In Baltimore, we have all-too-recent evidence that race tracks aren’t built to last. Our region started hosting the IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series in 2011. Each year, construction would begin in the summer and the walls and stands would go back to storage in September. The world was seeing a beautiful side of Baltimore. Outside of the ‘jump’ at the light rail crossing and a few pesky chicanes for the drivers and other minor growing pains - like the need for improved foot traffic – for attendees, the races were a big hit. Unfortunately, the street circuit ruffled the feathers of local businesses that took a hit at the register and the local residents and commuters that dealt with road closures and additional traffic. Eventually, the city government acted. This run of the Grand Prix of Baltimore waved its final checkered flag in 2013.
The original management team, Baltimore Racing Development, incurred over $12 million in debt which included $1.5 million to the city, according to The Baltimore Sun. The city government cut ties with BRD and signed a contract with Downforce Racing for 2012. It took Downforce Racing a few months to lose traction and the city sent them to the pits. Enter Race On LLC and Andretti Sports Marketing. The new crew came on board with only 4 months to right the ship.
The general consensus among fans saw Race On and Andretti Sports Marketing on the right track. 2012 rolled into 2013. Could it be a case of practice makes perfect? Maybe, just maybe, we could have a race to call our own. Slam the brakes! During the 2013 GP, the chat around the car corral was that the race wouldn’t return for 2014 and that it’s probably gone for the long term. The city envisioned less controversial ways to make money, such as bringing more events to the sports arenas. In the coming months, those rumors turned into fact. From the fans’ perspective, we feel left out after a 3-year tease. From my perspective, I see a lost opportunity to set the spark of automotive enthusiasm in the minds of the region’s younger generations. Growing up in the Poconos, I know that the local races strengthened my connection to all-things automotive. We can only hope that this isn’t the end of the road for Baltimore.
What brought the GP of Baltimore to mind? On separate occasions last Saturday morning, I entered conversations about the GP of Baltimore as well as regional closed tracks such as Marlboro and Beltsville. All of the talk resulted in some internet research on the history of race tracks. Where did all of the racing start? Today, back in 1907, the cars hit the track at Brooklands, a 2.75-mile racing circuit in England. It was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing track. Like all of the tracks we talked about on Saturday, it too closed. In 1939, to fortify the war effort, the site transitioned to aircraft production and races never returned.
Back in February of this year, the BBC reported that the final straight at Brooklands may be restored. Baltimore City, we need the whole track back. Let’s talk.