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Grand Prix to return in 2013

It’s been a month since the checkered flag waved over Pratt Street to signal the end of the second Grand Prix of Baltimore. Race organizers have spent the time reflecting on their hastily assembled event, with an eye focused on its potential for tenure in Charm City, but their brief reprieve is over.

J.P. Grant, one of the two owners of Race On LLC, said his group’s goal is to get tickets for the 2013 Grand Prix of Baltimore ‘to market as soon as possible.’

Race On LLC has surged forward with plans to bring the Grand Prix back in 2013. Baltimore has officially claimed its Labor Day weekend spot on the IndyCar Series schedule next year, after the event’s financial backers reached an agreement with IndyCar last week.

“We want there to be certainty in the public’s mind that there’s going to be a race,” said J.P. Grant, one of Race On’s two financiers and president of Columbia-based Grant Capital Management.

Grant and his partner, Greg O’Neill, had already signed a five-year contract with the city and publicized their intentions to continue holding the downtown street race. But it wasn’t a done deal until Tuesday, when Grant negotiated the sanctioning fee they’ll pay IndyCar to lock down the date.

IndyCar’s typical target fee is about $1.8 million, but Grant said his team will pay less than that. He declined to specify the exact figure, though he said it is about the same as this year’s fee.

“Indy realizes that this race could become one of the top three races in the country,” Grant said. “And they also understand that in the early years of the race, we have to manage our expenses. They were very fair in negotiations. … I think they want to do everything they can to help the race succeed.”

Grant said he expects to reach a similar agreement with the American Le Mans Series by the end of this week, adding that “everything is going really well” with those negotiations.

Race On will also likely reach a deal in the next few weeks to bring Andretti Sports Marketing back on board after the firm pulled off what organizers believe was a successful promotional campaign for this year’s event — in just about 100 days.

Grant and O’Neill will meet with Andretti officials on Thursday to discuss what they did well and anything they need to improve, Grant said, such as their use of social media, their mechanisms for selling tickets and their outreach efforts in the community.

“Our goal is to get tickets to market as soon as possible,” Grant said. “This year, we’re out in front of the curve. We have time to plan and to implement things that we thought about last year but just didn’t have the time or bandwidth to get done.”

Turning a profit in 2013 isn’t a sure thing, but Grant said it is possible.

Recent tension within IndyCar about scheduling disputes and other issues has put pressure on CEO Randy Bernard to beef up the race schedule with profitable events. The controversy raised questions about whether the Grand Prix of Baltimore was a financially sound venture, but Grant said he thinks his team assured Bernard they should move forward.

“I think what happened, as far as our conversations, was that [Bernard] got to understand Race On and the reputation of the people behind it,” Grant said.

Bernard could not be reached for comment Monday.

Though organizers said they lost money from the event, they paid vendors on time and addressed concerns that surfaced after the inaugural race, which was put on by a different group that accrued millions of dollars in debt.

Total tax revenue will be calculated by the beginning of next year, said a spokesman with the state comptroller’s office, but neither city nor state officials will release tax revenue from the Grand Prix specifically.

Some officials and vendors have verified they have been paid and said they are confident organizers will pay any outstanding bills.

“I think going forward with the new leadership and the fact that they have an entire year [to plan for the 2013 race], I believe that it will be a successful event in the future,” said Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt. “I think all the vendors and companies that are owed will be paid. I was assured of that, and I have that confidence.”

Grant said his group plans to publicize a handful of financial details, including total taxes paid, when an independent economic impact study is released in two to three weeks. Organizers commissioned Forward Analytics Inc. — the same company that reported on the 2011 race — to do the study.

When the report is released, Race On will release the total ticket revenue collected but not the actual number of tickets sold or the breakdown of which ticket packages patrons’ bought, Grant said.