Cynics will say that the world doesn’t need another motorsport facility, but evidence points to the contrary. In the last few years, venues like Monticello Motor Club in New York, Detroit’s M1 Concourse, and The Thermal Club in the Coachella Valley have opened with success. In Canada, British Columbia is home to two member-driven tracks, Area 27 in the Okanagan Valley and Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit.
Ontario is Canada’s most populous province and home to a number of existing circuits, but it lacks such a community-based destination. Until Geoffrey Campbell and Dan Gallo started dreaming up their ideas for Oro Station, that is.
Campbell, Oro Station’s managing partner, says that he and the other founders worked like a startup in stealth mode until recently, when they hosted government officials for an old-fashioned groundbreaking. “We worked through all of our zoning and our engineering planning to make sure all of that was in place, so that when we did become public, we became public with substance,” Campbell says.
While the racing circuit will be the centerpiece of Oro Station, the 320-acre complex will have a half-million square feet of space for motorsport businesses, hospitality, member garages, R&D, and an education component with nearby Georgian College.
The design of the 4.1-kilometer (2.5-mile) racing circuit and much of the complex is being handled by Driven International, the British firm known for NCM Motorsport Park and updates to Goodwood. The total investment in Oro Station is planned to approach $200 million.
The circuit will use much of the existing topography, rather than moving earth to suit an abstract layout, and is being designed to suit an FIA Grade 3 rating, which is ideal for everything from vintage racers to modern GT4- and GT3-specification racing cars.
Oro Station’s architecture uses Ontario’s traditional barn vernacular so that the experience at the complex feels natural to the region. Campbell anticipates commercial tenants will come from a range of automotive businesses, including automotive restorers, motorsports specialists, and EVs. “For example,” Campbell said, “We have one group that’s looking at taking space that they would be doing electric conversions to classic cars, which is a trend that’s coming.”
Further, Oro Station’s partnership with Ontario’s Georgian College, located in Barrie, is broad-reaching and a natural fit. The school’s well-regarded Automotive Business School aligns perfectly with the complex, with students being able to engage at a range of interests, from the restoration trades to R&D for electric and autonomous vehicles.
Given Oro Station’s plans for restaurants, cafes, and event space, the College’s hospitality and civil engineering students will have hands-on educational opportunities. Unlike nearly every racing circuit in North American, Oro Station is served by local public transit, ensuring students have easy access to the complex.
According to Campbell, the park is already showing signs of success. “In terms of tenancies, we have now had requests for 100,000 of our 500,000 square feet of commercial space. So, to be in a position where we’re only just breaking ground is very cool,” he says.
Plans are to begin clearing land for the circuit this fall so that by next year, the foundation layers of the track can be completed and be allowed to settle over the 2021–22 winter season. Their goal is to have the circuit operable during the 2022 season, while construction of their commercial buildings will begin in late 2021.
Priority access to the circuit will be given to members of Bexley Motor Club, the on-site, non-profit, membership community. Like similar facilities in North America, members will be able to secure their own garages adjacent to the circuit.
Oro Station is perfectly on-trend with a member-oriented community, commercial partnerships, and a platform to support specialized education. We can’t wait lay down some rubber on Ontario’s newest circuit.