Grand Prix Comes to Maryland

By: Ami Momaiya Staff Writer

 

Photo: Ami Momaiya


Although the art of Grand Prix racing has quite a storied past, this area was not written on its pages until the Inaugural 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix filled the streets with  the sonorous sound of speed from Friday, September 2 to Sunday, September 4. If you feel like you missed out, there is no need to worry. You still have plenty of chances because Baltimore has a contract to host the Grand Prix for four more years. While many people wondered how the streets of Baltimore could possibly be race worthy in the months leading up to the race, many other people were working hard behind the scenes in those months to ensure that they were.

While ticket holders worried about rain dampening their plans, race teams just made sure that they had their rain tires at hand. The schedule for Friday mainly consisted of practice races with a smattering of qualifying races. The schedule for Saturday consisted of practice races, a warm-up race and a trio of qualifying races before wrapping up the evening with the USF 2000 Race Number One and the American Le Mans Series Race.

I went on Sunday, which I felt was the day with the most serious racing. Sunday morning started with warm-up races and moved onto pace car rides. Five minutes after the last pace car ride was over, a quartet of races began. The sounds of the USF 2000 Race Number Two, Star Mazda Championship Race, Firestone Indy Lights Race and the IZOD IndyCar Race were absolutely phenomenal.

Although the cost of making the roads race worthy was approximately $6,500,000, $5,000,000 was federal grant money allotted by the Surface Transportation Program for highway improvements. The roads benefitted from the Grand Prix even after the event was over, as did the local economy. The benefits definitely trickled down to more than just the hotels and restaurants, and vendors inside of the Grand Prix. For example, a bottle of Coke was $5 while a hundred yards before exiting the Grand Prix. Twenty yards after exiting the Grand Prix, an enterprising gentleman was selling a bottle of Coke for $1.

As for my own Grand Prix experience, it was a blast. There are few better ways to spend the Sunday of a long weekend than by sitting at a trackside café with your friends, drinking a “Raceberry” drink while attempting to hold a conversation but continuously being interrupted by the sound of speed flying by. Interruption is usually considered rude, but I more than welcomed interruption if it sounds that beautiful. The café even had the race playing on the television so that you could watch the race while watching the race. I am excited for next year’s event, now that I know what this year’s was like. One common side effect of attendance was declaring that you need more track time in your life. Overall, it was quite the spectacle to behold and it is fantastic to see the Grand Prix come to Maryland.