Baltimore ready for Labor Day IndyCar Grand Prix
The street paving is finished, safety barriers and fences are in place, grandstand seating in three different locations is completed, and signs of major sponsors are evident in downtown Baltimore as the city prepares for its first street circuit IndyCar race, which kicks off Labor Day weekend.
The two-mile Baltimore Grand Prix race, part of the IZOD IndyCar series, is expected to attract more than 100,000 fans during the holiday weekend for three days of 180-mile-per-hour street races, concerts and other entertainment at the first IndyCar competition in a major East Coast city.
"We were told that ticket sales would spike as we got closer to the event, and we're seeing that with ticket sales being out the roof," said Jay Davidson, president of the Baltimore Racing Development Corporation. "We have people purchasing tickets from 46 states and six different countries, so everything is going very well and we're confident it will be a great race."
The Baltimore Grand Prix will dominate the downtown area Sept. 2-4, with the racetrack's starting point for the various races throughout the weekend being Pratt Street near the Convention Center. IndyCar's top drivers' fenderless, open-cockpit cars will scream down Pratt Street to Light Street, past the Inner Harbor and continue up Conway Street around Camden Yards before ending up back at Pratt Street, after 80 or more laps around the track.
The three days of racing will include developmental races for up-and-coming drivers on Friday; the much-touted American Le Mans Series race of Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris and other high-end cars on Saturday, with drivers such as Indy champ Bobby Rahal; and the Indy Lights series race on Sunday, followed by the main event, the Izod IndyCar series race, featuring 26 of IndyCar's top drivers, the same cars and drivers seen at the Indy 500.
"I think everyone's thrilled for IndyCar to be in Baltimore, which is a great location, and a place where we'll put on an action-packed, great show for the fans," said Graham Rahal, who will race in the Izod IndyCar Series. The son of racing great Bobby Rahal, he has spent most of his life at racetracks. "The course in Baltimore is extremely cool and a great track. Having it go along the water will add to the fun."
Rahal isn't just appreciative of the aesthetics of the Baltimore racetrack, but has spent a lot of time studying the maps of the course to get a handle on its basic lines and the various corners, straightaways and turns.
"The first few laps is when you learn the most about a track, and this one will be very challenging because none of us will have raced there before, so we will all have to adapt fast, and that's not common," Rahal said. "We've been to the other tracks time and time before, but there's a lot of learning to be done in Baltimore."
One of IndyCar's winningest drivers, Al Unser, was a consultant on the design of the track, and before the 5-year franchise contract was awarded to the city, Unser and other IndyCar officials walked the streets of downtown Baltimore to determine if a street circuit race was possible.
"Baltimore is a beautiful city to design a racetrack around, and when we walked the streets and around the beautiful harbor, all we were seeing were camera angles," said Terry Angstadt, president of Indy Racing League's commercial division in Indianapolis. "This is going to be broadcast in more than 180 cities and it's going to look spectacular." More at Baltimore Sun