The Oak Tree – A New Era Begins

September 29, 2013

The Oak Tree – A New Era Begins

September 29, 2013

Oak TreeImagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower, California’s Cypress Point without the Cypress tree, Laguna Seca without The Corkscrew. Now, teams and fans arrive at Virginia International Raceway surreally aware that the signature element of the circuit, the Oak Tree, is gone.

Standing proud for 200 years, the signature visual of the 3.27-mile circuit fell early this July, leaving a flood of stories and memories.

In a world of look-alike stadiums, arenas and circuits, the Oak Tree helped provide Virginia International Raceway with a sense of place, stability and tradition.

So, this fall a new era begins at VIR, sans tree.

While the iconic tree is gone, the Oak Tree turn and the varied pieces of the high-speed jigsaw that is a lap of VIR, remain. Drivers say it is impossible to make a quick lap of VIR without a good run through Oak Tree turn. Each lap presents the challenge yet again and each year, the dance is renewed.

“I am really sad that the tree is gone, it’s hard to imagine VIR without the Oak Tree,” said Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner who made his first GT class start here in 2004.

Thankfully, the demanding circuit is intact and the distinctive character of racing at VIR remains.

“VIR is fast and flowing and the track has a lot of character, it is fairly narrow and you have to be precise as there is not a lot of runoff,” said Milner.

The absence of the tree makes one small change for drivers. “Approaching the tree you didn’t get a really clear look at the exit of the corner,” said Milner, “but we all will miss the tree being there.”

“My best memory of Oak Tree came last year,” said Milner. “Oliver (Gavin) and I won the race and clinched our ALMS GT driver championship, the manufacturer championship for Chevrolet and the team championship for Corvette Racing.”

That makes them among the last to score a major win in the Oak Tree era. The question this week is who will be among the first to claim wins and championships in the new era.

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