American Le Mans Series Baltimore Grand Prix
The Baltimore Grand Prix had as many storylines as fans attending the debut street race from the city’s Inner Harbor District. The feature issue was the condition of the new course. When we arrived Thursday afternoon, workers were still busy completing the conversion from city thoroughfare to race course. During the track walk we ran into Dyson Racing Team Principal Rob and drivers; son Chris and Guy Smith. They were focusing on a sharp edge of rail track which had them worried about punctures. Chris talked about the ride height adjustment they would need to make to raise the Mazda Lola for the bumpy track.
Friday’s practice was delayed twice while issues, such as the railroad tracks, which the Dyson drivers found potentially dangerous, were addressed. The No. 16 Dyson led each practice on Friday and qualified first, followed by the No. 20 Oryx Dyson Racing team car of Humaid Al Masaood and Steve Kane.
The Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing Lola fried its wiring harness during the first lap of the first practice and didn’t complete any laps until the race had gone green. There was a delay in getting the No.16 Dyson out of the pits during the caution for track debris. After driver changes the No. 20 emerged in first and led from that point on and won by just under seven seconds.
It was the first one-two Dyson Racing finish since Mid-Ohio in 2005. It was also the first win of the year for the Oryx and Masaood’s first win in his first street race. Tony Burgess and Chris McMurry completed the P1 podium for Autocon with Dyson’s Championship rivals Muscle Milk AMR in fourth, seven laps down.
Rob Dyson said, “We are fortunate to race in a number of great markets throughout the year and I have to say that the fan support here in Baltimore was an A plus. This surpasses any first year event I have ever been to. Even the tops of the skyscrapers were filled with people watching the race. The amount of enthusiastic fans that showed up today, to feel that kind of energy - really honors us. The Charm City has lived up to its reputation.”
In GT, the Team Falken Tire Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers took advantage of the first turn pileup of the Corvettes, moving from fifth to second. Henzler got by the Team RLL BMW of polesitter Dirk Werner with a Turn 1 pass. After driver changes Bryan Sellars found himself in third, but Tommy Milner’s Vette tangled with Bill Auberlen’s BMW and Sellars seized the opportunity and went through for the lead and the win. Sellars wanted to get the message through how unbelievable the race was with the fans and their support.
Intersport Racing’s Kyle Marcelli and Tommy Drissi qualified a tick behind CORE Autosport’s Ricardo Gonzalez and Gunnar Jeanette. The point’s leaders suffered electrical problems and Intersport went on for the win. Drissi was effusive about the example that Team Principal Jon Field has set through his driving style, calling him crazy and a guy who knew how to get the most out of his equipment. He also stated how the team may not have the best equipment, but they overcome obstacles to compete fiercely. An example was the telemetry equipment that sure seemed like it was smoking on Friday.
Black Swan Racing took the GTC victory with a savvy move by Tim Pappas, who avoided the Turn 1, Lap 1 GT carnage by laying back, finding a gap and shooting through before it closed on his competitors. He handed it over to Jeroen Bleekemolen who maintained the gap for the victory over Alex Job and Magnus Racing.
Bleekemolen became an overnight sensation when his qualifying antics went viral on You Tube. The front driver’s side wheel came off in Turn 4 and Jeroen retrieved it, put it in the front seat and returned to the pits, where the team refitted the wheel. He was able to continue, within the rules, and qualify on the same tire. Not only did he qualify, he grabbed pole position!
All the class winners expressed their desire to return to Baltimore again and remarked about the enthusiastic reception and support that they received from the huge crowds at the debut Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Copyright 2001-2013 Greg Sarni, USA