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Racetracks survival in recent years...

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#1 MaxScelerate

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 12:47

Hello there,

I just read an article, in Toronto's National Post, citing dozens of residents from St-Jovite/Mt-Tremblant who are getting fed up with the races hapening at the local racetrack and want it closed. :| Now, the race track was there long before Tremblant became the fashionable ski resort it is now, and one could think there is some sort of acquired right (?) to the track owners.

I'd like to know what the situation is or has been with other tracks like, say, Godwood or Watkin Glens. Ever has been a lawsuit? Was it won or lost? It would be a shame if Tremblant was to close. I've been to the Summit of Legends (first time ever I could see vintage racecar in Quebec) and the installations and layout are just incredible! :up: :up:

I do understand that laws are differing from a country to another, but most argumentation remains valid and I'd like to know what precedents exists.


(Honestly, I must admit to having no smpathy whatsoever for those architects and lawyers who pay half a million for a stupid Condo at Mt-Tremblant. That makes me all the more angry! :lol: )


#2 MaxScelerate

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 12:48

Oh... The article in question... :

Once-quiet resort races into battle
The revival of a Laurentian racetrack has outraged cottage country: 'It's less noisy in downtown Montreal than it is here'

Graeme Hamilton
National Post

MONT-TREMBLANT, Que. - It used to be that summer sounds in this Laurentian resort town were the babbling river, the splash of swimmers and the ping of a golf iron. But this year, vacationers seeking an escape from the noisy city are being driven away by the roar of souped-up car engines racing around a newly refurbished track in the heart of the town.

Sylvie Lachapelle, a Montreal lawyer, was gardening outside her newly built chalet alongside the Rivière Caché when the Ferrari Challenge races that had been going on all week started up again on Sunday afternoon. It sounded as if the cars were about to come crashing through the surrounding forest.

"It's a nightmare having that race track here," Ms. Lachapelle said. "It's less noisy in downtown Montreal than it is here." She has given up on inviting friends up for weekends because of the noise.

Mont-Tremblant has boomed since the ski resort that is its main attraction was bought 11 years ago by Intrawest Corp., owners of B.C.'s Whistler-Blackcomb resort. Expensive new four-season chalets and condos have sprouted on the surrounding hillsides and waterfront as Intrawest worked to transform the mountain, situated about 110 kilometres northwest of Montreal, into one of the continent's premier resorts.

Cars have been racing the Circuit Mont-Tremblant long before it became a fashionable destination. The mountainside track opened in 1964, and it staged Formula One Grand Prix races in 1968 and 1970. It served as a training ground for many of Canada's best drivers, including Jacques Villeneuve, his late father, Gilles, and Paul Tracy of Toronto. But through the 1990s, fewer races were held as the track surface deteriorated. Many residents assumed the track's days were numbered.

Then new owners, led by the wealthy Montreal family of Lawrence Stroll, bought the site. Mr. Stroll made a fortune reported last year to be worth more than $540-million by offering financial backing to Tommy Hilfiger when the fashion designer was getting started. He races vintage Ferraris, and locals report seeing him arrive in town by helicopter to take a few laps around the track.

Michael Ney, president of Circuit Mont-Tremblant, said it is in fact Mr. Stroll's father, Leo Stroll, who owns the track along with partners, but in the eyes of most people in Mont-Tremblant, including the Mayor, Lawrence Stroll is the man behind the track's recent rebirth.

The track was closed during all of 2000 for resurfacing and other improvements, then last summer it reopened with a Ferrari Challenge race. This year there are three major races, as well as regular training runs by two driving schools and private events organized by the owners.

Mr. Ney denied that anything has changed in the track's operations and said people who built or bought homes nearby should have known there was a racetrack in the area.

"The track has been there for 40 years. The houses were built in this case a couple or three years ago, and we're not doing anything different today than we've been doing for 40 years," he said. He said the track could become an important tourist attraction and pointed out that Michel Aubin, the president of Intrawest's Mont-Tremblant operations, has voiced his support for the track.

Tom Pedriks, whose permanent home is a few hundred metres from the track, says his ears tell him things have become a lot worse. This summer he rented a cottage for his family to get away from the noise. He has gathered 150 names on a petition calling on the town council to bring in a noise by-law to muzzle the track.

He conducted a brief tour on Sunday to show how the rumble of revving engines carried through the town. It washed over people canoeing on a lake, bothered golfers teeing off on Le Diable, an Intrawest-owned course that charges $145 in green fees, and overpowered conversation as a couple entertained on their poolside deck at least a kilometre away from the race.

"I feel like it's a Monty Python movie where someone has put on the wrong soundtrack," said Mr. Pedriks, the creative director for an advertising firm who left Montreal six years ago. "All of a sudden the town has become a racetrack, and that's not why I moved here."

