Conquest Racing’s Sebastian Saavedra occupied his time [during the initial event delay] with engineering and drivers meetings, tweeting, checking email and even working in a brief nap before being jostled by the bumps of the Pratt Street frontstretch in the No. 34 Bogota Es Mundial entry in front of tens of thousands of enthusiastic spectators. Caption & Image Credit: Chris Jones via IZOD IndyCar Series
Bumpy Baltimore Gets A Rubbing In With IndyCar & ALMS
A group of downtown streets converted into a shiny new racing circuit will always have its start up problems. The first day warm-ups (as well as qualifying for the American Le Mans Series) with the two racing series competing in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix were no different. First off, the beginning to the schedule was moved off for about four hours due to last minute safety improvements to the fencing that defined the 2-mile, 12-turn track.
The reaction of many of the drivers overall, was quite positive … for example, Will Power after posting the fastest time in Baltimore with a best lap time of 1 minute, 22.1739 seconds which translates to 89.411 mph, had a good time learning the course with a couple of non-damaging “offs”.
Penske Racing’s Will Power, needing to make up 26 points, sets fast lap during the first practice period at the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. Image Credit: Chris Jones via IZOD IndyCar Series
“You are working the entire time and it is a pretty cool track,” said Power, who won the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma five days earlier to tighten the championship points duel with front-runner Dario Franchitti to 26 behind. “They did a really good job creating the circuit. It takes a lot of commitment and there are several technical bits. It’s bumpy and I think it will be a great race.”
After a 75 minute warm-up and about a 90 minute break, the ALMS went out to set their positions for the start of their race on Saturday. The fastest qualifier overall was the Dyson Racing LMP1 Lola B09 86/Mazda shared by Guy Smith and Chris Dyson where Brit Guy Smith set his fourth class pole with a fast pace of 1 minute, 27.750 seconds (83.692 mph).
“I think the people of Baltimore have done a great job with the circuit and gave us as much track time as they could,” said Smith, who will drive with Chris Dyson. “With a new circuit, there are always teething problems. But they gave us a great track. It’s bumpy and it’s demanding, but that’s what street courses are all about.”
In the GT Class, BMW Team RLL was once again at the top of the charts with the #55 BMW M3 GT of Bill Auberlin and Dirk Werner with Werner posting a fast lap of 1 minute 31.362 seconds (80.834 mph) … the team car to the season points leading #56 BMW M3 GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Muller.
“It’s amazing to have a pole this year,” said Werner. “The car is really fantastic; it has been this whole season – especially our car. We have had a lot of close calls this year [in qualifying] but we never got that pole. The team is very competitive with drivers who can be quick. So to be here at the new track, is really great.
“After free practice going into qualifying we looked at the data from the sessions and looked who had the best turns and speeds so we could learn a lot in a few short minutes,” Werner continued. “You could see how from the short time we’ve been on track we keep getting faster. We could actually be going faster at the end of the race than we are right now. It shows how great our team is and finding the settings for the street circuit. (The tires) are really holding up over the long drives.”
Based on comments made by many of the drivers of both series, this Baltimore street venue drives like St. Pete with a crowd more like the festival atmosphere imparted by the grand-daddy of all American street races at Long Beach. Not a bad review for a near Washington D.C. venue.
The American Le Mans Series Baltimore Grand Prix is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 3. The race will air on ABC, Sunday, Sept. 4 at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) and be shown live in the U.S. on ESPN3 or americanlemans.com outside the U.S. Live coverage also will be available on Rogers Sportsnet One in Canada and MotorsTV in Europe.
The IZOD IndyCar Series Baltimore Grand Prix – Baltimore, MD Streets of Baltimore – Qualifications, 6:00 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT) Saturday, Sept. 3 on Versus / Race, 2:00 (11 a.m. PT) p.m. ET Sunday, Sept 4 on Versus with both broadcast on www.indycar.com – multimedia timing & scoring with concurrent radio broadcast.
… notes from The EDJE