Tracks visited once but sadly never again

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
Dec 2, 2023 | race track, Column | Posted in Columns | From the April 2021 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Hyundai

A column by our publisher, Tim Suddard, has been making the rounds on our online outlets recently. In this piece from last summer, Tim details some of his favorite race tracks. And although he missed a couple that I may have certainly included, it’s a solid list.

I won’t bore you with the exact same topic—I’ll wait a far more respectable amount of time before shamelessly ripping off a colleague’s idea like that—but Tim’s list did get me thinking about places I’ve driven that stuck in my memory.

The hook of my concept, however—which, I must remind you, is totally different from Tim’s concept—is that I’m focusing on places I may never get to drive again. Indeed, checking all the boxes on this list may be hard for anyone reading this, but I’ll tease you nonetheless.

I’ll start with the track that you’re most likely to be able to experience on this list: Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, located about half an hour west of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Wait,” you say, “I’ve driven Hallett a bunch, and I live in [insert semi-major city within a 6-hour drive here].”

Yeah, but have you driven it backward?

No, not looking out your back window while in reverse, but clockwise—counter to the direction the track normally flows.

In my humble opinion, that’s the superior direction of travel for this central Oklahoma gem of a track. The uphill braking into the first turn, the hump before the final turn—it’s all just so good and so fun to attack. If you ever get the chance to attend any event on a clockwise Hallett, absolutely go for it.

Next up is a track you’re less likely to drive, but there’s still a shot, and I encourage you to take it if you get the chance. When Honda revealed the current version of the Civic Type R to North American journalists, its choice of venue was Montreal, and it wasn’t just the smoked meat that made an impression on me.

Circuit ICAR, located about 45 minutes northwest of downtown, sits on the site of a former international airport turned into a multipurpose automotive playground. Honda let us loose on the 2.1-mile road course in the new Type R, and it immediately became one of my favorite tracks. You wouldn’t think that a track laid out on featureless airport concrete would have a lot of character, but the main circuit at ICAR is a medium-speed delight with a combination of corners that provides a little bit of everything while never being overly busy.

No track with such little elevation change should have so much spirit—and no, Sebring doesn’t count, because its bumps account for about three Road Atlantas worth of elevation.

Still, our Canadian friends could—and should—get to ICAR if they have a chance. And once the borders open back up, it’s worth the road trip from the U.S., I assure you. But the next pick is going to be tougher for everyone.

Located on a rustic island in the middle of the Baltic Sea is, for reasons known only to the many goats that inhabit the island, an absolutely lovely and fun race track. The Gotlandring, located in the northern part of the Swedish isle of Gotland, was the site of BMW’s rollout of the M version of the 1 Series.

When I drove it, it was still under construction. The main circuit was completed, but the same couldn’t be said for the facilities and landscaping—plus, the construction equipment was still present in every view. It added an industrial, otherworldly quality that still couldn’t overshadow the extremely cool car and the amazing track.

So many modern tracks seem soulless and overly geometrically precise. Even though we were among the first people to ever drive on Gotlandring, it felt like a track that had been there forever. It seemed to flow through the natural terrain as though the corners were shaped by what the land allowed rather than a computer’s algorithm.

Today, Gotlandring looks just as striking in its more completed form. Windmills and solar panels have been installed between the corners, as Gotlandring strives to become one of the world’s least environmentally impactful race tracks. That’s a goal roughly parallel to “most pregnant virgin,” but every concession that motorsports makes to the overall well-being of the environment is a plus for the sport in general.

Finally, I’ll discuss the track that I know none of you will ever drive—because even I don’t remember exactly where it is, and I think it’s gone anyway.

When Subaru dropped the first U.S. version of the WRX STI, the press drive for that spectacular machine took place on Vancouver Island. During our journey around the central part of the island—straight-up one of the most beautiful places on Earth—one of our route directions took us off the road and onto an abandoned airfield where a no-fooling, national-level autocross course had been set up.

The utter absurdity of driving a fantastic course—press launch autocrosses can typically be a little hinky—in a fantastic car with the majesty of the Canadian wilderness being the only thing in sight is exceeded only by the fact that I can’t for the life of me find the place on Google Maps anymore, leading me to wonder if I imagined the whole thing.

I suppose if I did, I have a pretty good imagination. Now go find your own hidden tracks.

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Comments
L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf HalfDork
3/1/21 10:31 a.m.

I'll put Hallett on my list since my distance from there is a factor. I went there for a special gathering of Fiat 850 guys back in the early 90s. 

Second Creek (I may have been there twice) - it was quite fun and is quite gone now.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
3/1/21 10:34 a.m.

I'll throw in mine.

Riverside, the NASCAR layout, I remember it most because I went 130mph on a 125CC GP bike there. The downhill mile long back straight made this possible.

Stardust International Raceway; the track was defunct and falling apart but we used to sneak out there and ride our motorcycles around it at night.  Turn two was partially washed out but there was still a 3ft wide section of good pavement, which was just enough for a bike.

 

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
3/1/21 10:37 a.m.

In reply to L5wolvesf :

I can remember driving Second Creek. I also remember doing the Danny Collins Driving School there. 

All of that is gone now but I heard there is another new track in the area. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/1/21 10:58 a.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to L5wolvesf :

I can remember driving Second Creek. I also remember doing the Danny Collins Driving School there. 

All of that is gone now but I heard there is another new track in the area. 

High Plains Raceway is the replacement. I never drove Second Creek, only crewed there, but HPR has a whole lot more vertical going on and is pretty entertaining. Especially if you have some horsepower.

As for me, I got to drive Eagle Canyon before it was finished. I understand it got reconfigured before it opened, which is a real shame because it was really fun. 

 

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf HalfDork
3/1/21 11:11 a.m.
Tom1200 said:

Stardust International Raceway; the track was defunct and falling apart but we used to sneak out there and ride our motorcycles around it at night.  Turn two was partially washed out but there was still a 3ft wide section of good pavement, which was just enough for a bike.

IIRC Stardust became the Speedrome a.k.a LVIS which is now all under the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf HalfDork
3/1/21 11:14 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to L5wolvesf :

I can remember driving Second Creek. I also remember doing the Danny Collins Driving School there. 

All of that is gone now but I heard there is another new track in the area. 

High Plains Raceway is the replacement. I never drove Second Creek, only crewed there, but HPR has a whole lot more vertical going on and is pretty entertaining. Especially if you have some horsepower.

High Plains is a looonger drift from where I am. If I were to fire up the 850 I would stick to Pueblo or maybe La Junta if they still use those tracks.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
3/1/21 11:26 a.m.

In reply to L5wolvesf :

I can remember when RMVR ran at Steamboat Springs. It was the event of the year. Augie Pabst and even Zora Duntov showed up at those races. I also remember when they raced at Aspen Raceway which was right down the street from Hunter S. Thomson's Owl Farm. I wonder what happened to that place?

High Plains seems to be closer to Kansas than to the Rocky Mountains. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/1/21 11:26 a.m.
L5wolvesf said:
Keith Tanner said:
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to L5wolvesf :

I can remember driving Second Creek. I also remember doing the Danny Collins Driving School there. 

All of that is gone now but I heard there is another new track in the area. 

High Plains Raceway is the replacement. I never drove Second Creek, only crewed there, but HPR has a whole lot more vertical going on and is pretty entertaining. Especially if you have some horsepower.

High Plains is a looonger drift from where I am. If I were to fire up the 850 I would stick to Pueblo or maybe La Junta if they still use those tracks.

HPR is in the boonies because of what happened to Second Creek :)

Pueblo is still up and running AFAIK, but it's not as fun as HPR in my experience. Never driven La Junta.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/1/21 11:28 a.m.

Texas World sad people who had driven it raved about it, I discounted it and skipped it for 2 years as I only heard great things from a handful of people but was fortunate enough to catch it in it's final two years. I wish that I had gone earlier as it was a brilliant track. It was fun it, had character and it had soul, it was everything that COTA isn't.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
3/1/21 11:29 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to L5wolvesf :

I can remember driving Second Creek. I also remember doing the Danny Collins Driving School there. 

All of that is gone now but I heard there is another new track in the area. 

High Plains Raceway is the replacement. I never drove Second Creek, only crewed there, but HPR has a whole lot more vertical going on and is pretty entertaining. Especially if you have some horsepower.

As for me, I got to drive Eagle Canyon before it was finished. I understand it got reconfigured before it opened, which is a real shame because it was really fun. 

 

I haven't driven Eagle Canyon yet but I did see a few vintage events there. I lot of guys in that club drive 914s. I really need to get my Miata back on the road so I can do some time trials there. 

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