Brakes get put on Baltimore Grand Prix due to Scheduling Conflict

Article originally published on CarNewsCafe

The brakes, so to speak, for the Baltimore Grand Prix have just been slammed hard.  It was announced by Race On, the company behind the Baltimore Grand Prix's organizing and scheduling, that the street race will not be coming back to Baltimore for Labor Day Weekend in 2014 and 2015.

Why was the Baltimore Grand Prix cancelled?

This is due to a scheduling conflict with an Ohio-Navy football game taking place at M&T Bank stadium next year and the following year there will be an American Legion convention on Labor Day weekend.  Race organizers tried to broker a deal that would work for all parties but it seemed that no compromises or agreements were able to be made.  Alternatives dates were considered but nothing worked for the Orioles or other conventions that were happening during August in Baltimore.  This includes the Firehouse Expo and Otakon, a convention for Anime and Manga fans, that takes place in August at the Baltimore Convention Center.  Asking any convention or conference to radically alter their schedule would have been in bad taste for city tourism officials.

How do people feel?

City officials and Baltimore's Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, are putting a positive spin on the cancellation for the next 2 years.  They believe the Baltimore Grand Prix has showcased the city to the country and world in a positive light and hopes it increases tourism.  (They forgot that “Homicide” and “The Wire” are what the Charm City is best known for though.)

Some residents are quite disappointed with the news of the cancellation and especially race fans.  In addition many drivers and people involved with racing events for the Baltimore Grand Prix seemed to love Baltimore as a street race location.  Many think Baltimore was a better city to hold a street race than the Long Beach Grand Prix, widely considered the crown jewel of the IndyCar and American Le Mans circuit.

Of course there are also residents of the city felt the Baltimore Grand Prix was an inconvenience for those that lived and work in Downtown Baltimore though as it disrupts traffic and makes it difficult to get around town when the the track is being setup and the race is taking place.  (It really is in case you are wondering.)  Also many business owners felt the race keeps away locals who would normally visit downtown businesses on Labor Day weekend and they didn't receive much foot traffic from race attendees.

What does the future of the Baltimore Grand Prix look like?

Hard to say but as of I write this IndyCar and American Le Mans, the two racing series that take part in the Baltimore Grand Prix, have not announced another Mid-Atlantic city where they will be holding a street race.  It is likely though they will try to work out a deal with another city within the region for 2014 and 2015 since each series needs to keep attendance and interest in the sport up.  Racing spectators and fans have been dwindling over the past few years and it's imperative to hold street races to generate interest.

Overall it seemed race promoters and organizers were really happy with Baltimore as a stop on the circuit tour.  It is also possible it will come since let's not forget that the Baltimore Grand Prix is a street race with “9 Lives.”  After the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix 3 years ago the was largely hailed as a success by city leaders and race promoters but it turned out that the company that organized and put on the race, Baltimore Racing Development, was bankrupt and couldn't pay vendors and the city of Baltimore fees it was owed.  To this day though it is unclear if Jay Davidson, who ran Baltimore Racing Development, got screwed by the city and not the other way around.  I imagine that is the case since politics are as dirty and corrupt as you can get here.  However, Davidson and BRD did hire ‘consultants' which didn't do anything for the race.

After Baltimore Racing Development lost the contract to run and organize the Baltimore Grand Prix the city let another company step in.  The company, DownForce Racing, was run by Felix J. Dawson, Daniel Reck, and Dale Dillon.  This looked promising as Dillon was an Indianapolis based commercial contractor that was heavily involved in racing and helped get the Baltimore Grand Prix on track for the first year.  However, Downforce Racing failed to make certain obligations and give reports to the city that it was expecting at certain deadlines.  Therefore the city decided to drop their contract with only a few months to go.   That is when Andretti Sports Marketing along with Michael Andretti, son of legendary race car legend Mario Andretti, would take over organizing the race in 2012 with only 3 months to go.  Micheal Andretti even claimed that the street race in Baltimore could be “The premier street event in the world” which seemed like a lofty claim in my opinion.  Surprisingly Andretti Sports Marketing and Race On put on the Baltimore Grand Prix in 2012 with a limited timeframe and it was successful.

Final Thoughts about the Baltimore Grand Prix

The first year the Baltimore Grand Prix there were 160,000 attendees, but only 110,000 paid for tickets apparently.  The past 2 years didn't meet those numbers though.  Also the city has shelled out $7+ million on road improvements to make the Baltimore Grand Prix a reality and over $2 million around Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles stadium, which doesn't include the money the city needed to shell-out for support services for the race.  Such as overtime paid for police and firefighters that needed to be present during the race.

