Flip on the TV this weekend and you might catch the Monaco Grand Prix, which features Formula 1 cars racing through the European city’s streets.
Now imagine it at Cottman and Frankford.
The first ever Mayfair Grand Prix will bring NASCAR drivers, superstar athletes and a race track to the intersection on June 1. It’s a collaboration between the Mayfair Business Improvement District and the Northern Liberties-based Urban Youth Racing School.
“We’re going to do what I believe is the biggest event that Northeast Philadelphia — other than a championship celebration — has ever done,” said Marc Collazzo, the BID’s executive director.
Now, the scale of the race will be smaller than Monaco or the Daytona 500. The course will form a circle around the intersection, and the vehicles used will be go-karts able to reach 50 mph.
“These go-karts are relatively fast,” said Anthony Martin, who runs the nonprofit racing school. “These are no boardwalk go-karts. These are real.”
The drivers will be real, too, straight from NASCAR’s top circuit. Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Daniel Hemric and potentially other drivers will be flown in from Monroe County, where the Pocono 400 is being held the next day. Their chopper will land at Lincoln High School, Collazzo said.
Current Eagles players, local news personalities and other sports stars are also expected to attend and participate in the race.
UYRS students will also get behind the wheel. All drivers will be required to wear fire suits, and barricades and fencing will be set up along the race track, Martin said.
The track will be surrounded by a community festival, featuring food stands, live music and crafts. It will all kick off at 1 p.m., with the relay race expected to start at 4 p.m.
Collazzo said Frankford Avenue will be closed between Wellington Street and Bleigh Avenue to accommodate the crowds.
He wants the grand prix to be an annual affair and believes the event will draw people from around the region, not just the Northeast.
“I wanted to bring an event of this scope because I think the people of Mayfair deserve it,” Collazzo said. “I want Mayfair to be the mecca of activity.”
Martin, who grew up in Southwest Philadelphia but now lives in Mayfair, was skeptical when Collazzo first approached him about doing a race.
“When we talked about this in the beginning, I thought it was a joke, to be honest with you, because, first of all, I didn’t even think we could do a race on the streets of Northeast Philadelphia,” Martin said. “I just never thought about it.”
Martin started UYRS 21 years ago to introduce kids, especially black kids, to motorsports. There is an interest, he said, but inner-city kids don’t always have access.
“I was always a racing fan, but I was from the hood,” Martin said. “Being a black kid from the hood, me talking racing, I didn’t have anybody to share that with.”
A big part of the school is teaching the budding drivers about the science, technology and geometry behind the sport, Martin said. UYRS offers a 10-week program for kids ages 8 to 18 and enrolls about 150 students a year.
The grand prix is taking the place of the Mayfair May Fair and Fallen Heroes Run as the neighborhood’s big spring event.
Organizers on the Mayfair Fallen Heroes Run Facebook page said the event is taking a one-year hiatus and is expected to return next year.
“Our team has been built solely by a small group of volunteers who have given hundreds of hours and need a break to tend to personal, family and professional matters,” a post on the page said. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org