First Detroit Grand Prix Winner John Watson Named Grand Marshal for This Weekend’s Event

Winner of the 1982 Race on the Streets of Detroit Returns to the Motor City

DETROIT, Mich. (June 1, 2023) – Embracing Detroit’s rich motorsports heritage, former racing legend John Watson will return to the site of one of his most improbable and historic victories as he has been named Grand Marshal for Sunday’s activities at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear and the event’s return to Downtown Detroit.

Just a few days before the 41st anniversary of his memorable Formula One win in the very first Grand Prix held in Detroit, Watson is excited to be part of the new era of the event in Downtown Detroit, connecting its storied past with its exciting future.

“I have some fond memories of racing in Detroit and I am very excited to travel to the States to see the new track layout and return to the scene of one of my five Grand Prix race wins,” said Watson, a native of Northern Ireland who now lives in the United Kingdom. 

Watson’s victory in Detroit on June 6, 1982 is considered among the greatest drives in F1 history. After qualifying at the rear of the field, Watson drove through the field and passed eventual F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg on Lap 42 to claim his fourth career win. The revolutionary McLaren MP4/1B that Watson – or “Wattie” as he was known in racing circles – famously used to win the 1982 Detroit Grand Prix was pivotal in the development of modern racing cars as it introduced the first entirely carbon fiber monocoque chassis.

Watson also has a connection with racing icon and Detroit Grand Prix visionary Roger Penske. Watson drove for Team Penske in 1976 and he earned his very first Formula One win that season with a victory in the Austrian Grand Prix. It marked Team Penske’s only win in 34 F1 starts and it still represents the last time an American team has won a Formula One race.

“What a great way to celebrate the return of the Grand Prix to the Streets of Detroit with one of the greatest champions in the history of this event,” said Michael Montri, President of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. “As the winner of the very first Detroit Grand Prix, we are so excited to welcome him back and honor his legacy as we carry this event forward and into the future.”

In addition to being introduced to the crowd and honored before Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, Watson will meet and greet each one of the drivers competing in the race as they are introduced to the crowd on the Entertainment Stage in Hart Plaza during ceremonies leading up to the Chevrolet INDYCAR Grand Prix (live on NBC at 3:00 pm ET on June 4). Watson will also deliver the “Drivers, to your cars,” command before the engines fire for the final race of Grand Prix weekend in the Motor City.

Limited tickets are still available for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. To learn more about the event and to purchase tickets, visit