A ghost track you’ve never heard of: Palm Coast International | Column

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
Aug 31, 2022 | Mazda, Mazdaspeed3, Column, Palm Coast International | Posted in Columns | From the Aug. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

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This issue’s column is exciting because there’s additional online content. So what I want you to do now is go to Google Maps, and I’ll give you a look at a ghost track you may have never heard of. 

Navigate to the humble burg of Palm Coast, Florida, and look all the way down in the southeast corner of Flagler County to find Secretary Trail, known in its heyday as Palm Coast International. The locals called it PCI.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of PCI before and don’t believe it’s a real track? Okay, I’ll prove it. Use Street View to find a very familiar Mazdaspeed3 at 98 Secretary Trail.

Yep, that’s my old Speed3–a former GRM project car–in the old pits. Technically, though, my former residence is the one across the street–the house with the Chrysler Minivan, the Volvo 142 that was too rusty to live, and the three-car garage. The Mazda was parked at the recently finished house across the street because code enforcement at this former international motorsports destination were real dicks if you had more than three cars in the driveway. 

Now zoom back out of the map, and you’ll notice that the southeast portion of Secretary Trail forms a loop. Follow that road around a bit and you’ll notice there’s only one way on and off that loop. You see where I’m going with this.

PCI traces its history to the original developers of Palm Coast, Florida, the ITT Corporation. As 1969 turned into 1970, ITT was laying down plans for a “community of the future” development where everyone would drive around in golf carts and wear Mylar jumpsuits and eat rudimentary nutritional food paste like RoboCop and live out their dreams. Think The Villages but with less gnarly geriatric sex.

ITT set about building infrastructure, roads, extensive drainage to keep the Florida swamps at bay, power and sewer facilities, and… nothing happened.

For a variety of reasons ranging from the mundane to the outright corrupt, Palm Coast sat largely undeveloped through the 1970s and ’80s and even well into the ’90s. We don’t think a world-renowned motorsports facility was part of the initial plans, but if you asked any Daytona-area SCCA or short track racer for a local test spot, they’d give you directions to Secretary Trail. 

When we got turned on to the place–which was probably in the mid-’90s–the closest house to the loop was well over a mile away. Plus, legend had it the residents were “cool” anyway, so there was no trouble to be had. 

Standard procedure was to park your trailer across the access road so no one would accidentally wander back onto a hot race track and to clean up any trace of being there. If you broke something, nobody better find out.

For years it was the place to sort out new builds, heat-cycle tires, or even do a magazine feature or two (or more). If you have any old issues of this magazine sitting around and see cars whizzing through a tropical wilderness, chances are that’s PCI

There were even two configurations, referred to colloquially as the “pro” course and the “club” course. Both ran counterclockwise, but the seven-turn club course featured the “inner loop” that utilized Second Path for a couple extra corners. 

And yes, I lived there. Way before Thermal Club or Monticello made it cool to live at the race track, my wife and I found a lot right in the inside of Turn 3. 

It was dirt cheap, too. In 2003, we paid a little over $10,000 to buy and clear the corner lot, and a little over $120,000 to build a four-bedroom home with a three-car garage. 

The builder looked at us like we were nuts: “You’ve been here, right?”

Yep,” I responded with a grin, “it’s right on Turn 3.”

In 2004 we moved into our newly completed trackside residence, and I got to live the dream of having my own private race track right at the end of my driveway–for about two months.

Yeah, remember those prices that I quoted you? Turns out the lure of affordable housing and cheap mortgages were too much to resist, and the great Palm Coast housing boom of the mid-oughts saw a ridiculous amount of construction, forever dooming PCI to true ghost track status. A couple months after we moved in, lots along every part of my private track were cleared for construction, silencing the motors forever.

But yes, stories remain, and I’m glad I’ve used so many words just to set this one up, because I can’t wait to share more down the road. Pre-Daytona testing on theoretically public roads involving factory-backed teams? Hope your subscription is up to date. 

We still own the house on the former T3. It’s rental property now, but I hold out hope that one day it can be part of the Palm Coast International Historic Revival Challenge. 

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Comments
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CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/6/22 12:11 p.m.

Florida is craaaaazy.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 12:17 p.m.

If only photos existed....

 

 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/6/22 1:16 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

If only photos existed....

 

 

Editorial Director, Grassroots Motorsports & Classic Motorsports

They should be ready at Eckerd's soon.

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 UltraDork
7/6/22 1:37 p.m.

I witnessed a Consulier test there.  Did a few laps in my Elva Courier there at night toodevil

J&DMiata
J&DMiata New Reader
7/6/22 3:35 p.m.

Deb & I saw an SCCA autocross there once when we were visiting my parents in Daytona.  We saw the SCCA sign on the access road and went and viewed the event.  If I remember correctly a car had gone off course and was back in the woods, it was a Renault or Golf I think.  Those were the days in the early days of Palm Coast.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/6/22 4:20 p.m.

