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Boy Scouts, sponsors turn out to support Team Baltimore in Grand Prix event

By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun

6:33 PM EDT, July 12, 2011

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Baltimore driver Marc Bunting, who will drive his Porsche 911 GT3 in the American Le Mans Series race here in September, turned the engine on and stepped on the gas. Behind the car, Akil Wise, 11, his brother, Da'Sean, 13, and their friend in Boy Scout Troop 8548, Jabari Gilliam, 13, all jumped and then smiled sheepishly.

"I'm scared out of my mind," Akil said when asked what he thought about the race car. "I didn't think it would be so loud."

"It was like thunder," Da'Sean said.

"I thought it was awesome," Gilliam said.

It was the latest roar of a race car in the city in anticipation of the Baltimore Grand Prix weekend, Sept. 2-4. The weekend will be packed with cars, practices and races, as The American Le Mans Series' sportscars and the IZOD Indycar Series, which features the open-wheel cars that compete in the Indianapolis 500, streak around the streets of downtown Baltimore.

On Tuesday, the Boy Scouts, Bunting and a small gathering of his sponsors were at the Maryland Science Center in the Inner Harbor. They came to see the car and talk about "Team Baltimore," the one team that will represent the city, and is sponsored by local businesses and will help raise money for the Boy Scouts and other area charities and organizations.

In auto racing, when you mention sponsors, you are usually talking about tire companies, auto parts stores or some other major business that has plastered its name on the sides of a race cars. But how about a dentist, a storied candy company, a screen printing and embroidery company and another company that creates fun, costume rings?

That's what you get with Team Baltimore, along with Morton's steak house, which will be putting together a carryout package called "Prime Fuel" featuring grilled tenderloin and sautéed onions on a ciabatta roll with chips. That will be part of a broader, year-long program to raise money for charities.

Porsche of Towson is the only sponsor with an obvious racing connection, but everyone involved will be raising money for local organizations like the Boy Scouts.

Goetze's Candy Company, a Baltimore institution since 1895, will donate 6,144 four-ounce bags of Caramel Creams and Cow Tales to the Boy Scouts to sell during race weekend with 100 percent of the money earned going to the youth organization.

The owner of Signs by Tomorrow, Rick Vohrer grew up here and went to Parkville High and Towson State University. His son Hank went to Loyola Blakefield and Syracuse and designed the paint scheme on the show car the team will be displaying around town.

"The whole concept of this race at this venue is phenomenal," said the elder Vohrer, 57. "In my lifetime you could have walked over the harbor on the trash and debris that used to be here. I think it will be a grand event that will become an ambassador for the city. I don't know if this concept is anywhere else — a race team representing a city. I think it has to be somewhat unique."

Unique enough to attract Steve Ports, owner of Xsell Promotions (the embroidery company) and an Overlea High grad.

"My first reaction was, 'When? Where?'" Ports said. "I was really excited. I just never thought they'd be able to put a race on in Baltimore City. It's going to be really neat to see those cars fly around Baltimore's streets. And now, we'll be cheering on the home team."

And no one will be cheering harder than Steve Postol, owner of Porsche of Towson.

"I've been into cars my whole life," he said. "It's been my passion and I'm tremendously excited. I come from a family of car nuts.

"Now, I have a son who is 1-year old. He, my wife and I will be here for the races. My son already loves anything with wheels. He's already got the genes."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com