The claim from city officials and race promoters was that the economic impact for Baltimore was $130+ million in total for the 3 years but it is unclear how much the city truly got back in taxes and how much business was lost during the 2 weeks it takes to setup the track.  The Baltimore Grand Prix still hasn't made money and it would take many years for the street race to do so.  It is arguable whether Baltimore, a poor city, could front that type of money for so many years without seeing a return on it's investment.  Also due to the corrupt political climate it's pretty clear money is getting pushed around to unsavory people.

Leave your Thoughts

What do you think of scheduling situation with the Baltimore Grand Prix?  Should city tourism officials have been more aggressive in pushing for another convention to move out of town?  Should American Le Mans and IndyCar honchos have been more firm as well? If you are a racing fan, resident or business owner in Baltimore, or were part of the Baltimore Grand Prix the CarNewsCafe team would love to hear your thoughts about it.

Spark EV Photo Gallery

When I went up to GM's Baltimore operations in White Marsh, MD I took a lot of pictures of the Spark EV.  It took me awhile to go through my pictures and figure out which ones were good, and which ones could be moved to the trash.

Luckily I was the first group of journalists to get a chance to drive the Spark EV, but the sun wasn't out when I took pictures in the morning.  I later came back to take better pictures of the later in the day when the sun was out so the Spark EV could shine in all it's glory.  While it's not a style icon I don't think it doesn't seem to be a bad looking car.

If you would like to use any of these photos on your auto blog or auto news site, you are more than welcome.  However you must give credit and provide a link to the source (this blog) if you do so.  Please contact me first as well just so I know were the images are being used.

GM starts production of Spark EV electric motors in Baltimore

2014 spark ev

General Motors (GM) unveiled the start of production for electric motors that will be equipped on the 2014 Chevy Spark EV at the automakers' Baltimore facility in White Marsh, MD today.  (Ok, that is not technically Baltimore but it is close enough.)  This makes GM the first automaker to assemble and build electric motors in the US.  In addition the plant will also manufacture and assemble transmissions for the Spark EV.

The 2014 Spark EV will represent a big shift for GM.  While many point to the Chevy Volt's success, the company hasn't released a fully electric car that has been available to the public since the EV1.  We all know that the EV1 was a PR nightmare for GM and is it important to note that the EV1 was not available for the general car buying public to buy.  Oh, the times are changing though.

GM seems to be committed to building electric cars like the Spark EV and being environmentally friendly at the same time.  Not only will the GM Baltimore Operations be building electric car motors  and transmissions, but it also has a solar panel array on the Baltimore operations that generate 1.25 megawatts of electricity.  I was told this provides roughly 9% of the energy for the plant, which isn't a lot but that is not bad either.  The Baltimore facility is also 100% landfill free.  Materials are either burned for energy, recycled or reused for other projects.

Larry Nitz, GM's global electrification director, mentioned that the through the whole process of designing the Spark EV that GM was, and is, customer focused.  “Quiet, reliable, fun.” is how he described the Spark EV.

Having driven the Spark EV around the closed Baltimore operations facility, I do agree it is all three of those things.  It is surprisingly smooth and has good pick-up but certainly is not fast.  (Some fit and finish could use a some work though.)  It is hard to tell from a drive that only lasted 5-10 minutes and was not on real roads though.  As well you need to have a GM engineer making sure you aren't doing burnouts or anything.  That is something a particular auto writer might have suggested.

GM has not announced official pricing for the 2014 Spark EV but has said it should be under $25,000.  With a tax credit of $7,500 it should be affordable for the average consumer putting it right in the electric car market with the Nissan Leaf.  While the Spark EV seems like it will be fighter against the Nissan Leaf, Nissan has sold 50,000 Leafs since the car's introduction.  This makes the Nissan Leaf the best selling electric car of all time and most likely will be hard to catch-up with in terms of sales.  (The Prius does not count since it is a hybrid, which has a gas motor, in case you were thought “What about the Prius?.”)

GM has also not confirmed the exact date when the Spark EV will be available for sale.  Larry Nitz did say during lunch that only a select amount of Chevy dealerships will be selling the Spark EV.  This is the similar strategy that GM used for the Chevy Volt launch.  No word on how many GM expects to sell or what the electric motor output for the Baltimore plant is.  (I asked they didn't say or budge a bit.)

