Monday, November 7, 2011

OneHotLap Track Review: Oregon Raceway Park (UPDATED)



East Coast and California track junkies are a fortunate few: They have a ton of good choices when it comes to race tracks. Lime Rock, VIR, Laguna Seca and Thunderhill are just a start.

The number of track choices in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington and British Columbia) on the other hand, is much more limited. For the longest time, it’s been mostly Pacific Raceways (outside of Seattle) and Portland International Raceway. Both tracks are great fun. My preference and home track is Pacific Raceways, as it provides challenging corners with elevation changes. Portland International Raceway has smoother pavement, though. (There is also Spokane County Raceway in Spokane, WA but it's too far inland and hard to get to from the coast.)

Luckily, new choices are coming up for Pacific Northwest drivers. New tracks don’t come around often and we are fortunate to have a new venue that recently opened and another one hoping to open for business next year. Yeah!

First up is Oregon Raceway Park in Grass Valley, OR:

After much effort from a dedicated team, Oregon Raceway Park opened a couple of years ago and has rapidly turned into a popular track. It is literally in the middle of nowhere but it's well worth the trip for the fun and excitement it has to offer. I’m told that Thunderhill inspired the track layout. It favors extremely technical corners (read blind and off-camber) over sheer speed. It also offers LOTS of elevation change. Its signature corner is the “Half Pipe” named for its skatepark-like configuration. And as bonus, the track can be driven in both directions. Great fun!

Here's an aerial view of the track that gives a nice feel for the layout.

I have driven the track in both directions and both offer challenges and excitement.

The facilities are still pretty bare bone with a couple of paved paddock areas and a few porta potties. And not much more. Gas is available on site via an old fashioned pump and a steep premium. Otherwise, you have to drive about 30 miles to the nearest gas station. The owners are working on an expansion plan but it's a slow process. Luckily, the real action is on track.

The intro video is a session in my BMW E90 M3 this past summer running the counterclockwise configuration. It provides a good idea for the constant elevation changes.

Next, I'll cover the other exciting track that's in development on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state: The Ridge Motorsport. Stay tuned.

11/8/2011 UPDATE
Adding a track tutorial:

7 comments:

  1. Nice write-up, Nicolas! I'd love to get a couple of days on Oregon Raceway Park when I visit the area. Do you have an extra E90 M3 you could spare? :o)

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  2. Great write-up! I really envy the amount of run-off most non-Northeast tracks have. I can't even begin to tell you how much harder I'd push it if I didn't have walls and rails feet away from track-out points!

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  3. Thanks guys. ORP is truly a great track. As a matter of fact, there are a number of drivers who call it "their favorite" and actually don't go to Pacfic Raceways and Portland anymore. I like variety so I like'm all!

    As for run-off areas, ORP is great indeed. Pacific Raceways, not so much as it is pretty much carved through a forest...

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  4. Very impressive that this was built with grassroots efforts:

    ORP was built by a consortium of longtime local racers who came together as a group to fund the track themselves. It was truly a grassroots effort, but several key members are Ron Tanner, Mike Conatore, and Bill Murray.

    Scouting for appropriate properties took several years before a site was found in a rural community just east of Mt Hood, about 2 hours from Portland. Since zoning needed to be changed, it was vital to work with the community of Grass Valley to demonstrate the nature of events that would be held, and to deal with the usual questions of traffic, noise, etc. The principle members spent many long weekends at the site designing the track, refining the layout, building flag stations, and taking care of other infrastructure like communications. Once the layout was complete the big machines were brought in for grading and paving. The final layout is designed for club racing, HPDE, and motorcycle and karting events. No big pro events, no NASCAR, just local grassroots motorsport.

    After a couple of years of operation the track has a good relationship with Grass Valley, using locals for things like catering, facility service, and more, which provides jobs in a community with high unemployment. Locals are invited to the year end dinner after our last race each fall.

    ORP still could use some facility enhancement like permanent bathrooms and showers, more power around the paddock, and maybe some more paved paddock space. It is an ongoing effort due to the self financing, but each year things will get a little better, and the track is just awesome to race on.

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  5. Thanks for adding the details Christo. Indeed there seems to be a bit of a wild west mentality that anything is possible in the NW with a bit of sweat. I like that!

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  6. Did my first ever track day at ORP yesterday with the Oregon PCA HPDE event and had a blast. My Boxster (and I) LOVED the Half-Pipe!!

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