"I think there are two things that set the Andretti organization apart," Lopes said. "We're event junkies. We love the business. The other is the Andretti brand is established as the strongest in our industry. It's a heavy burden to perform but also a bit of an advantage. It has established credibility."

A year ago, fans had a great time at the Grand Prix, but there were complaints — walkways were too few and too narrow, access to the rest of the Inner Harbor was difficult, suites were under serviced, and, if there was a trouble spot, Grand Prix representatives had difficulty responding. Even the drivers had one issue — they didn't like the chicane on Pratt Street that slowed the cars.

A plan has been submitted to the FIA, Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, asking approval to remove the artificial structure that creates turns where there are none. The positioning of the track walls are being tweaked to make the course "a little more difficult" and challenging, and grandstands also are being repositioned to make construction quicker and access easier.

Officials also are working on adding more bridges inside the course so fans will have an easier time moving from place to place. And, they've divided the course into three segments with three managers, so response time to issues will be quicker.

"The biggest issue is making sure we aren't forgetting anything," Mayer said. "Our job is never going to be done, but our goal is to make sure when the fans come in it looks effortless. We're looking at the bridges inside the course, figuring how we move them for better access. There are so many little details — like straightening a fence to make walking along Pratt Street easier. And every time someone turns a corner we want there to be something new and interesting to do. It has to be a family-friendly event."

Part of that, Mayer said, is working with the community to pull businesses from all parts of downtown into the picture.

"There are really smart people in Baltimore who know their city really well," Mayer said. "You only learn what will work by listening. If people are interested in the aquarium or dinner in Little Italy, they should come. There are 250,000 cars that come into Baltimore every day, and while I'd love to think we'll attract those numbers, I know we won't. There are plenty of parking places for everyone."

While his team is on course in Baltimore, Andretti continues to stress his goal.

"My goal is to hopefully get the same turnout as last year and to give people more for their money," Andretti said. "I want them to come away from the experience feeling even better than they did last year. I want everyone coming up after the event like they did in Milwaukee saying, 'It's great!' and 'Can't wait for next year.'"

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com



Grand Prix of Baltimore



Dates: Aug. 31-Sept. 2

2011 Grand Prix winner: Will Power

Tickets: Online (Ticketmaster.com), by phone (1-800-745-3000) and through Ticketmaster outlets.

Information: RaceOnBaltimore.com

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