Back in October of 2016, I had the opportunity to attend one of the first track days at the new Area 27 track in Oliver, B.C. This event was hosted by Weissach, a high end car dealership group, and drew in clients from Vancouver and Calgary. Weissach has a few brands under their umbrella so there were Porsches, Lotus (Lotii?), and a large number of Lamborghinis at this event; the following day was a McLaren track event held by Pfaff. The track event was organized by the instructors of Academy 27, Area 27’s own racing school led by Canadian motorsports legend, Richard Spenard. At the catered dinner the night before the track day we got to hear from the founders and instructors of Area 27. One thing that Richard Spenard said that really stuck with me was the sheer technical nature of this track, and how he could typically master a track after 10-15 laps but Area 27 required 60+ laps to really nail down. The course is almost 5 kilometers long with 16 turns, but given the elevation and sheer number of blind high speed turns it’s definitely very tricky.
Area 27 Track Map (Source: Area27.ca)
Overall the track event was very casual, no helmets required, no corner workers or official flagging stations except for the front straight, and no real breakdown and orientation of track rules and etiquette. It is with this last point that I came off rather surprised as many of these drivers are not seasoned track veterans. There was no enforcing of point-bys or signals, so I ended up stuck on the bumpers of a few drivers for several laps, a simple blue flag would’ve helped a lot. Furthermore, as the track was extremely dusty since the grass had not been put in yet, many drivers understandably left their windows closed and as a result did not properly point-by. One Porsche driver waved at me to pass with his right hand between his headrests, as if you’re thanking a driver who let you cut in front on the street, and believe me given the speed and dustiness of the track I could barely see it. Another Aventador driver pulled over off of the track line to let me by but did not signal or wave me whatsoever, and as a result made me hesitate to pass him as I wasn’t sure if he was just taking a bad line.
The day started out with an introduction of the track and instructors, along with some basic driving tips (what an apex is, when to change gears, etc.). We split ourselves up into two groups based on track experience and went out for some ridealongs with the instructors in a minivan to familiarize with the course. I found these ridealongs very helpful as the instructor showed where to position the car and what to look for when you’re out on course. They were also good fun as the instructors drove pretty swiftly in these unprepped Dodge Grand Caravans. After the ridealongs, we hopped into our cars and followed the instructors around the track to better orient us with the correct lines. Quite a few drivers (myself included) had a hard time keeping up, despite the huge performance disparity between our sports cars and the instructors’ minivans!
A wide range of cars at the Weissach track day
After that we went out for a lapping session around the short track, if you refer to the track map above, this would be the cut between turn 1 and 2. This half of the track doesn’t have the same elevation changes as the other half but it was a great way to ease in and familiarize with turns 12 to 1. Even with this simpler configuration, I already found it so much more enjoyable than Mission (River’s Edge) Raceway given the higher cornering speeds, mild elevation changes, and the distance between your vehicle and the walls.
One of Academy 27’s cars (Mk7 Golf R)
In the afternoon we got to do the full track, if I remember correctly we had two 25 minute sessions of the full track that day. By the end of the first session I felt familiar enough with the track not to get lost, and most of the racing line had been dusted off. I did have an off near the end of the decreasing radius turn at turn 5, but interestingly didn’t get black flagged. I did however get a well-deserved tongue lashing by Richard Spenard before I headed out for our second session. He also noted that I had been missing the apex at turn 12 with some consistency and for my second session I definitely improved thanks to his feedback. I should mention at this point that due to the large number of cars, the instruction was somewhat unorthodox. The instructors traveled from corner to corner in the outfield of the track to watch the drivers and provide feedback. This was still reasonably effective and given the lower cost of this track event compared to the actual Academy 27 racing school events, I can see why there’s no real one-on-one instruction.
Weissach staff on track with the Boxster and Avendator SV
Overall, I left the track with my mind thoroughly blown and dreaming of the day that I would return. With better tires and a less dusty track, I’m sure I can shave a few seconds off in the Huracan. Despite playing with tire pressures, I just wasn’t able to wring more out of the measly OE Pirelli front tires which aren’t really cut out for track use in my opinion. I’m definitely curious about what this car can do on a set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 or Pirelli Trofeo R. I recently signed up for another track day at Area 27 in May of 2017 so it’d be nice to see if there’s been any changes to the track since, grass and corner stations would be greatly appreciated.
