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: