Ridge Motorsports Park – Shelton, WA
Folks – I had the pleasure and honor to be hosted at Ridge Motorsports Park’s “VIP Sneak Peak” last Sunday. This is a very fun story and I’ll try to tell it briefly.
Rod Powell, an HOD customer who came down from Olympia, WA regularly with his brother in law Dave, was chasing me one day through turn 8. Well, guess what. He caught me…and we were NOT driving 7/10ths. “Rod” I said, “Time for you to put that pretty RS America in the garage and get a race car and get hooked on racing.” So he did. Then he met Joe Manke, a neighbor in Washington who had a similar bent toward racing. Then they complained to me that there weren’t enough good race tracks in their area and they were tired of coming to California to drive. Then they called and said they’d spotted some land that might be ideal. Then I grabbed pro driver and friend Johannes van Overbeek and we flew up to see this ugly stumped, muddy land they had. Then we sketched some layouts…wasn’t tough – not too many options. I felt it was a bit tight and they needed more land. Johannes’ layout kind of won but it was a bit of a blend. Then we found the designer, Steve Crawford who just happened to live up in that area now to do final designs and construction drawings. I whispered strategy in Rod’s ear on how to get approved in the County of Mason (same way Thunderhill got approved). Then it was approved, then they built it and then it was December 12, 2011.
Wow…they have a “Grand Slam Home Run” verdict from virtually everyone that came and drove. Rod was kind enough to honor HOD by inviting our new Regional owners Don and Debbie Clinkinbeard to bring their team and manage the day – great exposure for Hooked On Driving!! The course is 2.5 miles long and it goes by in a hurry. This is a fast track, with serious elevation and an amazing flow. One turn sequence has you looking down a slope and to the right you can see three turns ahead of you and really plan your line. There is definite pucker factor at the end of the main straight…at least 3000 feet (the Z06 I got to drive was at 150), with a kink, then a commitment to a steep grade and turn at the same time…maybe my favorite turn ever when done right. The comment from another driver after our first session really nailed it: “It’s an easy course to learn, but a tough track to master.” Racing here will bring out the big boys and girls…as Powell says, “You’ll have to fight for your passes at the Ridge.” On the other hand – there is a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde side to The Ridge. Driven at 7/10ths as a track day driver, not pushing too hard, the track is just a hoot and a giggle…something we don’t see enough of – FUN. So – you don’t have to be Mario to enjoy this track…you’ll start getting in the groove by the second or third run. But to pick up the pace is to elevate the senses, have faith over fast blind turns, and really be smooth. And of course – Rod and Joe both have race cars with V8’s…so some horsepower doesn’t hurt at the Ridge….having said that, the first two “offs” at the Ridge were Spec Miatas…;) !
We at HOD wish Rod, Karen and Joe the best of luck with the Ridge. There are a lot of final construction elements that will need to be completed over the winter, but stay tuned – by March the Western States will have a great new facility to enjoy our hobby. Congrats to the ownership team, to Mason County for seeing the light, and to the HOD PacNW team who did an awesome job managing the first event! Congratulations to ALL!
For information, go to: www.ridgemotorsportspark.com And if you’d like a very intimate ride on this new track, driven in a Z06 by co-owner Joe Manke…here is an early lap just after the pavement went down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u5xmS6nL8I