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Grand Prix notes: American LeMans leader Jeannette touts his series as 'mayhem or chaos'

Before qualifying started for Saturday's American LeMans Series race, points leader Gunnar Jeannette took the time Friday to explain what makes a sportscar race in the series so exciting and why people coming to the track should take the time to watch the race.

"The main thing is they're going to see cars that have no business being out here driving down the street," he said. "They're going to see cars with 4, 5, 6, 700 horsepower trying to race between streets and over manhole covers. I've never seen a city with this many manhole covers, let alone a race course with this many. Now, consider cars on a circuit like that with four different classes that travel at four different speeds whose speed differential form the slowest to the fastest is 30-plus miles per hour. And then remember that every one of the drivers need to get through the course as quickly as possible."

Jeannette, who got through qualifying Friday with the quickest speed (82.141 mph, in 1:29.407 in his Core Autosport Oreca FLM09), paused to let all that sink in.

"It's mayhem or chaos," he said. "I'd like to say it's organized chaos. But at best, it's semi-organized. It's like you being on 95 during rush hour with four guys in Ferrari's trying to race."

Jeannette laughed.

"It's going to be hard," he said. "The delay that has reduced practice time is a pretty big deal. But I like it. The track has character. Touch on wood, I'm looking forward to the lack of track time. I have no problem with it, no problem at all."

It obviously wasn't Friday.

Ticket to Las Vegas

If you've purchased a race day ticket for Sunday's Baltimore Grand Prix, you can receive a complimentary ticket to IndyCar's season finale, the World Championships in Las Vegas.

You need to stop by the IndyCar Fan Village, located near Camden Yards, for ticket redemption.

You'll see the funniest things

Black Swan Racing driver Jeroen Bleekemolen thought he was in for an uneventful qualifying. Sure, the Baltimore course is new, but the Porsche 911 GT3 driver had won a pole for his American LeMans Series race last week at Road America in the strangest set of events he'd ever experienced. He'd passed two cars in the final lap and then had a tire puncture before reaching the finish line.

That, it turns out, was just a warm up. Friday, he thought he was getting another flat, but when he radioed the crew they told him it was a loose wheel, not a flat, and advised him to bring the car back to the pits slowly.

"Then, as I was going through the shortcut, the wheel came off," Bleekemolen said. "I sat there and thought, and I knew at LeMans [the series runs under the rules sanctioning the 24 Hours of LeMans], you can get out in a safe location and retrieve parts. So I parked it, jumped out. Then I put the tire in the passenger door and drove it back.

"We were able to get it back on without damage and I went back out and set my fast time."

Bleekemolen earned the GTC pole by covering the 2.03 mile course in 1:36.794 at 75.872 mph.

Also earning poles in the ALMS Series for today were Guy Smith in the P1 class, moving his Lola B09 86 Mazda around the course in 83.692 mph in 1:27.750, and Dirk Werner in the GT class, clocking 80.384 in 1:31.362 in his BMW M3 GT.

Team Baltimore car crashes

Marc Bunting of Monkton and fellow Team Baltimore driver Duncan Ende came into this week’s American LeMans Series holding a one-point lead in the team championship race. But that lead might be in jeopardy after Ende, a 26-year-old from Los Angeles, crashed one of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars during practice Friday.

Coming into Turn 10 right in front of Camden Yards, Ende said he “lost the rear end” and the driver’s side wound up crashing into the wall at a little over 100 mph. Ende, a 26-year-old from Los Angeles, said it was the first time he had to be taken to a medical trailer to be checked out after complaining of back and head pain, but the car sustained significant damage to the rear driver’s side.

Bunting said the engine and transmission of Ende’s car would be removed and the car would be taken to a body shop in Jessup for what he hoped to be an overnight repair job. If the car can be repaired by Saturday, Bunting will enter the race in the final position.

“If you were taking this to the dealership, it wouldn’t be back for a month,” said Bunting who qualified his car in 27th place.

Ende conceded that he would gladly give up qualifying in order to make it to the starting line Saturday night.

He's got the Power

Will Power, who is just 26 points behind leader Dario Franchitti in the IZOD IndyCar points chase, found .07 of a mile-per-hour more in his Penske Dallara Friday to best the Scotsman for the fastest lap of the day in practice. Power topped the charts at 89.411 mph in 1:22.1379, while Franchitti's Chip Ganassi racer reached 89.325 mph in 1:22.2162.

When they were both back in the pits, they agreed Baltimore's temporary street course is full of bumps, hard turns and technical difficulty.

Awful, one might think. Wonderful, they said.

"I love the course," Power said. "The wall is the limit. You're racing in a canyon and you have to get it right."

"It will be a challenge for the engineers and it kept me busy hanging on to the car," Franchitti said. "I heard how much work they put in to trying to make Pratt Street smooth. It isn't. It's a tough thing to do. It's not perfect, but that's part of what gives it its character."

Schmidt Motorsports fast in practice

The streets of Baltimore met with approval from the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. The Schmidt team turned in the four fastest practice laps.

Josef Newgarden was fastest in 83.918 miles per hour, followed by Conor Daly at 83.396, Victor Carbone (82.578) and Esteban Guerrieri (82.495).

"There is tons of room at places on that track," Newgarden said. "There are some super wide spots, 5 or 6 lanes wide, and some narrow. There are two extremes of smooth and rough, wide and narrow. It's fun. Unreliable. And everyone around the track seemed so interested and enthusiastic."

Daly notes fans had to "wait around half a day, but in the end finally got a good show."

Daly also noted it was good for the team to have all four drivers at the top.

"Usually, it's just three of us, but Victor has learned a lot. It says a lot about our team. We're here. We're quick."

And Saturday morning they'll try to keep the dominance going during qualifying at 11:05.

Police commissioner Bealefeld popular

Attracting a lot of attention in the paddock area Friday afternoon before the practice runs at the Baltimore Grand Prix was a smiling Baltimore police commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who seemed to enjoy himself as he toured the cavernous ground floor of the Baltimore Convention Center and checked out the racecars.

Time and again, Bealefeld, in full blue uniform and trailed by his security detail, was stopped by well-wishers and race fans hoping to have a photo snapped with him.

At one point, as Bealefeld stopped near Scott Dixon's race car, he attracted a bigger crowd than the one ogling the slick Indy car.

"It's a great event for the city," Bealefeld said. "We have a number of high-profile events in the city, like the Preakness ... [But] this is like fresh energy and enthusiasm. I hope people, as they're checking out the cars are saying, 'Wow, I never knew that Baltimore was like this.'"

Andretti and crabs

Kathy Metalios read the recent story about Mario Andretti coming to Baltimore for crabs to celebrate victories. Andretti couldn't remember the name of the crabhouse, but Metalios does.

It was Duffy's on Frederick Road.

"My husband's uncle was Jimmy Parthemos," Metalios said in an email. "He was the one who owned Duffy's. I remember he called us one night and told us that Mario had called him from his plane and was coming to eat crabs. He asked if we wanted to come meet him. We drove over from Parkville and met him that night."

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Cowherd contributed to this article

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

don.markus@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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