The Ridge Motorsports Park
The Ridge Motorsports Park (commonly referred to as “The Ridge”) is quickly becoming the Pacific Northwest’s premier destination racing complex, offering an exciting and undulating course set amid stunning scenery.
The Ridge is located near the city of Shelton, between the picturesque Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges in Mason County, the birthplace of racing in Washington State.
The circuit has hosted Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association races since its opening event but today the headline action takes place with the visit of MotoAmerica in June, while on four wheels The Ridge Speed Tour at the end of June combines contemporary Trans Am cars as they battle for West Coast Championships with the heritage cars of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association .
The Ridge Motorsports Park was developed by Rod Powell and Joe Manke, with the aim of providing a state-of-the-art facility where the limits can be explored in a safe, controlled environment by amateurs and professionals alike.
Powell was a businessmen from Olympia looking for a new venture after selling up his medical-device manufacturing company and finding early retirement didn’t suit. A keen motorsports enthusiast who raced motorcycles in his youth, he was keen to find a venture that would prove fun to be involved with, rather than necessarily one that would make huge amounts of money.
A visit to Thunderhill Raceway Park in 2005 piqued his interest in racing once more and after several further visits and discussions with board members at the California track, Powell decided to try his hand at circuit ownership.
Word spread in the racing community that Powell was looking for land in the Pacific North West and that’s how he met Manke, a successful timber and tug businessman who had dreamed about owning a track since childhood. It was Manke’s son, Joel, who suggested they look at some land Manke Lumber owned in Shelton.
The project quickly took off and the planning process for the 170 acre site began in earnest in 2009 on the plot of land near to Shelton and around 25 miles from the State capital, Olympia. Ground breaking occurred in April 2011, with the asphalt for the course laid in November 2011.
Thunderhill Raceway Park was again the inspiration for the 2.47-mile road course, which was penned by its designer Steve Crawford, featuring 16 turns and over 300 feet of elevation changes, most notably the 50 foot plunge down through the Ridge complex of turns, which is rather reminiscent of Laguna Seca’s famous Corkscrew turn.
The lap features a good mix of speed and challenging corners, with the long main straight leading into a series of sweeping turns, with blind apexes and weightless crests, finishing with the technically difficult sequence of turns. All of this in a park-like forest setting, surrounded by fir and maple trees and offering stunning views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.
Circuit proves an instant hit on opening
The first event at The Ridge was a charity event benefitting local Mason County food banks, held on 10–11 December 2011. The event generated more than $10,000 dollars for the charities from over 300 attendees, helping the track get off to a good start with the local community.
The following year was the first full season of operations, with a fully booked calendar of events including car club lapping days, driver training schools and sanctioned auto and motorcycle races along with other bookings.
The honour of organising the first race fell to the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association, who had been involved by the track from its outset to ensure it meet the needs of riders. Eli Edwards dominated the meeting, taking five race wins and setting the first ever lap record at the facility.
The first season proved an enormous success - 90 percent of bookings were sold out within six weeks of going on sale - and enabled planning of further track enhancements. The first of these came in 2013, with the addition of an optional chicane on the main straight but more major changes came in 2014, when Turn 13 was reconfigured to mitigate excessive surface degradation, being tightened in the process. Around the whole course, major efforts were made to grade and smooth the terrain prior to the application of new topsoil and hydro-seeding, to both enhance the appearance of the facility and to manage runoff.
New poured in place concrete barrier walls were also constructed to replace temporary barriers, with kerbing added in several places and additional new paving completed. Finally, a large spectator viewing area was created on the upper part of the site.
Further additions to the complex came when a new kart circuit and motocross track were added in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The kart circuit is in fact a 1/5th scale replica of the main road circuit and even includes elevations changes. including elevation change.
Ridge Performance Center opened 2019, a 9,585-square-foot complex which serves as a motorsports and events venue, while also providing a community resource, training and career facility.
Improvements lead to first major racing events
2020 saw the increase in paddock space with the circuit partnering with Lakeside Industries to lay over 200,000 sq ft of additional asphalt, doubling the pre-existing area. The new asphalt allows the paddock to be split into three different areas, proving room for multiple asphalt events to run simultaneously at the Ridge. The increase in surface area was designed to draw in larger national series and serve as a home to future autocross and drifting events.
Lakeside Industries were also responsible for the first complete re-paving of the circuit later in 2020, which saw the complete re-profiling of the chicane to make it more suitable for higher-powered super bikes. In preparation for this, the road course was also re-kerbed by Eastside Concrete.
The improvements worked, with the circuit drawing attract the attention of major sanctioning bodies for the first time. MotoAmerica announced the Ridge as part of its schedule for 2021, with Trans Am also added the circuit to its West Coast Championships roster the following year.
Cameron Beaubier dominated the inaugural MotoAmerica race for Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha, winning both races ahead of team mate Jake Gagne. Gagne would get his revenge in 2021, when he proved as equally victorious, taking a clean sweep across the Superbike class.
As a result of these larger events, the circuit added a new pedestrian bridge in 2021 to help takes fans over pit lane just beyond the Start/Finish line and into two separate fan zones. New bleachers were also added in the centre of the course to provide better viewing opportunities for race-goers.