Purpose-Built for Speed

Story by Misti Hurst// Photos by @dave.dg
October 2 2019

A world-class racetrack in the heart of B.C.’s wine country.

Nestled in the centre of Okanagan wine country among spectacular rolling hillsides is a racetrack called Area 27. This stunning world-class members-only facility lies just five minutes east of Oliver, B.C., 30 minutes south of Penticton and roughly 4.5 hours from Vancouver. Visiting it has been on my bucket list for a few years now. 

Construction of this unique facility began in February 2016 and the first laps were completed on Aug 30 of that year. Since then, all I’ve been hearing from people in the motorsports industry is: “You’ve gotta ride that track!” 

I was finally able to find time last summer to ride it, and I was not disappointed. I loved it so much that since then, I’ve been hoping to get invited back. When a last-minute opportunity came up earlier this year, I jumped at it. 

The Coveted Guest Pass

Racing at Area 27 Motorcycle ParkThe first time I rode Area 27 was July 2018. I was given a guest pass to ride the track from Craig Fernandes, a friend of mine who has been a member since the facility opened. I borrowed a 2001 R6 from Mike Salary, another friend, and had help in the pits from Marbod Kern. I packed my car with bicycles, snacks, food, bathing suits and my two children – aged 7 and 9 at the time (promising them fun and adventure) – and began the pretty drive. 

After winding past some stunning West Coast scenery and through the heart of wine and produce country, we came upon a tiny little sign: Area 27. If you didn’t know that it was a motorsport facility and racetrack, you might assume it was simply the name of one of the dozens of vineyards or wineries along the same route. 

We turned up the road and fresh, dark pavement led up and through a barren but beautiful hillside. When we crested the rise, we got our first glimpse of the track. 

Pleasantly Surprised

Heading to the Finish Line at Area 27I’m not sure what I was expecting. Everyone had told me that Area 27 was huge and amazing, with a fast-flowing layout. However, after driving up the windy road and by grapevines and windmills, I didn’t expect to come upon such a sprawling, large and professional-looking racetrack seemingly in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by vineyards. I was in awe at the enormity of the facility. 

Immediately. I was excited to get out and ride. The kids were excited too: off in the distance in a large parking/paddock area, we could see about a dozen luxury race cars – ones that my nine-year-old son Ashton knew all the names and stats of.

Three co-founders – Jacques Villeneuve (Canadian professional race-car driver), Trevor Siebert and Bill Drossos – designed Area 27 as a 4.83-km circuit with 16 turns and elevation changes of up to 107 metres. 

The track is an extremely technical one with some seriously blind corners, fun drops and challenging double-apex corners that require precision riding and driving skills to navigate quickly. The track is 12.2-metres wide, with the longest straightaway being 800 metres. The super-fun carousel turn sports 11 degrees of banking. The grip is fantastic and the layout is smooth and flowing, with decent run-off area, gravel traps, tire walls and signature blue-and-white painted curbs. My first few times around were challenging for me to pick up the track quickly, but I was determined and my friend Craig did an excellent job of showing me around.

Thrill of a Lifetime

The staff was incredible as well, with assistant general manager Felicity Johnson taking me and both kids out for a few fast-ish laps in a minivan so they could see and experience the track. It was the least I could do for them, seeing as they were hanging out all day in 38°C weather while I rode motorcycles and left them to their own devices. And then, Bill Drossos, the president and co-founder and who has been a motorsport enthusiast his entire life – took Ashton out for a really fast rip in the Academy 27 coaching car – a shiny red Porsche Cayman. How exciting and cool for a nine-year-old to get a few laps around the track in a full-blown race car? And how considerate and generous of Bill to take time out of his day during the lunch break to give a young kid the thrill of a lifetime.
Area 27, which is referred to as an exclusive, membership-based luxury motorsports club on its website, gives people the opportunity to buy memberships that entitle members to ride or drive anytime during the club’s lapping days. Membership includes eight guest passes per year, which can be used for friends and family and the passes accumulate if they don’t get used during the given year.

Craig Fernandes and his wife, Leeanne Rae, purchased a membership in order to “get in on the ground floor of something pretty special in our province,” he says. “The exclusivity of a membership is pretty rewarding. It’s like having your own personal twisty road through the countryside with no speed limits and no traffic.”
Craig is 55 this year and not sure how much longer he will be able to ride a motorcycle fast, so he was willing to make the financial investment, calling it more of an “investment in our love of motorcycles than a financial one.” Area 27 restricts itself to 330 members and that roster currently is sold out, although the club is accepting wait-list inquiries and continues to build infrastructure. The clubhouse – which has air-conditioning, member lockers, a large dining room, an outdoor patio and classrooms, – is complete and plans for a smaller go-karting track and on-site fuelling stations are works-in-progress.

Round 2 at the Track

This year, I was the guest of Scott Ferriss, Area 27’s superintendent. The members’ lapping day to which he invited me was expected to be teeming with motorcycles. When I asked the kids if they wanted to do another road trip to Area 27, they practically packed and jumped into the truck on their own, remembering the fancy race cars, watching motorcycles on the track, riding scooters and even the waterpark and flea market we found in downtown Oliver.
Tony Porter, a friend, generously loaned me his 2015 Yamaha R1 fully-prepped race machine (a rocket of a ride); Eric Atkinson, a long-time friend, shared his home and 1.5-hectare yard with us; and Craig once again let me pit next to him and he supplied all necessary tools and shade. This time, there were 24 motorcycles set to ride and Scott was excited about the turnout. “This is the most motorcycles we have had on track during a members’ lapping day!” he said.
During members’ lapping days, cars and motorcycles share the track in alternating sessions, depending on the type of car. The day I was there, only one group of cars was present, so I had 20 minutes on track and 20 minutes off – a jam-packed day of riding.

What was so incredible was that even with 24 bikes on track (which can be crowded at some places), it felt empty! In fact, unless I was following Craig or being pressured from behind by Scott, I was riding the track on my own. The experience felt like my own private track day! Area 27’s circuit is such a big, sprawling track that twists and turns around so much that you hardly even see any other bikes – let alone catch up to them or have to deal with any passing.

No Membership Needed

In order to ride on the track, you need to be invited by a member to ride as his or her guest for the day and pay a $100 fee. Other ways to get on track would be to take the Area 27 Academy driving school; a 2.5-day intensive driver training course; or sign up for any of the public motorcycle track days that are run by either OPP Racing or Hard Nox. Guests are restricted to three riding days per year, although the driving- or riding-school days don’t count against that three-day maximum.

Area 27 offers private facility rentals, product media launches, client appreciation events, private testing and more. Its website states: “Area 27 is surrounded by breathtaking scenery in Canada’s warmest climate – the motorsport equivalent of Pebble Beach. Area 27 is a driving (or riding) enthusiast’s dream.”

For more information, visit area27.ca.


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