Larry Duff, an Ottawa information-technology consultant, has been skiing Mont-Tremblant for 30 years and bought a condo in the village last year. He had rented it last week to a family from Boston, but midweek he got a call from them saying they were heading home early because of the noise.

"I'm also a racing fan, but I'm upset about the irresponsible behaviour of the track," he said. He is convinced races are more frequent and the cars are louder this year.

"We're at a point where we can't sit outside," he said.

Pierre Pilon, the Mayor of Mont-Tremblant, said the town is setting up noise meters in various locations to determine how noisy the track is. Then it will look at the possibility of a noise by-law, but it first will have to establish that it has solid legal footing. "These people have rights since '64," he said of the track, noting that the owners have deep pockets if they choose to fight the town in court. Mr. Pilon is hoping for an agreement with the track's management to limit the number of major races to three a year.

Ms. Lachapelle, who thought she had found a piece of paradise when she came upon the future site of her riverside chalet while jogging a few years ago, is not optimistic the track's owners will bend. "We tried to discuss with the owners, but they really think they have an acquired right to do that," she said. "I am certain there is no acquired right to disturb."

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 13:10

If I was one of the residents I'd be suing the developer of the houses, who obviously hasn't carried out an adequate search when whatever is the local equivalent of planning permission was obtained!

Here in the UK, tracks in or close to residential areas have always had this sort of problem: it closed Crystal Palace :mad: , Brooklands was severely restricted (no night running in 24-hour record attempts for example - everyone went to Montlhery instead!), Thruxton is restricted to a certain number of days per year etc etc.

As to Mont Tremblant, I'd have thought it would be possible to combine what are no doubt necessary safety upgrades with improved noise reduction: higher earth banks, noise baffles and so on.

Remember: possession is nine points of the law!

#4 BRG

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 15:48

Here in the UK, we have seen a number of similar cases - at Castle Combe, Thruxton, Brands Hatch and Goodwood. There have been varying results. IIRC, after a very long campaign, Castle Combe obtained a fairly favourable ruling with the judge telling local residents that they should not have moved there if they objected to being near a race-track. Elsewhere it has not been so successful, with Thruxton and Brands Hatch (using the long circuit only) limited to a certain number of race-days a year.

I had some direct taste of this from runining speed events and rallies at Goodwood, where the residents of newly built housing near the circuit consistently kicked up a stink for years. There were strict noise limits as a result. It was all finally settled in the agreement not allowed the track to be used again for one major race meeting (historic only) a year in return for stopping all the other small events.

It will depend on your country's attitude towards motor-sport. Here in the UK, we are often seen as a bunch of noisy, environmentally-damaging tearaways. I fear it may be the same in Canada.

#5 LittleChris

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 16:23

Racings revenge for what people of their ilk did to Bridgehampton as far as I'm concerned ! :clap:

#6 Don Capps

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 16:55

There is perhaps good reason to believe that the ALMS race held at RFK in Washington, DC might not be back due the noise problem.

This is not a problem restricted to racing -- in the American military, "urban encroachment" has been an unpleasant reality for more than a few military installations. It is not just flight patterns -- a source of no end of complaints -- but objections to all those things that land forces do as well: rifle, grenade, crew-served weapons, tank and Bradley tables, and artillery ranges; illumination rounds at night; all those aircraft flying around; and so forth and so on and on and on.... At some posts, night firing has all but ceased, with only so many nights per year available for exercises or night-fire qualifications. Noise buffer zones had been increased which, naturally, encroaches into the lands available for training.

This does not include the other related problem of land management -- red-cockaded woodpecker nesting areas have shut down training in many areas on Southern bases just for starters.

So it is easy to see how racing circuits are an easy target. Trenton, Langhorne, Riverside, Bridgehampton, and many others have all been down this path.....

#7 rdrcr

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 17:28

Laguna Seca has been in a struggle with its neighbors for years. They've reached a compromise of sorts, allowing the track to host 8 major events over the course of the year.

The problem is that it's not only a noise issue, but a strain on civil services like additional police to contend with all of the traffic congestion.

The influx in sales tax revenues doesn't seem to offset the municipalities from bowing to the pressures from the NIMBY's. Many of which have built new homes or have moved in long after the facility was constructed.

Sadly, as urban sprawl continues in the environs surrounding such circuits, the inevitable usually occurs. With the track being bulldozed for some new housing tact or shopping mall.

In California, I'm thankful that there are still many tracks (6) operating and new ones being planned. Still it was sad to see Riverside go.

I had a chat with Les Richter there other day. He told me that had he known then what he knows today, he would have put up a bigger fuss over RIR. He said that they could have expanded the facility to resemble more of what California Speedway looks like today.

