Canada’s only two motorsports country clubs are both in B.C.
It’s full speed ahead for a motorsport country club rolled out by racer Jacques Villeneuve and his B.C. partners
Thirty years ago Jacques Villeneuve and Bill Drossos were teenagers training at the Spenard-David Racing School in Ontario. Villeneuve became a professional racecar driver like his father, Gilles, while Drossos returned to his native Penticton in 1992, but the two remained friends. Now they’re partners in Area 27, a new motorsports country club in the South Okanagan.
Area 27 is one of two such clubs in Canada, both launched in B.C. in 2016. The Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, built in the Cowichan Valley by the German Auto Import Network, roared to life last June, and Area 27 opened in September. With a business model based on members’ initiation and annual fees, motorsport country clubs have been gaining traction throughout North America over the past decade, with at least a dozen established or planned in the U.S.
The other two partners in Area 27 are Trevor Seibert, president of Vancouver-based Lake Excavating, and former venture capitalist David King. Drossos met King, who also grew up in Penticton but now lives in Victoria, at Spenard-David, and he competed against Seibert in the Players Ltd./GM Motorsport Series from 1989-92.
Drossos had long thought that the Okanagan would be an ideal location for a racetrack. In early 2012, he was driving down Mount Baldy near Oliver when he spotted an expanse of land belonging to the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB). He approached Chief Clarence Louie, who suggested a better site, off Black Sage Road. Drossos called 1997 Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve “because I thought the key is, if he’ll lend his name to it and design the track, there’s our marketing budget.” He then contacted King, who had worked with development companies including Intrawest ULC, and Seibert, whose business specializes in building roads.
The next step was recruiting members to invest. “We had to hit certain milestones before other amounts of money would be requested so that there was no one person taking a big risk or asked to invest a large amount at any time in the early stages,” Drossos explains. Villeneuve flew in for events to attract more members. By November 2015, the South Okanagan Motorsports Corp. had secured a 99-year lease with the OIB; construction began last spring.
The club now has more than 200 members, capped at 300. The initiation fee is $45,000 with annual dues of $3,000, increasing to $4,000 once the clubhouse is built. Memberships cover both spouses and children. “We want to make it a family sport,” Drossos says. “We didn’t want to end up in the situation that some golf courses find themselves in where their membership starts aging and then they’re always trying to find new blood.”