If Area 27 sounds like a slightly sinister name for a project, then don’t be alarmed. Jacques Villeneuve hasn’t been designing a top secret military base in his spare time, but an all-new circuit instead. It’s currently being built in British Columbia in Villeneuve’s native Canada, and he promises it’ll be more old-school in its approach than other recently opened tracks.
The 1997 F1 World Champion is one of four members of the South Okanagan Motorsport Corp. (SOMC) which has developed this project. He’s joined by Bill Drossos, a car club enthusiast who once raced in F2000 for two seasons and ran his own team with other member David King in the GM Motorsport series. King also drove in the Porsche Cup and is now a real estate magnate. Then there’s Trevor Seibert, owner of a major construction company who until 2013 was in NASCAR’s Canadian Tire Series. So they’ve all got the credentials to make the project a viable one, and the passion for motorsport to do it right.
Area 27 will be more specifically located in the small town of Osoyoos in the south of Okanagan, very close to the Canada-United States border, and required talks with the nearby Indian Band in order to use the land. Okanagan is one of the hottest areas in all of Canada, claimed to have the country’s only true desert, and it was partly chosen for its consistently warm, stable climate (vineyards are grown near to where the circuit will be).
Though the layout has changed since this tweet from January last year, the final version still looks challenging and flowing.
here, though unfortunately the video doesn’t have sound.
Less run-off, more gravel traps; less flatness, more elevation; less blandness, more long and fast corners. Running anti-clockwise for 4.9km and with approximately 20 metres of elevation change, the track sums up the regularly blunt Villeneuve’s response to many of F1’s newer ‘Tilkedromes’. “A track needs to be fun”, he says to Area 27’s website. “I’m designing this track more like how they used to be: demanding, but with a place for finding your limits. It’s a natural course and will feel like you’re driving somewhere.”
However, Area 27 won’t be courting F1’s attention any time soon. The circuit will be built to the FIA’s Grade II standard, and the necessary facilities to host events will come in the last phase of its build. Bill Drossos has suggested to the Vancouver Sun “The Canadian Tire NASCAR Series, Canadian Superbike, a historic weekend along the lines of the Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca and a car show similar to the Goodwood Festival” as possible fixtures in the future. Still, most of the circuit’s activity will be devoted to its members’ club. The plan is to have three hundred members in total. Given the warm location and relatively short drive from Okanagan’s largest city Kelowna, home to some of Canada’s wealthiest people, Area 27 is clearly being tailored to those potential members. SOMC even hosted a casual rally around Osoyoos to generate interest, attracting a trove of supercars. Think something similar to New York State’s Monticello Motor Club, which briefly offered their circuit to host the United States Grand Prix before it eventuallywent to Austin.
SOMC hopes to have Phase 1 of the construction, i.e. the track itself and essential infrastructure, done by this summer. You can find out more about how the idea started and the plans for the track at the Area 27 website.