When some people dream of a second (or even third) home or property, they imagine views of a pristine lake or a peaceful golf course. Not Julie Hertzberg. When it was time for her to take the plunge, she wanted thundering V-8 engines and the smell of hot rubber on pavement.
Roger Penske looked out his window in the Hyatt Hotel at the Inner Harbor and didn’t believe what he was seeing. It was Saturday and the grandstands along the Baltimore Grand Prix course were packed solid with fans. “I was amazed at the turnout,” said the owner of Team Penske. “To see huge crowds like that on a Friday and a Saturday shows this event has great potential.”
The Baltimore Orioles’ team batting average is .255, putting it smack in the middle of the major leagues. The Izod IndyCar Series is batting 1.000 in Baltimore after the most successful inaugural American street racing event in the past 30 years. An estimated 75,000 spectators turned out to see Will Power score a dominant victory over Oriol Servia and Tony Cannan, pulling him within five points of championship leader Dario Franchitti.
Long before a snarling pack of Indy cars makes mad dashes up to 175 miles an hour down Pratt Street, a thoroughfare soon to become a straightaway, Martyn Thake will have sweated a lot of details. Consider the lowly manhole cover.
Mr. Thake, the director of operations for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend, says the racecars have such potent ground effects – the aerodynamics that make them adhere to the track at high speeds – that they could pull off unattached manhole covers as the cars whiz past.
“They’d become 200-pound Frisbees,” Mr. Thake said of the covers during a recent interview in his fourth-floor office at the B & O Warehouse, near what is to become the pit lane.
Not only did Baltimore seem to be a natural, aesthetic location to hold the Grand Prix, with its stadiums and waterfront setting, but officials within the community saw the race as the perfect opportunity to shatter outsiders’ misconstrued perceptions.
The original layout of the course was put together in 2008, but has since transformed into a two-mile temporary street circuit in and around the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards. The race will include sections of Russell Street, West Pratt Street from Paca Street to Light Street, along the Inner Harbor on Light Street and up Conway Street.
Baltimore Grand Prix officials brought in 30-year racecourse design veteran Martyn Thake of Motorsports Consulting Services, a company specializing in motorsports facility construction.
“When we begin to design a racecourse, we look first for an anchor point,” Thake said. “In Houston we had the Astrodome and in Long Beach [California] we had the waterfront. We look for an anchor which looks good on TV and promotes the city.”
Before a wheel can be turned in anger at a Formula 1 circuit for the first time, or if any modifications have been made, an FIA Inspector needs to sign off. That inspector is Charlie Whiting, the man who turns the entire F1 field loose at every Grand Prix. If Whiting is indisposed, the call comes to Martyn Thake, back-up inspector for FIA tracks, Grade 2 or higher.
Traffic on Pratt Street in downtown Baltimore often moves at a crawl. But one weekend a year from August, the speed limit will increaseto 185 mph.
City officials approved a contract Wednesday that should be the final hurdle to adding the Baltimore Grand Prix to the Indy Racing Leagues schedule starting next year. The IRL is expected to sign a sanctioning agreement in the next two weeks, according to a letter sent Monday to city officials.
The race would be the Indianapolis-based leagues only event in the mid-Atlantic region, giving it a foothold in a densely populated area that has little history with open-wheel racing.
The IRL has been looking to get into the mid-Atlantic marketplace for years, said Martyn Thake, wholl be designing and building Baltimores track.
The design team behind the Grand Prix of Denver racetrack has been hired to work on a planned private, membership- based track in Genoa, about 100 miles southeast of Denver.
Crested Butte-based Motorsports Consulting Services will design the Genoa Motorsports Park site, which sits on 2,700 acres. The site will feature a 6.26-mile road course with two separate circuits that each have 100-foot elevation changes. The site is also slated to include a 3/8- mile paved oval track, a 3/8-mile dirt oval track and a 1/8-mile and 1/4-mile drag strip.
Champ Car veteran and the usually pessimistic Paul Tracy said the Grand Prix of Denver is becoming one of the circuit’s best events.
“They have basically set the standard for promotion for our series,” Tracy Said, referring to the title sponsor Centrix Financial and general manager John Frew’s Denver-based staff. “This race rivals any track that we go to, whether it’s Australia – everybody talks (about) how great the Australian race is as an event – and the Molson Indys in Canada.
“This is, by far, (an event that) rivals or is better than any of the races we put on. They have just gotten better every year, and the fans love it.”
With Champ Car racing focusing more and more on street racing we decided to take a closer look on how to turn a city into a racetrack; therefore we decided to leave early for Denver that will be hosting the 2004 Centrix Grand Prix of Denver this coming weekend. Another reason why we selected Denver is because we wanted to meet up with Martyn Thake, the principal behind Motorsports Consulting Services, a dedicated and specialized group of motorsports facility development and operations management experts.