Here are the videos from my first and second session at Area 27 pulled from the dash cam. If you’re looking for a great dash cam, be sure to use my discount code AVID15 at www.blackboxmycar.com and www.blackboxmycar.ca for $15 off!
I’ll try to break down some of my experiences in a turn-by-turn fashion. This is not to be taken as advice as indicated by my blog tagline, I’m a mediocre driver, but this is just how I approached the track in my car. A different driver in a different car may have a completely different approach that is much faster, so take this with a 20lb bag of salt.
- Turn 1: This is a very exciting turn with a blind turning point and braking zone, it is a bit of a test of your bravery. There is cambering that feeds you into the apex which is rewarding if you nail it properly. Try to use the whole track width on corner exit
- Turn 2: This is the turn following the longest straight and where you’ll hit your top speed, my speedometer indicated over 260km/h on the front straight but my GPS puts it around 220-230km/h (Lambos read 10% high at these speeds). You have a lot of track to use here so there is room for error if you end up braking a bit late and late apexing. There is definitely speed to be gained here as it is a long and fast turn which can be challenging to determine when to unwind. I found late apexing okay as it sets you up to be on the left for the entry of turn 3.
- Turn 3: A simple and lower speed turn but I had a hard time slowing down sufficiently when going by the marker cones set up on the left. This is where I realized the cones aren’t really braking points.
- Turn 4: I looked at this turn as a bit of a throwaway turn as the main focus for me was setting up the car properly for Turn 5 which can be quite tight if you enter too quickly
- Turn 5: There’s a bit of elevation change and cambering going on here and the right-side curbing is blind until it’s too late to make any adjustments (hence why I went off). This is a turn that I could use a lot of improvement on as I took it more conservatively after I went off in my first session.
- Turn 6: So much fun, this reminds me of turn 9 at the Ridge but a bit slower. You can really feel the G’s. Try not to unwind too far out as you’ll want to be on the right for the turning point of turn 7.
- Turn 7 (Carousel): This is the first time I’ve driven a real carousel as there’s cambering that can throw you off if you don’t enter properly. The “carousel” at the ridge does not have the elevation or camber and is nowhere near as rewarding when you get it right. Find your line and hold a consistent steering angle all the way through.
- Turn 8: It’s a downhill straight before turn 8 and I found myself needing to brake quite early here, well before the first cone/marker. Again, don’t unwind too far as you’ll need to set up for the 90° left turn at 9 before the back straight.
- Turn 9: Be aware that it’s followed by a very high speed section with 10/11. At the corner entry you’re going uphill but at corner exit you’re going downhill so it’s a blind crest. I found that my rear wanted to kick out a bit over the crest depending on the angle I took.
- Turn 10: It’s easy to go too fast into turn 10 but it’s got good visibility. I gave up a bit of speed to keep right and take a very straight line through the crest at Turn 11
- Turn 11: The scariest turn on track in my opinion. In the LP580, I’m going 150km/h over a bump and the rear can get very light which is terrifying. Hold the wheel straight until the car settles or you might be in for a bad time. It’s a blind high speed crest where you don’t really know how much room you have to the right at exit, but the further right you can position your car, the faster you’re probably going.
- Turn 12: This is the corner that Richard Spenard pointed out I was missing the apex on. I tried early-apexing and late-apexing and I’m not too sure which is faster, it’s a long straight between 12 and 13 so early apex and a slow-in, fast-out approach might make sense.
- Turn 13: Another test of how big your balls are, in lower hp cars I’m certain you can go flat out. I like to trail brake at turn in and carrying a lot of speed through the apex to set it up for entry at turn 14 but this will depend on the handling characteristics of your car.
- Turn 14/15/16: They set up cones here so we wouldn’t exit too wide and mess up the entry for 15. Upshift from 2nd to 3rd in the brief moment you’re going straight between 14 and 15. It’s a fairly simple set of low/medium speed turns, ESC is going nuts for me through here so RWD beware. I found the curbing quite low and typically hit it. At turn 15 you can wait a bit after the curbing to turn left into 16 as the track is very wide here and you might be able to carry more speed onto the straight if you use more of it.