I can't remember if I heard it in person, or read it on the website, but the story about the entire German race team that came over to do some test laps was awesome. 
 

edit: Consider this a request, please.

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/6/22 4:31 p.m.

That is awesome!  In for more pics!  

When I was a kid, my Dad brought me to a similar un-developed residential set of roads down near Cape Coral, iirc, where they held sanctioned autocrosses.  I don't recall if it was SCCA or another group, but it was cool!  There's another similar area out in the Palm Bay area known as "The Compound" where the drift boys go to practice and there are tons of offroad trails.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 4:52 p.m.

I'm not saying that this photo was taken there. I just happen to like Subarus and recently came across this image in our files.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/6/22 4:52 p.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

I can't remember if I heard it in person, or read it on the website, but the story about the entire German race team that came over to do some test laps was awesome. 
 

edit: Consider this a request, please.

That anecdote was actually going to be part of this column but I ran out of room to do it justice, so it'll get its own column at some point in the future.

racerfink
racerfink UberDork
7/6/22 5:17 p.m.
Lof8 - Andy said:

That is awesome!  In for more pics!  

When I was a kid, my Dad brought me to a similar un-developed residential set of roads down near Cape Coral, iirc, where they held sanctioned autocrosses.  I don't recall if it was SCCA or another group, but it was cool!  There's another similar area out in the Palm Bay area known as "The Compound" where the drift boys go to practice and there are tons of offroad trails.

That was SAFE, which was anything but with the two guys who ran it.  One was a builder, and the other was a lawyer, which was handy for the first brother.  It's gone through a couple of owners, and is now running autocrosses at Buckingham Airstrip under the name Gulf Coast Auto Cross

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 5:41 p.m.

Not just an IS 300, but one with a five-speed. Again, not saying where this was taken. I just like these cars. :) 

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/6/22 7:18 p.m.

I don't intend to hijack the thread, but I love this type of stuff. Here's a video from when I attended the "Bay Bottom Crawl" a few years back. It used to be held on some undeveloped neighborhood roads down in the Keys.  Nothing but mangroves and salt water if you biff it off course.  ($2k challenge miata)
 


And here's an event that became dubbed the "Zombiecross". The previous owner of the Firm bought an abandoned army training facility near Arcadia. It was supposed to become another rally training facility, "Carlstromring".  But at the first and only event ever held there, a car went off course, hit an electrical box, and started a fire.  To my knowledge, the dude sold the place afterward. :(  (not me, I did not get to attend). 

 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/6/22 8:00 p.m.

In reply to Lof8 - Andy :

I an the Bay Bottom back in about '92 or '93. Fun and incredibly sketchy. Last I heard that road was pretty much hurricaned out after the last couple storms dumped a lot of sand on it. They were still running up until just a few years ago, though. The club down there actualy has a pretty active schedule at the community college in Key West. Almost worth a couple nights in a $300 crappy hotel to check one out sometime.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 8:14 p.m.

In reply to Lof8 - Andy :

Years ago, we ran a TSD rally through Rocket City, a planned community between Orlando and the Cape that didn't take off as expected. 

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/6/22 9:03 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:

In reply to Lof8 - Andy :

I an the Bay Bottom back in about '92 or '93. Fun and incredibly sketchy. Last I heard that road was pretty much hurricaned out after the last couple storms dumped a lot of sand on it. They were still running up until just a few years ago, though. The club down there actualy has a pretty active schedule at the community college in Key West. Almost worth a couple nights in a $300 crappy hotel to check one out sometime.

Sketchy indeed!  But very fun!  Key West autox sounds like a cool road trip.

David S. Wallens said:

In reply to Lof8 - Andy :

Years ago, we ran a TSD rally through Rocket City, a planned community between Orlando and the Cape that didn't take off as expected. 

that sounds sweet. Is Rocket City still "abandoned"?  Google seems to indicate it's transformed into Wedgefield. 

johndej
johndej SuperDork
7/6/22 9:11 p.m.

Definitely got the hang of some similar stuff back following the 08 housing bust. Totally paved subdivisions with no housing built.

RobMason
RobMason New Reader
7/6/22 9:38 p.m.

I have flown RC Planes at "The Compound" in Palm Bay and may or may not have run a '69 Austin Healey Sprite around there many years ago as well. :) 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 10:26 p.m.

Oh no I've said too much. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 10:32 p.m.

I haven't said enough

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/6/22 10:32 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

Oh no I've said too much. 

Not gonna lie I completely forgot photos existed

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 10:37 p.m.

Yup. They're safe. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 10:42 p.m.

And let's just say that I have a bit of scanning to do. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/6/22 11:15 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
David S. Wallens said:

If only photos existed....

 

 

Editorial Director, Grassroots Motorsports & Classic Motorsports

They should be ready at Eckerd's soon.