#8 Doug Nye

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 18:41

Goodwood is cleared to run unsilenced cars five days each year. Rest of the time cars have to run silenced to very strict limits, with sound-monitoring stations around the circuit live-linked to the local Environmental Health department at Chichester council offices. I have a vision of a bored gentleman sitting there in ostentatious commissionaire's uniform, headphoned, watching the dials on his decibel meters, galvanised into life by any spike which might dance above the prescribed max. line....


#9 Jim Thurman

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Posted 02 August 2002 - 05:02

Originally posted by MaxScelerate

I'd like to know what the situation is or has been with other tracks like, say, Godwood or Watkin Glens. Ever has been a lawsuit? Was it won or lost? It would be a shame if Tremblant was to close. I've been to the Summit of Legends (first time ever I could see vintage racecar in Quebec) and the installations and layout are just incredible! :up: :up:

I do understand that laws are differing from a country to another, but most argumentation remains valid and I'd like to know what precedents exists.

Oh my!...where to start!

Of the thousands and thousands of short oval tracks and dozens of road courses that have operated in the U.S., there have been many either shut down or impacted heavily by this (and other issues).

Many municipalities have local db limits and the problems with that led the State of California to mandate a db limit and curfew for the short tracks at fairgrounds. The good thing is the state db limit is much higher than some local ordinances, and it's statewide, so it helps other track operators.

In the mid to late 70's, before muffler rules (and improved muffler technology), it seemed as if most short ovals were in serious danger.

I'm most familiar with California short ovals, and I recall serious problems with Vallejo, Roseville, Chico (Silver Dollar), Grass Valley (Ernie Purssell Memorial), Corona Raceway and Auburn as well as lesser problems with several other tracks. Keep Corona Raceway in mind, it will come up again in my next post. Interestingly, Vallejo and Corona are the only on this list that weren't at fairgrounds.

Fortunately, despite some "reporters" claiming "environmentalists" shut down "all" of California's tracks, I can only think of two that were literally closed by noise complaints. Auburn was the only one that was shut down at the time (strangely enough they've had Speedway motorcycles weekly there from around the mid-80's...go figure!). After surviving nearly 20 years of off and on again battles, Ernie Purssell Memorial Speedway closed down in the mid-90's.

A lot of tracks have what is known as a "Grandfather clause", which is supposed to make them safe from complaints by new neighbors, however, these clauses never seem to hold up in political climates.

Roseville had neighbors complain, and they took it to court. A district court judge ruled that the track was there first (a rare decision!).

Housing encroaching always has negative results and yet even being around airports or in industrial areas, which would be the best locations, lead to the ground becoming more valuable for industrial park development. It's a lose, lose situation for race tracks.

Pacific Raceways (Seattle Intl. Raceway) has had, and apparently still has, noise complaints from neighbors. They successfully prevented a dirt oval from being built on the property.

A short oval in Indiana was closed due to noise complaints in the mid-90's. A check of Allan E. Brown's "History of America's Speedways - Past & Present" would add many to the closed due to noise list. I have in no way come close to listing them all.

Worse, it always seems to be a few (if not as few as one!) complainers that get the tracks shut down. One very vocal neighbor esssentially kept a short lived track in Sacramento from getting a use permit.

Jim Thurman

#10 Buford

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Posted 02 August 2002 - 06:45

Sante Fe Speedway, a clay 1/4 mile and 1/2 mile oval in suburban Chicago finally closed about 5 years ago after years of battles with neighbors who moved in decades after the track had been running. It finally got to the point the land value was way too much to keep it as a race track and could be sold for housing for millions. Other oval tracks in the Chicago area we raced at over the years that have now closed were 87th Street Speedway, O'Hare, Raceway Park, and Mance Speedway. All replaced with urban blight. And of course we all know about Riverside and Ontario Speedways in California, and Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas is now all covered with houses, less than a half mile from mine.

#11 cabianca

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Posted 02 August 2002 - 06:46

In the US, there's a further problem, unrelated to environmental concerns. If CART goes bust, the IRL can't supply enough dates to fill the vacuum, so many American road circuits will be missing a major race date. One missing date can wipe out the profit for the entire year.

#12 Jim Thurman

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Posted 13 October 2002 - 01:44

Originally posted by Jim Thurman

I'm most familiar with California short ovals, and I recall serious problems with Vallejo, Roseville, Chico (Silver Dollar), Grass Valley (Ernie Purssell Memorial), Corona Raceway and Auburn as well as lesser problems with several other tracks. Keep Corona Raceway in mind, it will come up again in my next post.

Finally having a chance to get to this, I'm reviving this thread...

