Happy fans swarmed the 2011 Baltiimore Grand Prix - INDYCAR photoEnlarge Photo
Although the premiere Baltimore Grand Prix was a huge fan success last year, welcoming both the American Le Mans Series and IZOD IndyCar Series on Labor Day weekend, its internal finances were, to put it mildly, awful.
Apparently, very few vendors were paid and the City of Baltimore was close to pulling the plug absent a more viable promoter than the operators the race weekend had in 2011.
Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake loved the fact that the race weekend generated an economic impact of $47 million, but wasn't terribly excited about the fly-by-night impresarios responsible for putting on the event.
The Mayor chose a newly formed partnership to take over operations of the Baltimore Grand Prix, a group consisting of two locally-based business entrepreneurs and an Indianapolis-based construction executive with extensive racing experience; the contracts start with this year's Labor Day race weekend and continues through 2016. The Mayor's selection is, of course, subject to review by the Baltimore City Board of Estimates.
The new enterprise is called Downforce Racing and consists of Wilkes Lane Racing LLC, whose principals are Felix J. Dawson and Daniel C. Reck of Baltimore, together with Dillon Racing LLC with principal Dale Dillon.
Dawson and Reck are founding partners of Wilkes Lane Capital LLC, a company that focuses on advisory services and private investing in the energy sector. They are former executives of Constellation Energy and Dawson served as both president and CEO of that company's commodities group; Reck was co-head of origination in the same group.
Dale Dillon owns Dillon Construction Grop and Dillon Racing, both Indianapolis entities. He has served as head of operations for Indy car races in St Petersburg and Toronto and was brought in to manage operations of the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix just weeks before the race.
This group impressed the Mayor with their experience that includes executive leadership, credentials in race operations and their strong financial management capabilities. They stated their goal is "to create an event that grows over time to become the premier street racing event in North America," although I'm sure Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach promoters would argue with that premise.
Among the new race organizers' challenges are landing title sponsors for the ALMS and INDYCAR feature races and attracting vendors--many of whom are still owed money from last year. They stated the task of lining up title sponsors should be finalized quickly; a disciplined business plan is expected to ease vendor doubts.
The 2011 debut Baltimore Grand Prix race weekend was a successful event for spectators and the local hospitality industry. The current promoters believe there is sufficient spectator, business and civic support for the race to a profitable event for all parties involved.