The official ceremony commencing the building of the race course for The Grand Prix of Baltimore Presented by SRT took place this morning outside the Baltimore Convention Center. On hand this morning were Race On LLC Managing Partner J.P. Grant, Grand Prix of Baltimore General Manager Tim Mayer, and Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner. The Grand Prix weekend will be August 30-September 1, 2013.
I was on location for this morning’s ceremony, and was able to speak with both Mayer and Milner. Below are a few tidbits of information in no particular order that I took away from this morning’s event.
—Race On LLC has shortened the construction time for the race from 45 days in 2011 to 21 days this year. Amongst the jobs of Race On in the next three weeks will be installing 18 miles of cable, and 37,000 feet of fencing.
—There will be small changes to the track, which include a three element chicane before the cars make their way onto Pratt Street. Remember, the drivers negotiating the Light Rail tracks the past two years has caused issues, highlighted in 2012 by Simon Pagenaud getting airborne in Friday practice. Also, turn 1 will be widened and have increased tire barriers.
—Mayer said no drivers complained about the layout of the track, just the surface. He noted that Race On is working in conjunction with the city of Baltimore to improve the racing surface.
—Speaking of the layout, Milner, who was born in Washington, D.C. is a huge fan of the Baltimore track. He noted that the atmosphere in Baltimore is one of the best of the venues ALMS visits, and believes the Baltimore race has the potential to be like Long Beach.
—Milner is also excited about the Grand-Am/ALMS merger, noting that the consolidation has made it easier to approach sponsors.
—Mayer spoke at length about the measures Race On was taking in order to minimize the inconvenience on Baltimore residents. He covered topics from daily commutes to the Orioles and Ravens being out of town, and even spoke of the measures taken to not inconvenience church services in downtown Baltimore.
—Mayer also emphasized the focus on entertainment value. He pointed out that there was a premier event both Saturday (ALMS) and Sunday (IndyCar). Plus, also noted the array of other activities such as a Live concert Saturday evening, Family Fun Zone, Pinewood Derby Races, Radio Disney Performances, an obstacle course developed by the Port discovery Children’s Museum, and the Budweiser Party Zone.
—A reporter asked Mayer how ticket sales were going. He said they were happy with sales and expected to outperform last year’s show, when they sold 130,000 tickets over three days.
—There was a promotional Indy Car outside the convention enter with race sponsors SRT, Dr. Pepper, Giant (a local grocery store chain), and Marriott Baltimore Inner Harbor at Camden Yards amongst others on the car. I noticed the car did not have the rear wheel guards we see on modern Indy cars.
—One local reporter also asked Mayer about the future of the event. He said that he wanted it to become part of the “social fabric” of Baltimore, noting that the Grand Prix ends the summer in the way The Preakness begins it.
—I asked Mayer about the future of the event. While there is no contract in place with IndyCar, Mayer said Race On had the rights to the event with the city through 2016. He also noted he was confident, something would get done, and that it was a “matter of the entire package coming together,” as Race On is committed to having an event with constant on track activity and headline events both Saturday and Sunday. I got the sense what he may have meant by that was he is waiting on whether the combined USCR schedule would want Baltimore.
—Lastly, Mayer told me that he is a regular reader of AutoRacing1.com.
Brian C. reporting from downtown Baltimore