With thanks to Corvette Racing, here’s a look ahead to this weekend’s 7th round of the ALMS.
Crab cakes, Camden Yards and Charm City’s temporary street circuit await Corvette Racing and its two Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.R race cars this weekend with the third running of the Grand Prix of Baltimore. One of the newest venues on the ALMS calendar has been kind to Corvette Racing with podium finishes in the event’s first two years.
The concrete canyons along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor frame a demanding and unforgiving layout that will challenge Corvette Racing’s four drivers. ALMS GT championship leaders Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner – who lives 90 minutes from Baltimore in his native Virginia – drive the No. 4 Compuware Corvette that has won two races this season. Meanwhile, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen look to win for the second time in 2013 with their No. 3 Corvette. The pair stands fourth in the drivers’ standings but only six points out of first place.
With four races remaining in the ALMS season, positions and points are at a premium. In addition to the drivers’ championship, Chevrolet leads the GT manufacturers’ standings, as does Corvette Racing in the team category.
The Inner Harbor circuit measures 2.02 miles in length with 12 turns. The long frontstretch features a temporary chicane to slow cars before crossing a light-rail line prior to start-finish and a hard right-hander for Turn 1. The course also features a tight hairpin turn and a run around Camden Yards – home of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles.
Corvette Racing appears to have history – brief as it may be – on its side at Baltimore. Gavin and Magnussen were third in 2011 with Gavin and Milner runners-up last year en route to the ALMS championship. Gavin was on pole position and set the fastest GT race lap in 2012, and Magnussen was the fastest driver in the 2011 race.
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“Baltimore is a lot of fun. I have some pretty good memories from there. I won pole last year, which was very satisfying. I enjoy the circuit. It is, alongside Sebring, the most aggressive circuit we race on in terms of the bumps and how physical the circuit can be. It’s tight and challenging. The walls are right there and you have to run right against them. I actually have the wing mirror from last year! The team gave it to me after the Baltimore event. The right side is missing – just the end part of it – as I scraped up against the side of the wall in qualifying. That’s kind of satisfying to do that kind of thing; you’re right on the limit and can’t use any more of the circuit.”
(Describing a lap) “It’s unique like every street circuit is. Braking into Turn 1 is tricky and challenging because it’s bumpy and it’s wide. You’re all the time wondering what side of the track you need to be. Can I be looking further on the inside or all the way out? Also just before the corner late in the braking zone, it goes quite a bit downhill. So that’s another thing that can catch you out. Braking into Turn 3 – the hairpin – is super bumpy but you always get a lot of grip right and the end of the braking zone and it’s very wide. Then you come back along the circuit to where the pits are, and they always resurface that area where the tram lines go. That part is very ‘grippy’. They use very good tarmac there. That part of the track is very quick, and there is another section back around the other side of the baseball field just before you get back on the start-finish straight.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“It’s a home race for me. The last couple years, it’s been a fantastic event with good crowds and lots of new people to see us race. It’s great to see that the D.C., Virginia and Maryland areas have embraced the race like they have. I’m looking forward to getting back there again. We were second last year, and obviously that one is high on my list of ones I want to win.
(On the track) “It’s a good street track. I was pretty impressed the first year when they came with a brand new track. It’s tough to fit it in an area like the Inner Harbor where they want to have the race. There are some good passing spots with some sections that bumpy, some that are smooth. There are fast sections, slow stuff and hairpins… it’s challenging and fun for the drivers and makes for a good race track.
“There are bits and pieces that are challenging in their own right. Turn 1 is tough because the street has not been repaved or resurfaced at all. You’re kind of going uphill then down a little, and it’s a super-tight right-hander that is a great passing spot. It’s tough to squeeze the last couple of tenths out of the car there. It’s tougher when you’re offline because it’s so dirty. The last sweeping left- and right-hander before you come back on to Pratt Street is difficult because those are extremely quick corners for a street track. There is no margin for area. I’ve tried to push and find some more speed but you can get loose easily, and that’s a pretty scary moment.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER
“As difficult as road racing can be, nothing compares to the intensity of a battle on the streets of a major urban center. This time it will be the Inner Harbor of the great city of Baltimore. To be successful here, it takes the perfect balance of patience and aggression on the part of the drivers along with an effective race strategy and finished off with flawless execution by the crew guys in pit lane. With only four rounds to go in the ALMS season, every lap and every stop will play a vital role in retaining our ALMS manufacturers’ championship. With nine of those titles under our belt, you can bet we are ready to capture number 10.”