Here at Mayday Garage, we’ve recently made a commitment to provide event coverage through our eyes and camera lenses as only we can. With that being said, we are going to try our hand at covering real deal race events in order to broaden your horizons. We’ve been asked multiple times to cover events Mayday style and we’re gonna give it a solid effort to bring you each event through our perspective. Keep in mind, as much as we love all forms of motorsports, we are still a blog, and not a news feed, so don’t expect play-by-play coverage of the events we attend, there are plenty of great sites online you can find that information, we are merely giving our readers an idea of what it’s like to be at one of these events.
I hate airports.
Traffic usually blows to and from airports and Houston is no different. William P. Hobby Airport is my least favorite airport to go to, but it’s pretty close to where I live and since I snagged some pretty cheap tickets online to Baltimore, I couldn’t really complain. Aside from the shady characters, dreary atmosphere and unusual smells, it wasn’t too busy that Saturday evening when I set sail for the great state of Maryland. I’ve never been to Maryland despite being born in Pennsylvania, but from what I gather online, it seemed pretty legit, plus I had a contact waiting for me in Maryland, so I wasn’t S.O.L.
After arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport (which is ginormous, btw), I was taken by shuttle to meet my contact/liaison, Joy Abdalla. If her name sounds familiar, it should, because this is the same girl that came down to our private meet just two weeks prior at Moon Tower Inn where she assisted us in taking photos of Dennis To’s Mazda RX-8. She had invited me to check out her “hood”, the free state of Maryland, where there would be a race that may have interested me. Since she works for IAG Performance in nearby Westminster, I decided to take her word for it and try to make it out for a weekend.
Early sunday morning me and Joy met up her friends and coworkers at IAG, and although we were damn near an hour late, her boss and owner of IAG, J.J. Jabaji, made sure we wouldn’t lose any more time by blasting through the countryside in his seriously quick GR STi. We then took the Metro train to downtown Baltimore where we walked down the streets and couldn’t help but smile when we heard the first signs of speed through the deep raspy exhaust notes of the open wheel racers just yards away from us.
My final destination was the Baltimore Grand Prix, a “festival of speed” utilizing different types of racing which included open wheel racing such as the IZOD IndyCar series, the Firestone Indy Lights series, Star Mazda series, the USF2000 series, and my personal favorite, the American Le Mans Series. All of these cars would run on the Streets of Baltimore, an urban street track that covers two miles of downtown Baltimore and runs through scenic views of both the Inner Harbor and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. This made for a pretty epic backdrop, and it took a while to take it all in as I walked through the crazy crowds. There were literally thousands of spectators, and that was pretty much my only complaint of the venue. It often bottlenecked at points where you needed to cross the track over a bridge.
I checked in at the Marriott where I received my media credentials, but since I was late to the Media meeting, I didn’t receive my photo vest which meant I couldn’t go on track where all of the action was. But being the determined Mayday photographer I am (or posing to be), I didn’t let this stop me, and I made the best of the situation. This Sunday morning was light in traffic, but as the day grew, the crowds doubled every hour. By 2:30pm, the starting time for the main event, the IZOD IndyCar race, there was an INSANE amount of people and getting anywhere around the venue was a fight in itself. I timed myself to see how long it would take to get from one end of the track to the other, not using any shortcuts, and it took roughly an hour to do so. Crazy!
To my dismay, the ALMS cars were nowhere to be found save for a few cars that were lingering. It turns out that the ALMS race ended the night before and they had all packed and left which left me wondering why they couldn’t just at least stick around for a day and simply showcase the cars in the ALMS paddock. Oh well, there’s always the next time. Fortunately for me, there were a ton of things to see besides the actual open wheel races, and plenty of things to do. There was a display of exotic cars near the ALMS paddock, but as J.J. had kept telling me, there were hundreds of exotics the day before on Saturday. Geez! Maybe Sunday wasn’t the day to go. There were some nice examples however in the parking lot.
We all got a chance to check out the Paddock area which believe it or not, was indoors. This was a much welcome change of venue as the warm humid air from the Inner Harbor was quickly making me sweat, and the cool air conditioning and less crowded area of the Paddock made me feel that much better. I snapped off a few photos here, and after drinking some awful coffee with Joy (it was really bad), we stopped by a local sushi joint that overlooked the beautiful Inner Harbor and the grandstands where everyone’s seats would be.
Feeling refreshed and rested thanks to J.J. (thanks again for the sushi!), we walked to our seats in the grandstand that were placed right after turn 2, but these were great seats as you could see the hairpin turn 3 and also turn 4. It was extremely difficult for me to get any decent pictures despite the awesome viewing angle because everyone would constantly stand up and sit down. After the seventh time, I decided to go and try to take better pictures somewhere else. I ended up in the pit area and snapped off some interesting pictures after the pre race was over. I couldn’t help but smell the race gas and burnt rubber in the air. Ah yes, this is what racing is all about, and although I can’t capture the smells of race gas lingering in the humid air, I tried to take the best pictures possible.
Joy and I decided to duck out early and try to beat those crowds to the exit, but I think it didn’t matter cause like I said, there were thousands of spectators everywhere, so it was like trying to escape the inevitable. As we waited for J.J. and the rest of the IAG guys to meet us near the exit, I was actually sad that I wouldn’t be able to hear roaring sounds of the IndyCars after leaving Baltimore, it’s something I’ve missed ever since they discontinued coming to Houston a few years ago. But as one great thing comes to an end, a new one begins, and this was actually Baltimore’s first inaugural Grand Prix, and after seeing the crowds and racing I witnessed in only one day of three, it’s safe to say there’ll be plenty more, and I hope to make it again next year. As for me, it was time to head back, this time, to Ronald Reagan Airport (which reminded me a lot of Hobby back in Houston) in Washington D.C. Joy dropped me off early as she had to be back at work at IAG that next morning and this airport was about one and a half hours away. Only thing that sucked was the airport was closed after midnight, so I slept on the floor till about 5am when they opened.
I hate airports.
Big thanks to J.J. Jabaji and all of the guys at IAG Performance, the wonderful staff at the Baltimore Grand Prix, the random lady that kept talking to me in tagalog on the plane even though I’m not filipino, the TSA agent that singled me out and gave me a semi-sexual patdown, and Joy Abdalla and her pitbull Turbo for showing me such an awesome time while killing five spiders a day at her new home in Maryland!
p.s. Will Power won.