One of the best-loved circuits in the US will return to the Verizon IndyCar Series next year, after it was confirmed that the championship will head back to the historic Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin next June.
Champ Car events were held at the track every year from 1982 until 2007 with the exception of 2005. Legendary drivers Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi have each won three times at Road America while Jacques Villeneuve and Paul Tracy were both two-time winners on the high-speed 14-turn, 4.048-mile circuit, which has regularly topped polls of the venue that most fans wanted to see back on the modern schedule.
"We know how revered Road America is by our drivers, teams and fans and we're confident it will be a great event on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series calendar," said Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar's parent company Hulman & Co.
"This event, along with a new street race in Boston, are integral additions for 2016 as our efforts to finalize the entire schedule continue to progress."
The event will be held over the weekend of June 24-26, along with the full Mazda Road to Indy and the Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS classes. It's expected that 2016 season will continue to feature a race at the nearby Milwaukee Mile, allowing for cross-promotional marketing opportunities between the events.
"Milwaukee is very similar to Elkhart Lake to us," said Derrick Walker, IndyCar's President of Competition and Operations. "It's a classic track, a track IndyCar does really well. We don't see Milwaukee going off our schedule. We want it to be part of our schedule.
"[We have] been looking at it with us to see how we can co-produce, co-promote both events, because there's a lot of fans in this region for IndyCar. We want to see it continue. The schedule is still being worked on Milwaukee is still very much on the list.
"It's truly great news that open-wheel racing will be back at Road America," continued Walker. "It's a classic road course: long, with almost every type of challenging corner.
"The track is designed to make full use of the natural terrain, which makes for great spectator locations to see the Verizon IndyCar Series at its best. In addition, our cars at Road America with aero kits will showcase some very exciting racing for our fans."
Sebastien Bourdais won the last Champ Car race held here in 2007 and he was delighted to see it back on the line-up for the 2016 season.
"I am really excited to see Road America back," said the Frenchman, who currently has a seat at KVSH Racing. "This place allows our cars to stretch their legs fully and show what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about.
"It is our duty toward road racing to continue this tradition and I could not be happier that a new deal got pencilled," he added. "For me, it is the best racetrack in North America and I have some great memories there, including the win in 2007, and I am looking forward to coming back."
George Bruggenthies, the president and general manager of Road America, admitted that the deal to bring open wheel racing back to the circuit had been a long time in coming and said that the delay had largely been down to finding a slot on the calendar that worked for both the Series and the circuit.
"We don't have a lot of room on the schedule. June became possibly available. Working on the details has a lot of requirements on both sides. Understanding the capabilities of what they can do.
"We completed the agreements about 15 minutes ago. Literally 15 minutes ago. It's been very complicated and only just been completed.
"Obviously there were numerous details to work out to have the Verizon IndyCar Series be able to race here," he added. "A lot of details to go through. We have reached a date, June 23-26, 2016. It's a multi-year agreement. We understand that the future of IndyCar needs to be here at Road America.
Bruggenthies said that teams may get an early opportunity to test at Road America in late September, with another pencilled in for the sprint.
Road America is the seventh race date to be confirmed on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Other announced race dates are:
- Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on March 11-13
- Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15-17
- Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 12-14
- 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, on May 29
- Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on June 3-5
- Inaugural Grand Prix of Boston on September 2-4