With automakers making ever-increasing horsepower upgrades to their already fast models, where’s a racer (or your dentist) going to get his ya-yas out on the road? Surely not the Sea-to-Sky Highway, where local authorities routinely park hot wheels in their detention centre and leave one thumbing a lift back to town. Doing forty clicks over the posted speed limit will earn your car a week in the impound lot.
Three racetracks in our region offer not only a chance to improve driving skills through performance driving workshops, but to safely unleash the beast that is your car.
Location: Oliver, B.C.
Operated by: South Okanagan Motorsports
Designed by: Jacques Villeneuve, the first Canadian to win the Indy 500.
Features: Grand Prix style 4.3 kilometre circuit that takes advantage of natural elevation changes with 16 corners and an 800 metre straightaway where you can get your speed and heart rate up.
Highlights: A breathtaking location where drivers safely explore their limits on a superb track surrounded by undeveloped bench lands in the heart of B.C.’s wine country.
“I think it’s one of the top three tracks in North America, and the surrounding scenery is spectacular,” says Kees Nierop, who spent his teenage years barreling down the back roads of the Okanagan before racing globally with Porsche. Nierop is a winner of the legendary 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race and a multi-time competitor at the 24 Hours sports car race at Daytona.
Membership: Rather like a golf or yacht club membership, Area 27 requires a $45,000 joining fee plus $4,000 annually. “Academy 27” offers public access with scheduled track day education sessions.
Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit
Location: Cowichan Valley, B.C.
Operated by: GAIN Dealer Group
Designed by: Germany’s Tilke Engineers and Architects, who’ve built tracks from Colorado to Shanghai.
Features: A technical 2.3 kilometre track with nineteen tight corners, major elevation changes and a blind hill. An uber-modern clubhouse, observation deck and state-of-the-art pit garages round out the facilities.
Highlights: Canada’s only year-round motorsport circuit due to the Island’s mild climate. If you live for nailing the apex, this is your track.
“There’s less chance to get into trouble here with speed,” notes Driving Television host Zack Spencer. “You must keep your speed under control because the next corner comes up so quickly.”
Membership: $48,000 joining fee plus $4,800 annually. Available to the public are comprehensive test-drive days. Cost: $995 with own car or $1,590 with the circuit fleet.
Mission Raceway Park
Location: Mission, B.C.
Operated by: Sports Car Club of British Columbia and BC Custom Car Association
Features: A quarter mile dragstrip and a two kilometre nine-turn road course with a serious hairpin. Grandstands provide a view of the on-track action.
Highlights: Entertaining race fans and drivers for over two decades, Mission plays host to drag races, road races, driver training schools and community events. The Lucas Oil Canadian National Open and Lordco NHRA BC Nationals are held here.
Vancouver resident Shawn Lee has taken advanced driving classes at Mission, burning through a set of tires and brakes on his Audi. “I’m a guy who likes to drive aggressively,” he says. “The exhilaration of jumping into my own car with a race car driver for the first time; I’ll never forget the feeling. I considered myself a good driver until I attended a track day at Mission only to discover how much I still had to learn.”
Membership: Drivers wishing to improve their skills can register for classes offered through the SCCBC and several local sports car clubs.