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Fans take in the action at Grand Prix of Baltimore

By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

5:53 PM EDT, September 1, 2012

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Scenes from the Grand Prix of Baltimore on Saturday:

View from the cheap seats

The McBride family was out in force, trying to see what they could without actually buying a ticket.

They weren't having a whole lot of luck. Eye-level banners attached to the fence along Russell Street pretty much blocked any view of the racers, and even when a brief gap in the banners gave a view of the track, the traffic barriers kept the cars hurtling down the street fairly invisible. The McBrides could definitely hear them coming, but capturing more than a momentary glimpse of the very top of the cars — maybe a brief glance at a helmet, if you were lucky — was almost impossible.

"We live right here in Pigtown, so we figured we'd come down and see what it was like," said Tom McBride, who was camped out near turn 9 with his wife, Jessica, and their two kids, 3-year-old Madeleine and 1-year-old Aidan. "We might get tickets for tomorrow, we'll see."

Last year, the McBrides said, they lucked out and got a couple of passes. No such luck this year, however. And with getting the four of them inside costing a minimum of $150 to $250, if they wanted to sit down — well, mom and dad just weren't sure it was worth it.

Witness Aidan and Madeleine, who were busy looking at everything except the race. "As you can see, they're not really all that interested," their mom said with an indulgent smile.

Still, the McBrides insisted they were big Grand Prix fans.

"I like it because of all the attention it brings to the city," Tom McBride said.

They even had an idea for next year: Maybe organizers could open the track up to bicyclists when the cars were done with it, maybe sponsor a ride of some kind.

"See if you can use your influence," Tom McBride said to a reporter.

'A great thing for Baltimore'

Ravens great Michael McCrary, making a pit stop in the convention center's VIP-only Andretti Lounge before taking in the race, sees the Grand Prix as a big-time plus for his adopted hometown.

"I want to experience it," McCrary said before heading out trackside. "I think it's a great thing for Baltimore ... an opportunity to express my support for my city."

Fast and close

Greg Marsh of Canton invited his friend, Bill Jawish, up from Annapolis to check out the Grand Prix together. Marsh had scored a couple of passes for the Andretti Lounge, so the pair took a water taxi over from Canton and decided to experience the race like the high-rollers do.

Their verdict: the Grand Prix of Baltimore offered a serious good time, especially given how close spectators are able to get to the action.

"The public access is unbelievable," said Jawish, who couldn't stop talking about getting within a few yards of the course.

"We were just 30 feet away from the guys as they were flying down the road," he said. "It was pretty nice."

In the pit

Friends Mike Wu and Ary Jogasurya of Northern Virginia bought $115 tickets to get access to the Grand Prix's pit lane. There they saw firefighters in full gear keeping watch, crews hustling to change tires and drivers qualifying for the races.

Wu, a software engineer and part-time club racer, said the admission fee was well worth the cost.

"As a kid, I just saw it on TV and started go-karting," Wu said. "I've never been behind the scenes like this."

"It's really amazing," said Jogasurya, a real estate investor.

Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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