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New-Look Course Will Greet INDY In Baltimore

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 30 2012

The organizers of the INDYCAR event in Baltimore are revamping the course.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Three key alterations to the 2-mile, 12-turn temporary street circuit that will host the IZOD IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Baltimore over Labor Day Weekend will be incorporated into its construction, which was scheduled to begin overnight.

The track will run through downtown Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area with a southern loop around Camden Yards, home of the American League’s Baltimore Orioles. Race weekend Aug. 31-Sept. 2 will feature the 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,” said Tony Cotman, founder of NZR Consulting, the track design and construction company working with Andretti Sports Marketing. “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.”

During a news conference on Monday, Cotman said the chicane on the Pratt Street main straightaway will be removed, the right-hand Turn 1 will be widened and the shape of Turns 5-6 (also pit entrance) will be altered.

“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 seven mph,” Cotman 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,” Cotman said. “There is terrace seating there that puts the track right under their noses. There are some other subtle changes like the shapes of walls.”

Josef Newgarden, Firestone Indy Lights race runnerup in Baltimore en route to the 2011 championship, said the course alterations will promote additional overtaking and “make for good competition.” The three-day Grand Prix drew more than 100,000 spectators to downtown.

“Baltimore was the most physical event last year,” said Newgarden, IndyCar rookie driver of the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda. “It’s really bumpy on half the circuit and really smooth on the other, which made it really difficult to drive the car.

“I loved coming (to Baltimore). It was a phenomenal crowd last year. 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.”

In addition, improving the flow of pedestrian traffic and dedicated areas for viewing the racing for general admission ticket-holders also has been addressed.

Construction will take place only at night to lessen the impact on traffic and business in the downtown area. The construction schedule accounts for 24 Orioles home games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

“The majority of (the build) will be done in the final 22 days, leading up to the last week when you’re doing the final (street) closings around the circuit,” Cotman said.

The Grand Prix of Baltimore is operated by locally-owned Race On LLC and promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing. Volunteers are being sought for a variety of duties during the race weekend. Details and applications can be accessed in the Volunteer section of the www.RaceOnBaltimore.com website, via email at volunteers@andrettisportsmarketing.com or by calling the volunteer hotline at 443-759-4208.

Tickets and race information can be found at the official event website: http://www.RaceOnBaltimore.com.

IndyCar regular Charlie Kimball was treated for a fracture of the fifth metacarpal of his right hand at MedCentral Hospital in Mansfield, Ohio, after being involved in an incident during a team test last Thursday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Kimball, of Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, was treated by Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR medical director.

Kimball was to be re-evaluated by an Indianapolis-based specialist before the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5. The race will be televised by ABC at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212).

Meanwhile, the next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Grand Prix of Trois Rivieres on Aug. 5 on the Streets of Trois Rivieres, Quebec.

Graham Rahal has confirmed that he will co-drive an Australian V8 Supercar in the Gold Coast 600 in October. Rahal, of Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing, will drive alongside Rick Kelly in a Kelly Racing Team entry.

“I was thrilled to get the call to participate in the event,” Rahal said. “It’s definitely a big thanks to the Kelly group for the opportunity. The Gold Coast has become one of the marquee motorsports events for racing drivers from all disciplines and to compete with one of the premier teams in the series in my first go at it is a real honor.”

Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti (Todd Kelly/Kelly Racing) and Dragon Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais also have said they will be part of the international lineup to be paired with a regular driver. Bourdais, winner of the inaugural GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Friday, claimed the Dan Wheldon Trophy as top international driver at the Gold Coast 600 in 2011.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 30 2012
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