Since this was a big announcement for GM and the area as a whole.  Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley was on hand, as well Baltimore county executives, today to show his support for GM and the push to electrify the nations's vehicles.  Governor O'Malley even took a spin around in the Spark EV exclaiming as he got in, “I haven't done this in 13 years!”  I guess that shows how pampered politicians are! 🙂

You can see my video of Governor O'Malley taking the 2014 Spark EV for a spin.  I need to work on my video editing skills a lot though.  (Btw Windows Live Movie Maker sucks!)

One surprising guest I noticed at the event today was Debbie Phelps, Michael Phelps mom. I guess Debbie Phelps is now a celebrity in Baltimore so she gets invited to events like this Spark EV gathering.  My guess is that Michael Phelps, Baltimore's most famous and beloved athlete, could easily buy his mom a 2014 Spark EV (well probably like 20) without affecting his wallet too much.  She didn't drive a Spark EV, she just rode along in one, so I am unsure if she will be buying one in the future.

All in all it will be interesting to see what is next for the Baltimore facility in terms of manufacturing capabilities for electric motors and transmissions and if this will extend to other parts of the US.  As well what is next for GM and their electric car future.

Stay tuned for more articles about the Spark EV and Baltimore GM plant.

Stop Big Brother Maryland merges with Maryland Driver’s Alliance

I thought Maryland drivers would like to know that the organization that used to be known as  Stop Big Brother Maryland has now joined forces and merged with the Maryland Driver's Alliance.   Stop Big Brother Maryland advocated against automated traffic enforcement measures such as speed cameras, mobile speed vans, and red- light cameras

The Maryland Driver's License has the same mission and looks like it has been around since 2008.  There website has information regarding traffic enforcement bills and measures, cameras errors, and shows how your local Maryland representative voted.  All useful information that should help people make informed decisions whether you are for or against these automated traffic enforcement measures.

StopBigBrotherMD.org is now part of the Maryland Drivers Alliance.

Our mission is to protect the rights of Maryland drivers. We oppose the corrupting effect which automated enforcement has on our justice system. We are your source of information for everything Maryland officials don't want you to know about speed cameras.

We support responsible enforcement of traffic laws by human officials and the proper application of traffic engineering principals to improve safety. Drivers should always make safety their first priority.

Visit the website if you would like to learn more: http://www.mddriversalliance.org/

2013 Baltimore Auto Show Rolls into Town

baltimore auto show
Baltimore Auto Show

2013 Baltimore Auto Show Rolls into Town

The 2013 Baltimore Auto Show kicks off tomorrow and for any gearheads or car shoppers that are interested in seeing the latest and greatest from automakers for the 2013 and 2014 model years, it should be a lot of fun.  The Baltimore Auto Show will feature several cool events, features, celebrity appearances, and family activities.

Camp Jeep will allow drivers to test the Jeep's capability inside the Baltimore Convention Center with a hill climb experience to test the Jeep's traction capabilities climbing a 18-foot high, 35 degree Jeep Mountain the highlight of Camp Jeep.  Riders are over 20 feet off the ground when they sit on top of Jeep Mountain.

In addition attendees are encouraged to participate in the Ride & Drives with Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, and Cadillac.  The Ride & Drives will occur outside the convention center and more than 35 models will be available to test drive at the Baltimore Auto Show:

• Cadillac  – CTS Sedan, CTS-V Sedan, CTS-V Coupe, CTS-V Wagon, SRX, XTS, ATS and Escalade
 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC – Chevrolet Camaro, Cruze, Equinox, Malibu, Silverado, Sonic, Spark, Traverse and Volt; Buick Regal, LaCrosse and Verano; and GMC Acadia, Sierra and Terrain
• Chrysler – Chrysler 200, 300 and Town & Country; Jeep Compass, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler; Dodge Challenger, Charger, Dart and Durango; Ram 1500 and FIAT 500

(Check the Baltimore Auto Show website for Ride & Drive times.)

If you want to see some exotic cars and supercars then you will be in luck.  The EuroStar Auto Gallery will feature vehicles like the Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Murcielago, Lamborghini Spyder Gallardo, Aston Martin, Maserati GranTurismo and even more.  

Neil Tjin, one of the automotive industry's most influential designers, who has been involved in the automotive aftermarket for over fifteen years, will be showcasing several of his customized vehicles that have been featured at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show in Las Vegas.  Amazing customized vehicles by Neil Tjin include his 2013 Toyota Tacoma, 2013 Ford Mustang GT, 2013 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE and more.  The Tjin Edition Roadshow should be one of the highlights of the show.