Since then, Ventura Raceway has come under fire in what is overtly a political (and perhaps conflict of interest) situation. Seems Viacom Inc. has targeted fairgrounds in California to build concert venues on track sites. It had a lot to do with the historic San Jose Fairgrounds oval being built on and grandstands razed and they've been after the Orange County Fairgrounds as well.

Now, to my quote above. Remember Corona Raceway. That was an interesting situation. In the mid-1970's, the track was under severe political pressure. It turned out Les Richter of Riverside International Raceway and later NASCAR had contributed heavily to the campaign of the local politician pushing for the track closure and imposing a restrictive noise ordinance. I believe it was also found that the main complainers had connections as well. Felice Lipari, who built Corona Raceway, found a good lawyer and they challenged on the grounds that the noise ordinance was imposed solely on Corona Raceway, and curiously enough, did not apply to Riverside International Raceway despite them both being in Riverside County. This led to a very sudden backing down and lifting of the newly imposed noise ordinance on Corona Raceway.

Eventually, housing and more complaints came and Corona Raceway closed after the 1984 season.

Despite the good he's done, Les Richter's involvement in this debacle and selling his shares of RIR (which essentially is the primary reason it's no longer there), do tarnish him somewhat IMO. What possible negative affect could a 1/2 mile dirt oval located about 20 miles West have on RIR?

Jim Thurman

#13 Mark Beckman

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Posted 13 October 2002 - 05:05

Australia's freedom is its worst enemy here with Polititions who get voted in on a platform (such as closing down that local noisy racetrack) making life hard for racetrack owners, I mean have you ever heard of a Politition getting voted in for wanting to build a racetrack ?

They legally cant shut them down but as mentioned, they can place such restrictions to make life impossible.

An interesting one at the moment is Darlington Park here in Brisbane which isnt finished yet (they have some club stuff there now), but was started (and fully council and State Goverment approved) before the estate next door to it was started.

Of course people who bought in the Estate have already tried to stop its development.

#14 GunStar

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Posted 13 October 2002 - 05:20

Bring the 60's Can-Ams on a "World Tour". Show those pansy enviro freaks what real cars sound like. Or better yet, let the NHRA do a visit with Top Fuel. I was sorry to see Riverside and Westwood go. Portland International has a very strict limit (Since it's owned by the city), and Pacific Raceways is still fighting.

Give them something to really complain about, and ask if what they normal have is all that bad anymore.

#15 Ralliart

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Posted 13 October 2002 - 06:14

:smoking: In the early days of the U.S. GP-West at Long Beach, the residents of Long Beach had the option, paid in part by the organizers, to take a vacation (with certain limitations) on raceday.

#16 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 October 2002 - 11:05

Warwick Farm went under with some pressure from new residents who'd moved into Chipping Norton, a suburb that developed in the mid to late sixties just across the creek from the circuit.

But it wasn't the only factor, just the one that determined that it would be too hard.

#17 WGD706

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Posted 13 October 2002 - 17:19

Another track to go under was Bridgehampton on Long Island. Spectator access was limited by sparse Long Island roadways at the eastern end of the Island and the Long Island Sound to the north, and the circuit always faced an uphill battle for commercial viability. As upscale residences were built nearby, the track faced increasing opposition from locals. As the track surface deteriorated over time, the facility declined to the point of hosting only minor club events in its final years.
The facility was always somewhat primitive, and development was limited by the hostility of locals who bought nearby housing on the assurance that the race track "would be going out of business soon anyway".
In 1981, the track was near bankruptcy. A group named the "Friends of Bridgehampton" was formed, and they brought in a new owner and high hopes. The owner opted to not spend on development as much as was hoped, in part due to continuing hostility from the surrounding community.
After endless battles between supporters and foes, the track closed permanently in 1997. A golf course has been built on the site.

A magnificent, 2.85 mile, 13 turn high speed driver's circuit through the sand dunes, Bridgehampton was one of the great road courses of the world. Through the 60's and early 70's the track hosted a number of major races, including Can-Am, USRRC, Trans-Am, and other major series.
Racing greats such as Dan Gurney, Walt Hansgen, John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Mario Andretti, Jim Hall, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Jo Siffert, Pedro Rodriguez, and Peter Revson made their mark - and most of them loved the track and its challenges. Dan Gurney gave Carroll Shelby's Cobra its first international win at Bridgehampton in 1964. Over 30 years later he recalled that as one of his most satisfying achievements.

For a map of what was:
For photos of what it has become:

#18 Henri Greuter

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Posted 14 October 2002 - 12:39

How about race track survival in future years?

I suppose that within a short time we can see a number of fairly decent tracks and some excellent ones in the USA go belly up when CART is buried and gone shortly.
And then see a number of newly built ovals fight for survival and fight for getting a NASCAR date to be able to survive because an IRL date alone ain't enough.....

Henri Greuter