Despite a few logistical glitches, drivers reckoned the bumpy, twisty Baltimore Grand Prix circuit has potential to grow into one of the best events in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Race winner Will Power noted a few changes that could be made. “I think they would need to extend the main straight or just repave it. I think that would create a passing zone,” said the Team Penske driver. “Keep Turn 3, and if they could extend Turn 1, you've got two really good zones right there. As it is, it wasn't a bad track – you could pass out of 1 and pass into Turn 3 if you got a good run – but impressive for the first year.”
Power also noted that he'd been bemused by the sight of a safety truck zipping off the course at the start of the race (ABOVE).
“Yeah, it was like, ‘What's going on?' I couldn't believe it,” said Power. “I was busy trying to pass but I thought, ‘What happened there?' That was quite amusing – but it wouldn't be if someone hit them!"
Prior to the race, some observers had predicted the unusual pit lane layout might prove problematic, but it didn't turn out to be an issue.
“I never thought the pits were going to be a problem. It's just a hairpin, but it was fine,” said second-place finisher Oriol Servia. “The pits were fine, the track was fine, even with the chicanes – but if you ask racecar drivers, we want longer straights and faster corners, that's just our nature.
“Honestly, if you ask what is a good track and what makes a good event, it's a good, fast racetrack, because the fans come to see us do things that normal cars cannot do,” Servia added. “And, if you give me a fast car, we can go through a turn 170 miles an hour; a normal car cannot do that. So when a fan can see that, this close, from the grandstands, that's impressive, and it makes them come back – so I'm always upset when we come to new track, and the turns are slow, because a racecar instead of 30 will go 60, but it's not that impressive to see a car do 60, right? So I think it's better to have fast corners for the future of the sport.
“We need to make sure they are designed in a safe way, so if you crash you crash in the right angle on the wall and stuff like this, but it's difficult, because even if the city loves the event, you're closing the streets for a weekend, and as you know, the longer the track is the more blocks you need of a city and the more difficult it is in terms of a compromise.
Third-place finisher Tony Kanaan focused on the strong vibe of the large and enthusiastic crowd which, although no official figures were released, were said by race organizers to have been ahead of predictions.
“It's unbelievable – I've never been in a place where it was this crowded and the fans were so passionate. I couldn't walk on the streets,” said Kanaan. “Back in Brazil it's kinda like that, but Saturday night I'm walking to have dinner and it took me 45 minutes to walk four blocks, because everybody was stopping me taking pictures, and on Friday people were apologizing to us because the track wasn't ready.
“It didn't make sense to me. Everybody worked hard and it is a beautiful track, bumpy and difficult, and for us sometimes we complain a lot about it but it made the racing very interesting. Usually you have one good place to pass on a street course like this and this one has three places.
“We didn't see a lot of crashes – it was a very competitive race. But I'm amazed with the crowd. I've never seen anything like that. Apart from Indianapolis, I haven't seen a street course with that many people.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (middle at left, with IndyCar's Terry Angstadt and American Le Mans Series boss Scott Atherton) said she was delighted with the results of the inaugural event, with IndyCar and the ALMS as co-headliners. Rawlings-Blake indicated planning for next year's event, which likely will stay on Labor Day weekend, has already begun.
“I'm so proud that Baltimore was able to host this event. We had an opportunity, with your help, to shine on an international stage, and I wanted to thank everyone who made this happen,” said the mayor in an appearance at IndyCar's post-race press conference. “There were so many people who, when we had traffic problems or parking problems or any delay, the naysayers certainly had their day – until the race started, and I want to thank everyone who was involved to make sure that the naysayers have been silenced."
Mayor Rawlings-Blake had come in for criticism from some of her political opponents for her backing of the event, and clearly felt vindicated by the results.
“I think anytime you do something big you take a risk,” she said. “For me, I had an opportunity to make Baltimore shine. I think the naysayers mistook it as an opportunity for me to shine, as my election –re-election, is a little over a week away. But it was never about me. This was about racing, about tourism, about economic development, and this was about making sure that we told the story for Baltimore. And, with your help, making this race very exciting and suspenseful, we were able to tell the story of Baltimore that shows the future of our city. It was a bold move, but I'm willing to take chances so my city can succeed.”