Ozarks International Raceway
3.970 miles / 6.389 km Main course with alternate chicane2021 to date
Unknown Main course without Bus Stop2021 to date
Unknown Outer course2021 to date
2.500 miles / 4.023 km Outer course with alternate chicane2021 to date
Unknown Outer course with Bus Stop bypass2021 to date
Unknown Inner course2021 to date
1.400 miles / 2.253 km Inner course with Hairpin bypass2021 to date
Ozarks International Raceway is Missouri’s only road course but what a road course it is; perhaps the closest that anyone has come to replicating the challenge of the fabled Nurburgring Nordschleife, yet built in modern times with modern amenities.
The track has several layouts with the longest configuration a terrain-hugging, tree-lined roller coaster ride with 19 thrilling corners and 150 feet of elevation difference throughout the lap. Shorter configurations include an outside track of 2.5 miles and an inside track of 1.4-miles. These are ideal for racing schools or clients renting the track for their events.
Since opening in 2021 the facility has garnered huge initial attention on the club racing scene and is now starting to also attract the major professional categories: 2022 was supposed to see the first visit of the SRO-organised GT World Challenge America, though the event was ultimately cancelled as the circuit was not considered ready.
Ozarks International Raceway is the brainchild of racer and team owner JR Pesek, who wanted to create a motorsports facility in an area of the country which has been poorly served for decades. He was keen that it should be in a ‘destination’ area, where there would be plenty of opportunities for activities other than racing.
He found the ideal spot near to his second home in the Lake of the Ozarks area around 130 miles outside of Kansas City, Missouri; a former turkey and livestock farm amid rolling forested landscapes. Just a few miles from the track, teams, clients and partners can lodge at the luxurious resort of the Four Seasons hotel, one of the many up-scale resorts in the area, or in Osage Beach, where you can find countless shops, hotels, restaurants, golf courses and vineyards.
Construction on the course started in 2020, with input on the design from with Multimatic Motorsports, who Pesek had an existing relationship through his PF Racing Team, which campaigns Ford Mustang GT4s in IMSA’s Michelin Pilot Challenge.
“This used to be an old turkey and cattle ranch and I drove by it for two-and-a-half to three years, then it came for sale,” explained Pesek. “The lay of the land gave us a nice opportunity to build a really great race track.”
The course layout itself was designed to hug the landscape and require minimal removal of surrounding forest, resulting in a highly challenging layout with considerable elevation change, blind crests and off-camber sections which taxes even the best drivers.
“We wanted to have the best of everything: what features do people like about these different tracks?” explains Pesek. “As drivers, you enjoy going to a track because it has the Kink or the Chicane or the Corkscrew. Why not build a track that has it all?”
It’s definitely a case of mission accomplished - there’s very little doubt that the challenge of this circuit is much higher than almost any other in North America but the rewards are consequently bigger too. The track is 3.87 miles in length, with 19 turns; in one lap, the course rises and falls eight times with elevation differences of 150 feet throughout the lap.. Cookie cutter it is not.
“My hat’s off to JR Pesek. He built Ozarks to be one of a kind and I believe he succeeded. It’s a beautiful facility in a very beautiful part of the country. It’s fast, technical very smooth, plenty wide and demands total respect and focus. You won’t learn this track in a few laps but when you get it all put together Ozark will deliver a driving experience like no other anywhere. It’s definitely a ‘Big Boy’ track.”
The former farm’s buildings put to good use when the turkey barns were renovated and reconfigured as giant garages for the teams, which can accommodate up to 58 vehicles. Elsewhere the paddock features an impressive two-story race control tower and another building with a media centre and classrooms.
There are also suites that can be rented during races, and ultimately the track plans to build 18 to 20 team houses that can each accommodate 14 people, with further two-bedroom cabins to be built at some point in the future on the north-east portion of the grounds.
Initially, Pesek had envisioned that the course would be built in three phases over three years but, such was the interest from the motorsport world that the plans were accelerated, with the circuit opening for its first laps in late 2021 and a first full season of racing in 2022.
The track has a five year plan to build facilities which cater to the highest motorsports series standards in North America. It hopes to have the likes of IndyCar, NASCAR, IMSA and SRO amongst its visitors.
The plan appeared to be going well, with the SRO-sanctioned GT World Challenge North America scheduled to visit for the first time in May 2022 while IMSA officials also indicated that they will visit the facility to assess its suitability for a future event. However concerns were raised by several competitors that the necessary infrastructure was not in place for the high speed GT3 cars to run safely; in April 2022 the Porsche Sprint Challenge elected not to run its GT3 Cup cars and a short while later, SRO pulled the plug.
“When we look at any new circuit, and especially when drivers come back to us with their concerns, we pay all the more attention to it,” Greg Gill, president and CEO of SRO Motorsports America explained, before citing world supply chain issues in the track not being able to ready to receive its FIA Grade 3 homologation.
“Over the past two years we have been reminded that we cannot control all external forces. We thank our friends at the Ozarks International Raceway for their extraordinary efforts to prepare for our race weekend. Yesterday we concluded that we could not produce the desired quality event in the limited time available."
It was a frustrating end to what should have been the circuit's first top level professional event. Nothing has yet been confirmed as to a replacement fixture, so iIn the meantime the track plans to add rally and off-road courses, a clubhouse, a drift pad and a racing school, which will provide a stepping stone into the PF Racing squad.