Academy 27: our coaches

When building our track we knew the first order of business was to complete the 4.83km ribbon of asphalt we now have winding its way through the sunny Okanagan valley. After all, we have one chance to get it right. As drivers our first priority is time on that track and helping others get the same. Enter Academy 27.

In designing our track Academy 27 was always top of mind. We wanted a circuit that would challenge experienced drivers to improve their technique yet provide a welcoming experience for those new to performance driving. It needed to be a place where new drivers could feel comfortable to safely find and push their limits and offer seasoned pros more than a Sunday jaunt. Academy 27 is about finding your feet on track – and then improving every step you take.

Led by legendary driver coach Richard Spenard, Academy 27 provides motorsport enthusiasts with performance driving skills on a world-class circuit. Our coaches are professional drivers with a wide array of experience, from the Porsche GT3 Cup to NASCAR, IndyCar, and Indy Lights. When they’re not coaching with us you can find them on circuits around the world, competing against the best. Often winning.

 

Richard Spenard Chief Instructor

Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame

What can we say about Richard that hasn’t already been said? We interviewed him back in 2014 when he first agreed to join Area 27: former owner of the Spenard-David racing school, Formula Atlantic competitor, Ice Series champion, has spent the last 12 years coaching in the prestigious North American Ferrari Challenge…the list goes on. “This will be our first full season starting in March”, says Richard of Academy 27. “We have several schools from March 19th through to the end of October.”

When the Academy opened briefly last season, the focus was on member training. One of the requirements for circuit access is successful completion of an accredited performance driving school, so we wanted to ensure as many members as possible would be ready for the 2017 track season. “New this year, the school is offered to non-members”, says Richard. “It’s a great way to enjoy the incredible facility built at Area 27. Plus, we’ll have some advanced programs offered to more experienced drivers who want to improve their technique and better their lap times.”

Richard spends the off-season chasing the sun and waves with his kite board and two favourite ladies – his partner Julie, and their pup Gypsy. Then there's the mountain biking and fat-biking, allowing Richard trail time year-round. Notice a theme? Yeah, we did too.

Scott Hargrove Instructor

Professional Driver: 2017 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada

Originally from Tsawwassen, BC, Scott has signed on to race the full 2017 season with Pfaff Motorsports in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada series. He was the Canadian GT3 Platinum champion in 2014 with wins in the 2013 USF2000 championship and a second place finish at the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship. Scott has also raced the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and in Indy Lights. Lucky for us, we snagged Scott at the start of a promising career in the seat.

Last year was the first time Scott has coached in a structure like Academy 27. “I’m really looking forward to getting back with the group", says Scott. "And I can’t share this [performance driving] with other people very often. The whole team is really fun. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?”

Between his race schedule with Pfaff and a few extra sessions competing in the US GT3 Cup Challenge, Scott will spend as much time as he can coaching at Academy 27. “When I see drivers improve over the days and the smiles on their faces, it’s great to be a part of that.” When he’s not racing, Scott is preparing to race – including getting his hands dirty on the cars themselves. “If I see something I can do on the car myself, I try to get in there.” Good to know, Scott.

Scott is available for one-on-one driver coaching for members who have completed a performance driving course.

Zac Zawisza Instructor

Professional Driver: Pro3 Racing (BMW), Bullet Racing, 24 Hours of Daytona

On the surface it might not seem likely that aircraft maintenance planning and professional racecar driving would have overlapping skill sets. But in Zac’s case, the two worlds dovetail nicely. At the moment Zac juggles the aircraft day job, ongoing track training for time in the seat, pursuing opportunities with teams in the 2017 competition season, and driving instruction for us. If that doesn’t require planning, we don’t know what does.

Zac comes from Kelowna and when he’s not on the track he calls Big White his home mountain. “In March I can ski one day and be on the track at Area 27 another”, says Zac. He caught the racing bug when he was around 18 years old. “My dad was a hockey player, so I played hockey.” With his mom pushing him for post-secondary, Zac went into automotive mechanics. “That’s where a friend introduced me to autocross. Then I went to a driving school at Laguna Seca, did well, and I was hooked.”

In the off-season Zac hits the books to keep focused. “I read a lot”, he says with a laugh. “Books by Ross Bentley, that kind of thing. People like Ross and Richard [Spenard] are the top two coaches, but with completely different approaches.” All this helps Zac be his best coaching self. “Really, it’s the students and other coaches that make Academy 27 different”, he says. “When you hear ‘country club’ you think stuffy. Not here. It’s such a diverse group.”

Zac is available for one-on-one driver coaching for members who have completed a performance driving course.

Stefan Rzadzinski Instructor

Professional Driver: 2017 Nissan Micra Cup and 2017 Race of Champions

This January, Stefan represented at the 2017 Race of Champions and proved his mettle against some big names in racing (think Ky Busch and Alexander Rossi). Stefan won two of his three races and came home with a smile that won’t quit. When he’s not racing or helping coordinate the driving school at Academy 27, Stefan juggles a day job in business development and marketing with a software company. So no, it seems he doesn’t know how to slow down.

Stefan comes from Edmonton, AB and has loved racing all his life. “I started competing in 2001”, he says. “All kinds of cars, on all kinds of tracks.” With experience in open wheel, NASCAR, and touring cars, Stefan is a versatile driver who is comfortable behind just about any wheel. “I love a long track, like the one at Area 27”, says Stefan. “It’s a challenge to get one full lap together really well, and as a driver that’s where you push yourself.”

This year, Stefan will be coaching as often as possible at Academy 27 while balancing his commitment in the Nissan Micra Cup series and other opportunities to race. “I’m really impressed by the group here”, he says. “Considering who we have, there’s very little ego and a lot of camaraderie among the team.” Like other driver coaches, Stefan most enjoys watching the progress students make. “At the end, when they put it all together, the smiles are so great.”

Stefan is available for one-on-one driver coaching for members who have completed a performance driving course.

2017: discover your life on track

We have a host of guest instructors lined up for the 2017 season, including the return of Patrick Carpentier. As the season progresses we’ll catch up with our instructors and guest coaches (like Pat) to bring you their perspective firsthand. 

Interested in our driving school? Learn about our introductory 2.5-day courses, have a look at the 2017 schedule, and apply now. Space is limited.

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