TRACKS: Christmas arrives in June at Virginia International Raceway
15 June 2000Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
Harvey Siegel's dream to revive Virginia International Raceway into a motorsports palace is complete. Nestled in the rolling hills of southern Virginia, just south of Danville, VA on the Virginia-North Carolina border the completely revamped 3.27 mile course was opened to the public this week-end. Siegel's vision of creating a destination resort for the motorsports aficionado is well on its way. VIR, simply put, is now a mandatory stop in the world of motorsports for the racer and race fan. The benchmark for presentation of the racecourse and support facility infrastructure has been raised considerably.
The pastoral setting of the beautiful Virginia countryside set against a motorsports complex is a venue that every race fan will be required to make at least one pilgrimage in their lifetime. When you enter the facility on the three-lane paved road you immediately realize that you are visiting a sports complex that would be on a par with venues hosting a professional golf tournament or a polo match. Neatly manicured lawns nestled among the stately pine and oak trees are the first indicators that you are visiting a country club. In fact Virginia International Raceway promotes itself as an all-encompassing resort with motorsports as the emphasis.
Eventually VIR will begin construction of a 100-room hotel and a conference center that will be located directly across the street from the main entrance. The Plantation Club will be built with architecture that would be consistent with 18th century or Antebellum appearance of several of Virginia's famous buildings.
So what about the racetrack you ask? Well for starter's it's long. 3.27 miles long. Only Road America (4 miles in length) in Wisconsin is longer. Second the track can be divided into two separate shorter courses which will allow for two events to be held simultaneously. Not exactly a unique concept considering the increasing demand for more dates to accommodate car clubs and testing. The availability to have two tracks at one time is a tremendous leg up on other motorsport venues.
What is unique about VIR is the technical aspect that will be required to drive all 22 turns on the main course. A virtual smorgasbord of challenges awaits even the most seasoned racer. The double apex first turn is similar to that of Lime Rock. The turn requires you to feed power and at the same time not to run out of track. From that point a series of 2nd and 3rd gear corners awaits as you make your way to a series of "esses" that will remind you of Sears Point. The charge up the hill towards the famous "Oak Tree" turn begins at this point. A sweeping right and a sweeping left are the two turns that you must carry speed through to have a good lap. At the famous "Oak Tree" turn the course makes two severe right hand turns around the oak. The last turn is even more delicate in that the turn is off camber. The turns then sends you on to the downhill section of the course. The long back straight area is a place where only the brave will put their foot into it. The view from this area is nothing short of awe inspiring. Hopefully, as a driver you will not have time to appreciate the vista. However, one should visit this sacred place either before or after each session just to soak in the ambiance.
The long back straight continues into a series of turns called "Roller Coaster." Once again the technical aspect of good cornering with throttle control is mandatory. Put a wheel off here and the results could be a very anxious moment. The last turn before coming back to the start/finish line called "Hog Pen" is really the place that you will end up if you missed "Roller Coaster." While that description may not have exactly been a perfect sample of a lap at VIR, the challenges that await you here is like nothing else in North America.
Text provided by David Treffer