Revved & Ready: Exploring the world of high-performance driving


“I’m totally addicted!”

Lora Lonesberry started high-performance driving during the pandemic. While most people were slowing down, she was revving up and exploring her need for speed with her heavily modified 2019 BRZ Subaru.

“It is such an adrenaline rush!” exclaims the Victoria resident.

Growing up on a farm as one of six kids, Lonesberry has been driving for as long as she can remember.

“We had a VW Beetle that we would use in the fields,” she remembers.

“We would all pile in and cruise out to go get dad for lunch or dinner.”

Driving at a young age got her interested in watching car racing on TV and in person at tracks. Soon the self-proclaimed “race junky” traded the stands for the driver’s seat and Lonesberry now drives on Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC), a motorsports playground and track in Duncan.

On Track

Karl Rhynas, the Sales Ambassador for the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, says the track appeals to drivers who want to test themselves and achieve more out of their cars.

“Once you catch the high-performance driving bug, it is really hard to shake!” he adds.

Rhynas has been driving for 15 years and says part of the draw to the sport is the fact that you must have a very clear mind and focus on only what you are doing at the time.

VIMC offers several experiences for drivers of all levels. In addition to its Taste of the Circuit, High Performance Driving, Open Lapping, Drive with a Pro and Circuit Taxi, the track also offers a New Driver Program and Safe Driver Program.

“We have drivers of all ages, and we teach them how to be safe on the road, show them how to change a tire and how to do things like evasive lane changing in the case of an emergency or unexpected situation,” says Rhynas.

Lonesberry got her start driving with the VIMC Taste of the Circuit, where drivers can take the wheel a variety of the track’s 15 cars to get an idea of how each one handles. Drivers have the chance to get behind the wheel of an Alpha Romeo, Porsche, Subaru, BMW, VW, Mercedes and more.

“I am the only client to date who went in the morning and bought another session for that afternoon,” says Lonesberry, adding she has since taken every course VIMC offers.

Need for Speed

VIMC is not licensed for wheel-to-wheel racing so Lonesberry takes her car to Mission Motorsport Raceway to go head-to-head with other drivers.

“Driving wheel-to-wheel is so exhilarating!” she says, adding that she was on a track 38 times last year. “You can’t be thinking about anything else. Just you, your car and the road.”

Some of her greatest achievements include placing first in her class last year in Time Attack at VIMC, and being named Woman Driver of the Year and General Driver of the Year by Victoria Motor Sports Club.

In her down time, Lonesberry also has a racing simulator at home to brush up on her skills.

“It lets me know how far I can push my car in a controlled environment,” she says of the sim.

Although he doesn’t drive wheel-to-wheel, Willie Fitterer also frequents VIMC. The 68-year-old has been driving for 15 years, six of those at VIMC.

“VIMC is a world-class track,” he says.

“It is incredibly technical and challenging but small enough that the speeds are still manageable.”

Fitterer drives a 2018 Porsche GT3 and says it is the race for perfection that has him hooked on the sport.

“It is like anything else where perfection is elusive,” he says, adding that he holds the VIMC track record for a manual production car.

“You take several steps forward and a few back. It’s a constant challenge. It keeps you focused in ways that very few other things can.”

In the years before VIMC was built (prior to 2016), Fitterer used to fly to Birmingham, Alabama to drive on a track.

Driving Culture

Lonesberry also has a go kart that she races wheel-to-wheel at VIMC. She says there are more women in karting than endurance driving, and she enjoys the comradery involved in both activities.

“We all help each other out,” she says.

“It seems like it would be such a competitive sport but really, we want to see everyone succeed. If you see something that could help someone improve, you share that with them. It’s like a family with no one left behind.”

She adds that she is a member of Women in Motorsports North America and is often called the “Track Mom” at sporting events.

Fitterer says he gets more satisfaction out of helping others in his club than he does out of beating his own times.

“There is an incredible culture and comradery,” he says. “You are comparing notes and offering support, trying to help those who are struggling.”

When asked what she would say to someone who is interested in trying out endurance driving but isn’t sure if it’s for them, Lonesberry says: “just get out on a track!”

“Do the Taste of the Circuit, see what you like and don’t like, take classes. They will teach you to maximize your driving in a smooth way. Also, try karting or a simulator to help you learn about recovery with less risk.”

Lonesberry and Fitterer agree that driving on the track has allowed them to be better street drivers.

“When you learn to drive like this, you also learn that pretty much everything you were taught about street driving is either wrong or misused,” says Fitterer.

“Virtually every driver doesn’t use their eyes properly. You need to be looking much further ahead of you because of how fast you are travelling. It’s about learning where to look and understanding your car’s dynamics.”

Both drivers agree that you need to see it to believe it and say many of the people they take out on the track are surprised by how safe and fun endurance driving can be.

“But be careful,” warns Lonesberry. “Once you get out there, you might be hooked for life!”

Stacie Gaetz
Stacie Gaetz
Stacie is the managing editor of GRAND. She runs on exploring new and exciting places and getting to the heart of people's stories. If you have a story she should know about, reach her at [email protected]