British Columbia

Paving underway on Okanagan racetrack designed by Jacques Villeneuve

Villeneuve, a Formula One World Champion and Indy 500 Champion from Quebec, jumped at the chance to design his own racetrack near Oliver, B.C. when asked by his friend and former racing school colleague.

Track years in the making is one step closer to completion with paving and grand opening set for 2017

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve racing in the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1997 — the same year the Quebec native won the Formula One World Championship. (Rainer W. Schlegelmilch/Getty Images)

It won't be long until motoring enthusiasts will be able to drive on a racecourse in the south Okanagan designed by Canadian racing legend Jacques Villeneuve, as paving for the racetrack southeast of Oliver begins this week.

The Area 27 racetrack, owned by the South Okangan Motorsports Corporation, and located on land leased from the Osoyoos Indian Band, has been several years in the making.

Once completed the racecourse will be home to a private motorsport club where members can book time on the track, as well as an accredited driving school where participants can learn amateur racing.

The new track is expected to open by 2016. (Area 27 Motorsports Country Club)

The track was designed by Villeneuve, a Quebec-born racing driver who won the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and the 1997 Formula One World Championship — the only Canadian to ever win both titles.

'He knows what makes it enjoyable'

"It's like having Tiger Woods on your golf course," said Bill Drossos, the president and general manager of the South Okangan Motorsports Corporation.

"What Jacques brings to the table is he's driven on every track in the planet. He knows what makes it enjoyable."

Drossos said paving on the 4.83 km-long racecourse begins Aug. 17 and will be followed by surface testing.

He said he expects that some of the club members will be able to take the first laps on the course in the coming months, weather permitting.

The grand opening is currently scheduled for June 2017.

Drossos said the track has been a passion project for all involved — and his friendship with Villeneuve has deep roots.

He said as a child he used to watch Villeneuve's father, Gilles, race in Formula One, which sparked his passion for motorsports.

When he finished high school he went to a racing school, and it was there that he met the younger Villeneuve who was just starting his own successful racing career.

Track designed, built by pro race-car drivers

He said that, four years ago, when he first found the land that would become the racecourse, he decided to call Villeneuve and see if he would be interested in designing the track as part of a facility for motor sports enthusiasts.

Drossos said Jacques has incorporated the best elements of tracks that he's raced on around the world, coming up with a course that is challenging but not too technical that it "becomes like work."

Jacques Villeneuve lifts his fist in celebration in the victory circle after winning the 79th Indianapolis 500 on May 28, 1995. (Steve Swope/ALLSPORT/Getty Images)

"Jacques pointed out early on we didn't want to over do that. We wanted to have a challenge, we wanted to have excitement, but you need to have the breather out there too. That's what the truly great circuits have," said Drossos, adding that the facility is the equivalent to something like a "yacht club".

"[The track] gives them a place, a private highway [as well as] professionals to teach them driving techniques to enjoy sport cars."

He said the project has been a successful collaboration between himself, Villeneuve and Trevor Siebert, another professional race car driver whose company, Lake Excavating, is constructing the track.

"It's something special. All three of us are living out a dream together."

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