Canadian racing complex with Jacques Villeneuve-designed track gets approval

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Credit: Area27.ca

A motorsports country club that will feature a road course designed by Formula One and Indy 500 champion Jacques Villeneuve has been given the green light on construction.

The site for Area 27, a complex based in the South Okanagan region of Canada’s British Columbia province, has been designated for motorsports for the next 110 years as part of final approval from the Osoyoos Indian Band on Jan. 9.

Villeneuve is part of the main group behind the complex along with president Bill Drossos, Trevor Seibert, and David King.

The first phase of their project involves creation of the Villeneuve-penned 3-mile road course, which is being constructed to FIA Grade 2 standards so it can potentially host major motorsports events in the future.

Also part of the first phase is a driving academy, karting center, access roads, fencing, and other infrastructure.

From there, Villeneuve and Co. will move into other phases that include construction of commercial buildings such as a members’ clubhouse, condominium-style suites for arrive and drive days, and event-related infrastructure (grandstands, pit garages, media center, etc.).

Drossos told the Penticton (B.C.) Western News that construction is planned to begin this spring.

“For the South Okanagan, it’s of huge significance in terms of potential revenue and tourism,” he said. “It’s a unique draw. Not competing with anything else. This will be the only thing of its kind in western Canada.”

On Area 27’s website, Villeneuve himself provides an idea of what kind of course he hopes to produce.

“I have been lucky to race all over the globe on a diversity of tracks over the years,” he says. “Some tracks were amazing for that single [qualifying] lap excitement of driving on the edge and pushing the limit. Other tracks provided for great races with incredible overtaking opportunities. With all these options for rushes of adrenaline, there were also the tracks that seemed to lack soul or excitement.

“I have always relished the challenge of designing an exciting track, taking into account the single lap excitement, combined with wheel-to-wheel racing opportunities, all while avoiding the pitfalls of the uninteresting tracks. The goal is to design a track I would be proud of getting pole position on, where the fans would also enjoy watching an exciting race.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.