Baltimore mayor, race organizers differ on prospects of GPoB return (VIDEO)

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – perhaps the greatest supporter of the Grand Prix of Baltimore – told reporters last night that she was “cautiously optimistic” about the street race’s return to the Inner Harbor in 2016.

Yesterday, INDYCAR announced that the event would be off the schedule for at least the next two years due to an inability to find a new date for it.

Downtown Baltimore is playing host to a major college football game next Labor Day weekend, and at the same time in 2015, the American Legion will stage a major convention in the area.

But while Blake seemed to think that the Grand Prix could be revived in the future, J.P. Grant of Race On Baltimore (which co-promoted the race alongside Andretti Sports Marketing) was more subdued about his prediction of the event’s future.

“It took us two years to get to this point, and if you take two years off, our sponsors are going to wonder whether we can actually put on an event,” Grant said according to Baltimore news radio station WBAL-AM.

“We had potential title sponsors lined up for next year, and they want three-year commitments, and so if we can’t commit to that, it makes it difficult to put on a race.”

A report from David Collins of Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL-TV has more reaction from Blake, Grant and city business owners on the cancellation of the event. You can watch it at the top of the post.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”