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American Le Mans Series weighs in on Baltimore grand prix hopes

After Tuesday’s story about the potential cost to Baltimore to host a grand prix-style race along city streets, I received an e-mail from the vice president of public relations for the American Le Mans Series of auto racing. (The series brought a car race to Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium parking lot in 2002 but did not finish out the remaining 9 years of its contract due to opposition from the surrounding neighborhood.)

Here’s what Bob Dickinson had to say:

“From our perspective, our Washington, D.C. race was the most successful first-year event ever conducted in the history of the American Le Mans Series. It was a fantastic venue and embraced by media and fans. The reason we were unable to return was the result of a lawsuit that was filed by a small group of activists over noise pollution. Street races are a fairly cost-intensive venture. We are approached by several cities a year who would like for us to come to their city streets to race and create a mega-event. We make it very clear that it usually takes at least a three-year commitment to break even due to start-up and infrastructure costs associated with creating a temporary street circuit….Other races have come and gone because cities/local promoters don’t understand the pro forma or in some cases, get cut short by ‘politics.'”

Dickinson also noted James Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, was right when I quoted him as saying no two races are the same and the reasons they sometimes don’t return are varied — and it’s not just the money. For example, D.C. did not keep local residents in the loop about the race plans (according to reports at the time) and did not tell the neighborhood about the 2002 grand prix until a year beforehand.

In Baltimore’s case, the Baltimore Racing Development team and Councilman William Cole IV (whose district is home to much of the proposed race track) began meeting with community and neighborhood organizations last month. They hope to bring the race here for Labor Day weekend, 2011.

So, armed with a few more facts, how do you feel about the proposed Indy Car race in Baltimore? Are you for or against it? Has your opinion changed? Do you think Baltimore will see this through?

One comment

  1. Having driven plenty of streets around Baltimore City, the only vehicles I could imagine competing there would be Jeeps and Hummers. Maybe a Subaru Outback GT2 class as well.

    Bob Dickinson wasn’t around the ALMS for the DC race in ’02, and thus doesn’t know the whole story. Yes, DC (and National Grand Prix Holdings, the group promoting the event) did a crappy job of informing the locals — they also did a great job of giving the neighbors huge stacks of free tickets, which were then scalped in front of RFK Stadium gates at quite a nice profit.

    The race course at RFK is located on the border of Southeast DC. There are gunshots and sirens piercing the air all through the night, but somehow race cars during the day is too much noise?

    Fact us, NGP Holdings ran off with all the money, and ALMS knows better than to come back to DC and get ripped off again.

    Better luck in B’more, we hope.