Jul 8, 2016 - 2 years ago
By Supply Post
Written by Ron Mullins for the Supply Post Newspaper.
What is Area 27 You Ask?.
Area 27 is Canada’s newest, most exciting and extremely picturesque motorsport circuit located just a few kilometres south of Oliver, British Columbia. Oliver is a small Okanagan Valley town parked along Highway 97, south of Penticton, north of Osoyoos, and just a few kilometres from the United States border. The town boasts a rich and storied history and today is known as Canada’s Wine Capital. Soon it will also be known as Canada’s Motorsports Capital. Phase one of Area 27’s build-out will feature at 3 mile (4.9 km) road course designed by Formula One World Driving Champion and Canadian racing legend Jacques Villeneuve. Built to and certified as a Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Category II circuit, Area 27 will be the longest road course track west of Ontario. With FIA Cat II certification, the track will be suitable for Indy Car as well as NASCAR racing events. It would also be capable of hosting Formula One testing.
Why Area 27? Why here?.
When this question was put to Bill Drossos, Area 27 Co-Founder and President, he ex-plained it this way, “Back in 1986 when, much to my parent’s dismay, I took my college tuition and spent it on racing school lessons at Richard Spenard's Racing Academy located at Mosport Motorsport Park in Ontario. There I observed that people were coming from all over the world to take racing lessons from professional, world class coaches. It was also at racing school that I met Jacques Villeneuve and we have re-mained close friends ever since. That’s also when my dream of a destination racing school back home in the Okanagan was born. But there were no such facilities in western Canada and certainly not in the Okanagan. So I quietly tucked my pipe dream away in the bottom drawer of my mechanic’s tool chest.”
Change gears and speed forward to just a couple of years ago. “I was always on the lookout for an appropriate track location,” Bill continued, “and a couple of years ago I’m on my way back home from a ski race at Mount Baldy (just east of Oliver, B.C.) and I spotted it. Immediately I thought, there it is - the perfect piece of land for the road circuit and racing school that I had been dreaming of. Immediately I set about putting a team of dedicated individuals together and one of the first people I called was Jacques. He was all in!”
Next it was a series of meetings with the Okanagan Indian Band, the owners and stewards of the land, as well as with Chief Clarence Louie. “First, Chief Louie and I drove up to the location that I had spotted. That is when he said, “I have a better location for you.” So off we went. He was right… and that is the location we are at today.”
Possibly The Biggest Challenge.
Now Drossos was faced with possibly his biggest challenge… money. It was going to take a bunch of money to build a professional road racing circuit and he knew it. The idea of large corporate sponsorships, sponsorships that had fuelled the motorsport industry in North America for decades, was changing… rather dramatically…and not in Bill’s favour. But the idea of membership-based or country club road racing circuits was catching on across the USA. So more meetings… and soon the idea of Area 27 as a membership-based, luxury motorsport park and racing academy started taking shape.
Who Will Build It?.
Certainly Bill Drossos had the idea, the designer, the originating team and the promise of membership monies sufficient to get things started. The next big hurdle was construction. Who… to get to build it? Enter Canadian racing icon Trevor Seibert, who just happens to be the owner and president of B.C. based Lake Excavating, one of Canada’s premier heavy construction companies.
“When Bill called and explained the membership concept, what he wanted to do and what needed to be done, I was on board,” stated Seibert. “As a race car driver, you are always dreaming of designing your own racing circuit and here I was being presented with the opportunity to work on the design and construction of an international class race track and racing academy with my friend Bill Drossos and Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve… I was stoked! My job was going to be to turn this 225 acres of rock and sage brush into racing reality and fulfill Bill’s dream… It was going to be a huge task, but I was up for it.”
Trevor and Jacques spent days walking through the sage brush, the valleys and over the rocks and hills laying the track out. Next Seibert got his construction engineering team working on layouts, super elevations, straight-away lengths, turn radii and spirals, banking angles, run-off locations and sizes, pit and paddock locations, all the key elements of any successful and safe racing circuit. “It was a challenge,” stated Trevor, “our team was used to working on highway design but laying out a race course is so much more demanding. That is where my experience as a race car driver and the international racing experience of Jacques really kicked in.”
So in early February 2016, Trevor and his Lake Excavating team began moving in some heavy-iron, some really heavy-iron, onto the sage brush covered Area 27 site. “Working in the Okanagan is great,” stated Ryley Seibert, Trevor’s son, site supervisor and Canadian NASCAR driver. “I love it here, we have the weather on our side, it is dry, there was little or no snow and no frost in the ground, so we got right to work. I’m used to working in northern B.C. and Alberta during the winter so being down here is a real treat. Currently, we have about twenty-five pieces of iron working the site including bulldozers, belly scrapers, graders, excavators, wheel loaders, and just this week we moved in a portable rock crusher. Another bonus for me is that over half of our crew are local First Nation peoples who know the area and are both eager to learn and to work.”
“Once we started moving dirt around we discovered a number of advantages to this location,” Trevor added. “Advantages like… soil that had not been disturbed since the glaciers left the valley thousands of years ago, providing a good solid base and lots of available gravel both onsite and nearby. Along with this came a few disadvantages as well… such as… soil that had not been disturbed since the glaciers left the valley thousands of years ago, making moving the dirt a bit more difficult as well as a real mix of soils from shale to fine silt and boulders of all shapes and sizes. About the only thing we have to truck in, for now, is water which we need for compaction and dust control… but thankfully the lake is close by.”
Strict FIA Standards.
Although FIA standards are strict, they are very logical when you consider that both competitive-street vehicles and fully race-prepared cars will be using the Area 27 track. Track width are to be a minimum of twelve metres (40 feet), safety barriers between the cars and the people must be a minimum of one metre tall plus all the appropriate catch fences. This track will be very challenging but with a conventional layout style.
The construction of the track base will consist of heavily compacted, processed gravel. The top asphalt coat will include a percentage of Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP) providing an extra level of stability. Track paving will be handled by Penticton-based Peters Bros. Construction who are expected to move a minimum 400 ton-per-hour highway asphalt plant on site. The hot mix will be Polymer Modified Asphalt (PMA), adding additional stability and heat resistant durability to the track surface. This will be laid down by three pavers operating in a close echelon formation to eliminate as many seams or joints as is practical.
Phase one of the track construction includes the track, run-off areas, safety barriers, pit and paddock roads as well as parking and observation areas. Phase two and three will include administration buildings, a racing school, storage and garage facilities, housing and support facilities along with a planned go-cart track all of which will be forthcoming.
Everyone is Excited.
Trevor Seibert is excited, “I’ve raced all over North America and I can’t think of a more exciting track or a better facility than we are building here.” When asked if planning and construction were on schedule and on budget, a huge grin appeared on Bill Drossos' face. “Trevor, Jacques and I, along with the entire Area 27 team, are working very well together and as of right now we are on budget and ahead of schedule thanks in part to the expertise of Lake Excavating and the fantastic Okanagan weather. It’s an exciting time for all of us.”
Area 27 road racing circuit should hear the iconic call of ‘Start Your Engines’ in the early summer of 2016 and host several racing events this year. For more information on membership or scheduled events visit www.area27.ca