Construction will begin this evening on the Grand Prix of Baltimore race circuit, announced event managers Andretti Sports Marketing. The 12-turn, two-mile course will again traverse through downtown Baltimore's Inner Harbor area with a southern loop around Camden Yards. The Grand Prix will take place Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, and will feature the IZOD IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.
"For the Grand Prix of Baltimore, we are building in sections around the city instead of the traditional method of building a track in sequence," explained Tony Cotman, founder of NZR Consulting, the track design and construction company working with Andretti Sports Marketing, at a news conference to position a ceremonial track barrier this morning along the Inner Harbor, which included IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden (LEFT). "This is far more difficult and time-consuming, but it's done to allow businesses access until the latest possible time before the Grand Prix."
Construction will take place only at night to lessen the impact on traffic and business in the downtown area.
"Choosing to build the circuit in the manner we've designed is part of our overall commitment to minimizing the impact on businesses and commuters," said Tim Mayer, general manager of the Grand Prix of Baltimore for Andretti Sports Marketing. "'Baltimore is open for business' is a phrase we focus upon each day."
Changes to the racetrack for this year's second running include the removal of the chicane on the longest straightway along Pratt Street, among other minor mods. The changes will result in higher top speeds and, it is hoped, improved passing opportunities.
"Removing the chicane will be great for the race. I think it will really promote passing and make for good competition," said Newgarden. "It was a phenomenal crowd last year in Baltimore. You don't see that happening very often with a first time event. There were a lot of new fans that embraced IndyCar in the city. It was definitely one of our best events last year, so it should be even better this year!
"Baltimore was the most physical event last year," added Newgarden. "It's really bumpy on half the circuit and really smooth on the other, which made it really difficult to drive the car."
Cotman said the changes were made with input from drivers.
"I talked to a number of drivers to get their thoughts about the chicane and the recommendation was with some grinding (to the street surface) it would speed the cars up going into Turn 1 about 7 mph," he said. "Without the chicane I think it will improve the show with a longer run into Turn 1, which will be widened to create a better passing zone and will be a good viewing place."
Two grandstand complexes are located at Turn 1, at the intersection of Pratt and Calvert streets.
"Then we looked at Turns 5-6, which was a difficult combination last year, and we'll change the shape of the corner, which may entice some passing. There is terrace seating there that puts the track right under their noses. There are some other subtle changes like the shapes of walls."
The Grand Prix of Baltimore is operated by locally owned Race On LLC and promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing. Tickets and race information can be found at the official event website, www RaceOnBaltimore.com, where you can also apply for volunteer opportunities.
Daily traffic and construction updates will be posted via the event Twitter feed: @GPofBaltimore and the event Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/GPBaltimore. Event questions and comments can be posted via Facebook, or use the hashtag #GPoB on Twitter.