A Brief History of Motorsports in Miami

Miami GP is interested in sprint racing

Formula 1 is no longer stuck between a rock and a hard place in the city of Miami in southern Florida; the Grand Prix is ​​taking place in this city for the third time.

“The Sun and Fun Capital of America” is also the state's largest city, known for oranges, alligators and beaches, as well as its fair share of motorsports history.

The rhumba and racing rhythm has a long and distinguished history in and around Miami. Nearly a century ago, in February 1926, 1925 Indy 500 champion Peter DePalo won a 300-mile race on a wooden oval track, the Fulford-Miami Speedway.

The 1.25 mile (2 km) track was the brainchild of Carl Fisher, who also helped build the “Brickyard,” the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Miami was a popular destination for IMSA sports car and Indy car racing. The man behind it was Miami businessman Ralph Sanchez. He was a young boy in Havana when Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1957 Cuban Grand Prix.

[Not the Formula 1] Miami Grand Prix

10 from the pen: Adrian Newey's best race cars, ranked - Hagerty Motorsports10 from the pen: Adrian Newey's best race cars, ranked - Hagerty Motorsports

His dream became a reality on February 27, 1983 with the Budweiser Grand Prix of Miami, but heavy rain turned the IMSA-sanctioned event into a nightmare and the race was red flagged after just twenty-seven laps. Al Holbert in a march was declared the winner.

The last edition of this race was the 1993 Toyota Grand Prix of Miami. It was aptly won by the Eagle-Toyota prepared by Dan Gurney and piloted by Juan Manuel Fangio II.

The infamous split in American formula racing spilled over into sports car racing between ALMS, the American Le Mans Series owned by pharmaceutical billionaire Don Panoz, and Grand Am, owned by the French NASCAR family of fame and fortune.

The ALMS races took place on the street circuit for two years, 2002 and 2003. The winners were Audi drivers Frank Biela and Emanuelle Pirro in the first race and Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto in the second year.

The Grand Am series organized races across the city at the Miami-Homestead Speedway. The inaugural event in 1998 was part of the United States Road Racing Series. Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver were the winners in the Riley & Scott Ford.

In 2004, Venezuelan Milka Duno and her co-driver Andy Wallace won both events, the Miami Grand Prix and Miami 250, driving a Crawford-Pontiac.

The last Grand Am race at Miami-Homestead Speedway in 2012 was won by Max Angelelli, who was the safety car driver at the ill-fated 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, and Ricky Taylor.


Sports car star Taylor slides into Pagenaud's seat during the Indy car testSports car star Taylor slides into Pagenaud's seat during the Indy car test

The first CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) sanctioned race was the 1985 season finale at the Tamiami Park road course. The race is remembered primarily for the family feud on the track and the great emotions of the Unser family.

Young Al Unser Jr. hoped that his third-place finish would make him the series champion as long as his father didn't finish in the top four.

In the final stages, Unser Sr. was able to overtake Roberto Moreno and secure fourth place and the title from his own son – by a single point. Penske driver Danny Sullivan won the race.

In 1996, Indy cars moved to the new 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This was the season of the Big Split in American formula racing. Jimmy Vasser was the winner over Gil de Ferran. The last CART-sanctioned Indy Car race in 2000 was won by Max Papis.

Tony George's IRL, Indy Racing League, which began as an oval-only series, held events at Miami-Homestead Speedway from 2001 to 2010.

Sam Hornish Jr. won three of the first four races. Dan Wheldon won three times in a row from 2005 to 2007. In 2006, tragedy struck when American Paul Dana was killed in an accident during warm-up training on Sunday.

New Zealander Scott Dixon was the most recent winner of the Miami area Indycar race in 2020.

First Miami ePrix, now Grand Prix

Formula E – Miami ePrix 2015 – Preview |  Fédération Internationale de l'AutomobileFormula E – Miami ePrix 2015 – Preview |  Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile

The all-electric series made its only stop in Miami at the Biscayne Bay Street Circuit in March 2015. Nicolas Prost was the winner, followed by the first-ever Formula One Grand Prix in the United States, held at Sebring in 1959, a three-hour race drive north of Miami.

Liberty Media's tireless effort to promote Formula One in the United States has resulted in three Grands Prix across the country. Also the extremely successful Netflix series “Drive to Survive”.

Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, is the man behind the Miami Grand Prix. The temporary race track – Miami International Autodrome – around the stadium is 5.4 km long and was designed by Apex Circuit Design. It features nineteen corners and three DRS zones.

Sunday's 57-lap Miami Grand Prix will be the sixth round of this year's championship. Max Verstappen is the only winner in the two races so far.

The opening race was full of houses. Both in terms of paying viewers and highly paid celebrities. American glitz and glamor on a grand scale. Even the fake Marina was on everyone's lips.

We'll leave the final words to Tom Garfinkel, vice chairman, president and CEO of Hard Rock Stadium: “You could walk around the upper deck of the stadium and see every corner of the track – and that's pretty unique.”

Anna Harden

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