Other customized vehicles will be on display thanks to the Auto Performance Aesthetics Club (A.P.A.C.).  You can also see some amazing classic and antiques cars thanks to the Chesapeake chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA).

Don’t miss a collection of rare, vintage vehicles in The Elegance at Hershey Display, a special feature previewing the automotive history that will be showcased at the annual event, in Hershey, Penn in June.

Larry Sheets, a retired Baltimore orioles player, will make an appearance and will be signing free autographs at the show on Saturday, February 9th between 12-2 pm.  Even if you are still excited about the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl (I just had to say it) I am sure Baltimore sports fans won't want to miss a Baltimore Orioles favorite.

If you want you can stop by the Sony a77 Studio and thanks to some cool green screen technology you can get a nice digital picture of you and the kids in some of the world’s fastest sports cars!  The cars won't be there but it will make it seem like they are.

For kids Spider Man, Captain America will King Robota, and the Comic Bot will be making appearance on Family Day (Sunday).  Children 12 and under are FREE when with an adult Baltimore Auto Show ticket on Family Day.

Before attending the auto show smartphone users can visit iTunes store or Google Play to download the new Motor Trend Auto Shows free mobile App.  Use the App to buy tickets, map a route, view participating manufacturers and get vehicle information at a quick glance. (Of coures who really needs an app for one day?)

What: 2013 Baltimore Auto Show

Date: Thursday, February 7th – Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Location: Baltimore Convention Center, 1 West Pratt St, Baltimore MD, 21201

Tickets Prices: Adults ($10), Children 7-12 ($4), Kids 6 and under are FREE

For more information on ticket pricing, appearance times, and show times, visit the Baltimore Auto Show website. Click here for special feature times.

Remember when you buy a Baltimore Auto Show ticket online or at the box office, you will get a FREE one-year subscription to Motor Trend magazine thanks to the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.  There are usually postcards in the front entrance you can fill out to claim a subscription.

If you want to get FREE TICKETS check your latest Motor Trend magazine. I noticed in the last Motor Trend issue I received there was a page with two Free tickets to the show.  Even if you don't have a Motor Trend subscription I am sure a friend does.  Leave a comment below if you appreciated this tip!

Also a quick note about parking, I actually usually don't drive down there.  I like to take the Light Rail to downtown Baltimore since it drops you basically right at the Convention Center.  If you are going with a bunch of people it probably makes more sense to drive and park somewhere as most parking lots around the Baltimore Convention Center are about $10.  There is parking info on the Baltimore Auto Show website.

People can also go checkout the 2013 Washington Auto Show, which goes until February 10th, 2013.  It tends to be a little bigger and feature more government organizations.

*Join Adam’s Auto Advice on Facebook and Twitter.

Howard County Speed Cameras

In case anyone wants to know all the locations of Speed Cameras in Howard County, I thought I would post this list.

  • 4500 blk. Doncaster Drive
  • 4600 blk. Roundhill Road
  • 5000 blk. Ilchester Road
  • 6500 blk. Freetown Road
  • 6600 blk. Seneca Drive
  • 6700 blk. Old Waterloo Road
  • 7200 blk. Oakland Mills Road
  • 8400 blk. Savage Guilford Road
  • 9300 blk. Mellonbrook Road
  • 10100 blk. Donleigh Drive
  • 10200 blk. Old Frederick Road
  • 12500 blk. Frederick Road
  • 16800 blk. Old Frederick Road
  • Centennial Lane
  • Old Stockbridge Road
  • Vollmerhausen Road
  • 3000 blk. St. Johns Lane
  • 3100 blk. North Chatham Road
  • 4000 blk. Crescent Road
  • 5700 blk. Cedar Lane
  • 6000 blk. Stevens Forest Road
  • 6700 blk. Old Waterloo Road
  • 9100 blk. Northfield Road
  • 9500 blk. Kilimanjaro Road
  • 9600 BLK. Whiteacre Road
  • 10300 blk. Quarterstaff Road
  • 10400 blk. Green Mountain Circle
  • 12100 blk. Wood ford Drive
  • 14000 blk. Carrs Mill Road
  • Centennial Lane
  • Rogers Ave

Even though I don't live in Howard County I think it is important for people to be aware of of Speed Cameras and their locations around the Baltimore-Washington metro area.  Citations and tickets issued through the speed camera program are only a $40 fine and there are no points added to your driving record.  Still, that $40 can add up quickly if you are not careful.

I found this list on the Howard County Government website and so it is the most accurate it can be as of this writing.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about Speed Cameras in Maryland.  Are they good or bad?