Last weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT was our second visit to the inner harbor area to race in the American Le Mans Series with our SRT Vipers, and if you happened to be there or watched any of the races that took place, it was also the second time the brand sponsored the event.
We made an intentional change in the signage from 2012, where “SRT” logos were used throughout the circuit, switching to the full “Street & Race Technology” verbiage as a part of our efforts to increase awareness of our division within Chrysler.
Last year, phase one was to let everybody know that SRT was a brand in itself. Get the logo out there, get the letters out there, and get people familiar with the marketing initiative. Returning to Baltimore, I wanted to go a little deeper into what the SRT letters stand for.
What we’re also trying to do and you’ll see that the talking points have changed is to make sure that now people are tying SRT back to our mission as the performance brand of the Chrysler Group. Because the ALMS program has been used successfully to launch our Viper, now we’re truly launching SRT, because not everybody is going to buy a Viper as a daily driver. The fan of American Le Mans Series or IndyCar quite likely would drive a performance car as their daily driver, so sponsoring an event like Baltimore is a perfect way to introduce all aspects of the SRT line to the fans and families that attended.
For us, Baltimore is an exciting place, a city race that attracts a different audience than some of the traditional road courses. We’re introducing the casual fan to what we do.
And you’ll see if we were to do it again, we’d probably introduce the fact that SRT is part of the larger Chrysler Group, the SRT range includes cars from Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep, and so we may put on display road-going vehicles from Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram. It’s a way to strengthen our brand in the city and in the region, but we’re also trying to be good citizens. It’s such a family event and I look at it as an investment in another American city. We’re there for marketing purposes, obviously, but we’re also doing community outreach and trying to make a personal impact for the people in and around Baltimore.
We take it very seriously the fact that we’re from Detroit, the fact that the Viper is the only car built in Detroit, within the city limits. And the fact is, we’ve been able to enjoy the rebirth and growth of Chrysler, adding jobs, restoring pride. Investing in another American city like this touches on those points even more. It goes above and beyond the race and that, to me, is just very appealing.
The ALMS race itself ended up being more of a sidebar than a serious component of the weekend for us, due to the big crash at the start and the extended period to get the mess cleaned up. More contact followed, and although we had high hopes for our SRT Vipers, fifth- and sixth-place finishes were the best we could manage in the shortened event.
Looking at the repeated contact and crashes that happened, it might be worth finding a way to bypass the railroad tracks for next year’s race. If there’s a way to turn left or right on the straight and return farther down the track to avoid the disruption the tracks create, it might also be possible to adjust how the cars arrive at Turn 1, which is the other area where crashes seem to be inevitable.
It’s a great event and continues to grow each year. We’re proud to have supported it with the SRT brand and would be open to doing so if it returns next year. And if we can find a way to have more green flag racing on a revised track, I think the fans would come away as the real winners in Baltimore.
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