They are interspersed with a burst of “pop, pop, pop” and trailed with the squeals let off by tires reaching for asphalt. Wait a few beats, then comes the burning growl of a V-8 engine swooping through the final turn and opening up for the stretch. Then again that gurgle, repeating over 2.3-kilometres of fresh blacktop.
This multimillion dollar track, carved out of forest in the Cowichan Valley and called the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, is the centrepiece of the nation’s only motorsport country club, which opens next month. Common in Europe, motorsport country clubs have recently sparked a burgeoning trend across North America; while clubs already operate in New York, Virginia, California and Nevada, at least 10 others are currently under development.
The Vancouver Island circuit, Canada’s only all-season track, came together in record time and is the realization of a dream hatched just 36 months ago by a pair of enthusiasts, Vancouver Island-based Peter Trzewik and Sylvester Chuang of Toronto. Together, the pair own 21 high-end car dealerships and employ more than 1,000 people. They envisioned a space for drivers to safely hone an increasingly rarified skill in a world speeding towards the embrace of autonomous cars: performance driving.
To build it, the pair tapped the German engineering firm Tilke GmbH, which owns claim to having created many of the world’s most renowned Formula One racetracks. Last month, the Vancouver Island track’s final layer of asphalt went down – in one day, no less – and membership sales were opened to the public. Already 60 people have signed on – including some from Hong Kong – although none without passing Trzewik’s careful scrutiny.
“We’re not trying to be arrogant but ideally we’ll assemble like-minded people who will grow together over the years,” he said, adding: “It’s our goal that people will come here from all over the world. But this is not a membership for millionaires only. You don’t have to have a $100,000 car.”
Those considering an application will require some spare capital, though. While only 499 memberships will be issued, initiation fees begin at $48,000 for an individual 25-year membership and run as high as $200,000 for the ultra-exclusive founding members’ status. Annual dues are set at $4,800 (the fee is $10,000 for corporate members). Members and their families will have access to myriad on-site facilities, from a planned nine-hole golf course to celebrity driving instructors, a club chef, a 14-screen control room for performance reviews, a 15,000-square-foot clubhouse, a body shop and a storage facility. Members are encouraged to store their cars at the track so employees can inspect, fuel and complete any body work in advance of their arrival; only street legal cars that pass club inspections will be allowed on the circuit.
A partner hotel, the Villa Eyrie Resort, also owned by Trzewik and Chuang, will offer spa treatments designed to soothe driving-specific ailments (think stiff necks, tight shoulders and weary quads) and a menu aimed at fuelling productive track sessions.
For now, that will mean mastering its technical challenges, not burning up tires. While a second phase will be added to the track to allow high speeds and extend the circuit to five kilometres, the current iteration is a winding, short course studded with 19 turns, tight switchbacks and several drops and elevations designed to reward technical precision.
“It’s not boring. This is a really good way for someone who owns a powerful car to challenge himself without being unsafe on the road,” said Max Papis, a professional driver who worked several cars over the track this week. “I think it will give a lot of people the opportunity to be safer. You buy a Ferrari and you don’t know how to drive it? You can bring it here and learn rather than crashing it on the road.”
The writer was a guest of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit. Content was not subject to approval.