It seems like ages ago that I attended the first race at a rather primitive 3/8 mile clay oval at Reno-Fernley Raceway.
Not too long thereafter I got a tour of the proposed road course, which had been hogged out of the sagebrush with a Caterpillar blade. Today the road course is a reality and it's not unusual to see more than 100 cars show up on a Saturday night at the oval.
I had the opportunity to check out the new section of the road course last Sunday. It was a pretty cold day, with the temperature hovering around freezing and the occasional snowflake falling from the sky. Half a dozen racing karts and a similar number of motorcycles were on hand for the test and tune session. Track Manager Jeremy Cable warned that tire temperatures had been a problem at the racecar test day on Saturday, and counseled drivers and riders to build up their speed gradually until they found where the grip level was.
While the drivers conferred about tire pressures and other concerns, Jeremy took me on a low-speed tour of the new course. If you aren't familiar with the Reno-Fernley road course, the start/finish straight leads into a series of ess bends followed by a 180 degree left-hand hairpin, then into a couple of more esses before the sharp right-hand uphill turn onto the new course section.
Called the "technical course," the new section is twisty, with lots of elevation changes and a few blind corners. There are only a couple of short straightaways among the 18 or 19 turns (depending on how you count them) in the new track section, which is more suited to karts, bikes, and sports cars than to full-size stockers.
For the test day, the course was configured at a three-mile length, using one of three different crossovers that join different sections of the track. When the full course is used, the length comes out to just over four miles, and the track can be divided into three separate courses for simultaneous use. In all, more than 15 different configurations are possible.
Back in the paddock everybody filed into the timing and scoring building and gathered around the propane heater for a drivers meeting. Jeremy explained the test procedure, and urged everybody again to build up speed slowly due to the cold conditions and unfamiliarity with the course.
The karts took to the track and everybody seemed to find their way around fairly well (track maps had been passed out at the meeting). After the first session one of the drivers complained that by the time he learned the course well enough to start getting some speed, his hands were so cold he couldn't feel the steering wheel!
Back in the relative warmth of the building, I spoke with Jeremy about plans for the entire Motorsports facility. He told me that nearly every weekend at the road course from April through mid-November is sold.
The Sports Car Club of America has slated three events, the National Autosports Association will return for one race, the Historic Motorsports Association will stage its third annual Vintage races, karts will take up four weekends, and the National Viper Days and the Cobra Bash are on the schedule as well. In addition, four different motorcycle groups (Kegwins, Zoom-Zoom, Apex, and California Superbike) will hold schools and speed events, and several car clubs such as Audi, Porsche, Corvette, and Cobra have track days scheduled.
Major improvements are in the works, with permanent buildings housing commercial space and garages, and a permanent fuel storage and dispensing facility. Spectator areas will receive amenities such as bleachers and other improvements. Future improvements on the property include an 80-room hotel/casino with access to both the airport and the track and track views from many of the rooms. A golf course is also in the planning stage.
If you want to check out the road course, you'll get your chance in the coming year. A kart school (with karts provided) will be opening next spring. The curriculum is under development, and I'm talking to Jeremy about going through the course so I can write about it. So watch this space for a first-hand look at this exciting addition come spring.