This past weekend, the city of Baltimore was treated to two great days of racing. While the IndyCar race on Sunday may have snagged more of the attention, it was the Saturday competition of the American Le Mans Series, the Grand Prix of Baltimore, that had our attention.
With cars ranging from Le Mans prototypes, to heavily modified versions of road cars such as the SRT Viper and BMW Z4, there are some very interesting match-ups. Throw in the fact that you are racing in the streets of Baltimore– basically around Camden Yards– and you have one of the most intriguing spectacles in motorsport.
Michelin, tire partner for BMW, SRT, Corvette and several other teams invited BoldRide down to the pits to get an up-close-and-personal look at these high-powered racing machines.
Camden Yards is the home to the Baltimore Oriels. That massive brick building in right field that you see in game highlights? The entire pit lane (left side of photo) fits along side the opposite side (right side of photo). Drivers typically use bicycles and scooters to get around the massive paddock and pit area.
One Corvette Racing Team one of two C6.R racecars being prepped prior to the race.
That’s a complicated steering wheel. The team developed a radar based sensor system, which can tell if the car is being passed, and on which side. It works like the blind-spot monitor in a new car.
The #552 Alpina / Level Five racing team, which uses a Honda V8. It finished third overall.
All of the driver’s most essential controls are directly on the wheel. Note extensive use of carbon fiber and the other controls, which are recessed into the left section of the cockpit.
If those don’t look like race tires to you, you’re right. Those are “rollers,” which the team puts on the car when moving it prior to the race. The real tires are complete racing slicks, with no grooves.
Ah, the beautiful BMW Z4 GT3. While the Corvette and Viper have engines that are somewhat related to their road-going counterparts, the Z4 features a 4.0-liter V8 engine far different from the 4- and 6-cylinder engines in the roadcars.
The Z4 team is able to do this through homologation rules, which gives leeway to certain cars that have sold more than a pre-determined number of units.
But I’ll take this lime green BMW 3.0CS in the parking lot.
The Dyson/Mazda team performs a driver change as a Baltimore Firefighter looks on. Each team has a minimum of two drivers. Each driver needs to be behind the wheel for a minimum time, respective to the length of the race.
The Flying Lizard Motorsports crew works on their No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. It finished 7th in the GTC class, which is a race within the race of only 911s.
Teams never want to have to use these extra parts– It means their car was in a crash. But when a crash occurred before the race even started, as many as nine cars were either damaged or taken out of the race.
The ESPN camera crew watches on as one of two Honda-powered Patron-sponsored cars is operated on in pit lane. It sustained damage in a crash, and the team believed it would take less time to fix in the pit, as opposed to driving it into the team garage on the paddock.
One of two SRT Viper GTS-Rs enters the pits, presumably to refuel. According to Michelin, some cars can go through three tanks of fuel– or stints– before needing a new set of tires.
A race official watches on as a prototype challenge car performs a driver change. There are strict rules about when refueling can take place in relation to driver and tire changes, and the officials see to it.
The Muscle Milk car in the lead, is chased by the Dyson/Mazda car in white and blue. These two cars would finish first and second, respectively.
Unlike NASCAR, which covers a set distance, ALMS races are held based on the most distance covered in a given time. To improve chances of winning, some teams split up their cars in the field to front and rear of the pack. The two Corvette’s have opted to run in tandem, working together.
The Dyson/Mazda car mounts the apex curbing. City courses like this one pose challenges for teams, as the roads are extremely uneven.
This time, the Corvette opted to straddle the curbing, hoping to lay the power on again early.
The damage sustained by the Z4 here is just a taste of the attrition in road racing such as this. With several classes of cars all in the same race, it truly is one of the most exciting forms of racing that we have been able to watch.
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- American Le Mans Series