Baltimore, September 2, 2011. The inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix, to be held on the 2-mile, 12-turn streets of the City of Baltimore, opened its doors to the public today but the Risi Competizione team has not yet been able to fully appreciate its charms.
Despite a creditable qualifying performance which would have placed him in sixth place on the GT grid, Jaime Melo suffered contact from the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche towards the end of the 15-minute session – on what would have been his fastest lap. This incident not only damaged the right rear tire and bodywork on his Ferrari 458 Italia, but also ultimately led to him being penalized. The No. 62 had its qualifying times disallowed and will therefore start the two-hour race from the back of the 30-car grid tomorrow, alongside the Porsche which was also penalized – both for “unjustifiable risk”.
Track time was at a premium all day as the organizers struggled to complete all the necessary safety work and preparations in time to accommodate the proposed timetable. The Risi Ferrari and its fellow American Le Mans Series competitors had first view of the track some five hours later than originally scheduled, and the two hours of practice before qualifying was compressed to 75 minutes.
Finland’s Toni Vilander gave his first impressions of the new-for-2011 ALMS venue: “It’s not going to be easy to race here and you’re going to need luck to do well. There are a lot of blind corners where you might come across an accident, and you can’t see what’s happening. It’s sort of like Long Beach but two or three times more difficult!
“The track is wide but the apexes to corners are narrow; you need to have one line all the way to the left to make the apex before then going to the outside again. If you dive inside you could even end up not making the corner.
“The chicane is a bit strange in the middle of the straight – you could easily cut straight through in the race (but be penalized). Cars tend to go side by side here even though there’s only really room for single file traffic. The concrete stuff is really, really bumpy and I already feel sorry for the single seaters [open wheel cars]– it’s maybe something we can live with, but it will be so bad for them. The car is bottoming out over the rail/trolley tracks and sort of jumping which is ‘interesting’!
“Overall, for the first time here, I think everyone is really alert to everything that’s not so good but I want to say that we should appreciate the efforts made here by the race organisation and the City of Baltimore. Maybe for the future it would be good to have drivers’ opinions on the design of these new race tracks..that might make for an even better show.”
About Risi Competizione
Risi Competizione is a Houston-based Ferrari racing team lead by Managing Director Giuseppe Risi. Official team sponsors include Pennzoil, Motorola, Boardwalk Auto Group, Ferrari Fort Lauderdale, Ferrari of Vancouver, Ferrari Financial Services and Ferrari of Houston.
The next round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón will be the all new Baltimore Grand Prix, on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday, September 3, 2011. The two-hour race runs starts at 4:30pm (ET) and will be broadcast on ABC TV from 4:00 – 6:00 PM (ET) on Sunday, September 4. ESPN3.com will run Qualifying Stream 2:40 – 3:55 PM (ET) on Friday, Sept 2 and the live ESPN3 Race Stream will be from 4:15 – 6:45 PM (ET).
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