OLIVER – One of the South Okanagan’s newest and most unique attractions was officially launched today.
Area 27 held formal official opening ceremonies at the new Formula One race track located east of Oliver on the Osoyoos Indian Band, Saturday, June 3.
The opening ceremony was the culmination of Penticton resident Bill Drossos' vision of a race track on the benches above Oliver that began in 2012 when he identified land suitable for the track on Osoyoos Indian Band land.
A race car driver and aficionado himself, Drossos called upon friends he’d met in the racing business, including legendary Canadian formula one racer Jacques Villeneuve.
Together they partnered with the Osoyoos Indian Band and Clarence Louie, and over the course of the last five years turned Drossos’ vision into reality.
Business principals Drossos, Trevor Siebert, and Villeneuve spoke about how the track came into being.
Drossos called the enterprise a “whole new business concept, built from scratch,” the concept being a club for people who like cars, along the lines of a yacht or golf club.
He said 250 of a targeted 300 memberships had already been sold.
In a private exchange, he commented on the similarity between Area 27 and the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner.
“We thought, if we build it, they will come. The land the track sits on used to be a cornfield. We were thinking of filming Jacques stepping out of the corn,” Drossos joked.
Trevor Siebert, whose construction company Lake Excavation built the track, said he was “skeptical at first” when approached about taking a principal role in the track.
He said he knew racing as a spectator sport was becoming a difficult draw, and felt one person with a dream wouldn’t be able to make it work, but 300 with a dream would.
“I never would have bet there were as many drivers interested in the idea as there are,” he said.
Jacques Villeneuve said he always wanted to believe in the concept, and had always wanted to design a racetrack.
He said the group started with a “blank canvas” not taking any ideas from existing tracks elsewhere.
“We let the land design the track,” he said, adding consideration was given to providing sections where there was “time to breathe” between corners, giving the driver an opportunity to consider what his manoeuvres would be.
Villeneuve said next step for the track was the construction of administration, garage and clubhouse facilities.
Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie said nothing happens without money, adding “lots of people talk to us” about development without having financing.
“This is a big deal for the region,” he said.
He pointed to Villeneuve as an example for Osoyoos Band youth, noting his accomplishments as a race car driver and internationally known Canadian.
“Five years ago, I’d have said it’s like having Tiger Woods on the golf course, but I can’t use Tiger Woods anymore,” Louie joked.
“When does a town like Oliver ever see someone like Jacques Villeneuve? I always tell people, ‘When was the last time, before Area 27, you saw a $1,000,000 car hanging around Oliver?” he asked.
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said Area 27 “could not have picked a better business partner than the Osoyoos Indian Band.”
The opening day festivities included demo laps in supercars and motorcycles, vintage racing and a Jalopies Car Show parade lap later in the afternoon.
There was also a scheduled concert by Rumble 100 with Mike Reno and Dallas Smith to wrap up the day’s events.
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