost of accommodating the FIA was not worth the investment. This ultimately led to Formula One's withdrawal from Detroit after the '88 season.
In 1989 the U.S. based CART series took over. Racing continued on the downtown street circuit until 1992 when the venue was moved to its current location on Belle Isle Park. The last Detroit Grand Prix prior to the '07 version was held in 2001. Talks began in 2006 to revive the event. Roger Penske, owner of teams in both the ALMS and IRL series, proved instrumental in bringing the Detroit Grand Prix back to life. Mr. Penske is no stranger to organizing a major event in Detroit. It was Penske who chaired and helped make the '05 season NFL Super Bowl XL a huge success for the city. Once again, his leadership and organizational skills proved to be invaluable given the success of the Detroit Grand Prix. It was so successful that it's now contracted to be held on Labor Day weekend for the next five years.
The stage was now set for the '08 Detroit Grand Prix. In the ALMS Detroit Sports Car Challenge GT1 class, the race would be a battle between the two C6R Corvettes and Aston Martin DB9R No. 007. Corvette No. 3 was piloted by Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen. Heading into the Detroit race, O'Connell and Magnussen were riding on a seven-race win streak. With the three races remaining in the '08 season, the duo faced the possibility of breaking the ALMS single-season record of nine victories. They needed victories in all of the three remaining races to break the record. Driving Corvette No. 4 were teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta. Gavin and Beretta hold the overall single-season victory record of nine, a record they would prefer not to relinquish.
The green flag dropped at 9:00 on Friday morning to begin the first practice session. Although the weather conditions would improve later in the day, speeds started out very slow due to rain and fog. Because of this, the Corvette team limited its practice time in the morning session. Driver Olivier Beretta spoke about the team strategy. "We're going to make a check-down on the car to make sure we're OK with the gearbox. Once that's finished, we will wait for this afternoon." The Aston Martin team did use the entire morning session to acclimate itself to the circuit. This was the first appearance for the DB9R in Detroit.