And yup.

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/7/22 5:30 a.m.

The Spirit Of Daytona team was a frequent visitor to PCI in the mid 90s. It was a great way for all of us volunteers to get together to work out our race organization and duties.

We may have had to replace the pavement in turn 1 after a fuel spill. Thankfully one of the team members worked for a paving contractor and had access to supplies and equipment.

Did lots of SCCA club car testing there too.

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/7/22 5:33 a.m.

Directions from US1 were something like: Seminole, sesame, seneca, secretary.

All S's but every street in the development seemed to start with S.

CrashDummy
CrashDummy Reader
7/7/22 7:12 a.m.

IIRC, there was a GRM podcast about this a few years back. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/7/22 9:10 a.m.

In reply to CrashDummy :

You can find our old podcasts here

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/7/22 9:58 a.m.
stafford1500 said:

Directions from US1 were something like: Seminole, sesame, seneca, secretary.

All S's but every street in the development seemed to start with S.

Seminole, Sesame, Selma, Secretary, but, yeah, you were close. 

Getting a pizza delivered when we lived up there was a living hell.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/7/22 12:39 p.m.

I don't believe this one is from Palm Coast, but it's from the same era. 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/7/22 1:13 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

I don't believe this one is from Palm Coast, but it's from the same era. 

I think this might be 11th st (now LPGA) out bythe stadium when it was closed off at the highway basically making it a long, blind dead end. We may or may not have done a few things there as well.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/7/22 1:17 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

If I knew what you were talking about, I'd say that I believe that you are correct. 

jmabarone
jmabarone Reader
7/7/22 1:18 p.m.
Lof8 - Andy said:

And here's an event that became dubbed the "Zombiecross". The previous owner of the Firm bought an abandoned army training facility near Arcadia. It was supposed to become another rally training facility, "Carlstromring".  But at the first and only event ever held there, a car went off course, hit an electrical box, and started a fire.  To my knowledge, the dude sold the place afterward. :(  (not me, I did not get to attend). 

 

I wondered what happened to that.  I grew up 1 county north of that and that seemed like a good opportunity to move back to FL and have an awesome job.  

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltimaDork
7/7/22 1:20 p.m.

So, you know how we have that nifty assist list map?  What if we had another one for secret test tracks?

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/7/22 1:24 p.m.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ said:

So, you know how we have that nifty assist list map?  What if we had another one for secret test tracks?

Never write down anything you don't want read back to you in a courtroom.

jerel77494
jerel77494 New Reader
7/13/22 12:45 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Rocket City? Didn't take off?cheeky

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/13/22 2:09 p.m.

In reply to jerel77494 :

It's nice to see people reading my stuff. :) 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/13/22 9:57 p.m.

Oh? 15 minutes away from Mom's house?
Mom, who I'm visiting this weekend?  That Mom?

Yes, that Mom.

Now, how to explain why I want to go visit some random neighborhood

aw614
aw614 Reader
7/14/22 10:18 a.m.
Lof8 - Andy said:

And here's an event that became dubbed the "Zombiecross". The previous owner of the Firm bought an abandoned army training facility near Arcadia. It was supposed to become another rally training facility, "Carlstromring".  But at the first and only event ever held there, a car went off course, hit an electrical box, and started a fire.  To my knowledge, the dude sold the place afterward. :(  (not me, I did not get to attend). 

A two people I know went to this, one friend loved it in his stock Miata, another thought it was sketchy as hell and only ran once before tapping out. His shop is doing more spec e30, and other sanctioned stuff now. It's interesting to see the few news articles on Carlstromring before their first event. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/14/22 10:30 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Don't expect to run any hot laps, but you can see some possible GRM history. 

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/31/22 9:18 a.m.

Remembering back to some of the original print articles, I seem to recall the authors were much less circumspect with phrases like "a place that looks like" etc.  Good stuff, love it.  Also the bay bottom crawl is on my bucket list even if I haven't done an autocross in like a decade.

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
8/31/22 9:24 a.m.
aw614 said:
Lof8 - Andy said:

And here's an event that became dubbed the "Zombiecross". The previous owner of the Firm bought an abandoned army training facility near Arcadia. It was supposed to become another rally training facility, "Carlstromring".  But at the first and only event ever held there, a car went off course, hit an electrical box, and started a fire.  To my knowledge, the dude sold the place afterward. :(  (not me, I did not get to attend). 

A two people I know went to this, one friend loved it in his stock Miata, another thought it was sketchy as hell and only ran once before tapping out. His shop is doing more spec e30, and other sanctioned stuff now. It's interesting to see the few news articles on Carlstromring before their first event. 

Tom Panzarella?  If so, I know him a bit as well!

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
8/31/22 9:25 a.m.
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) said:

Remembering back to some of the original print articles, I seem to recall the authors were much less circumspect with phrases like "a place that looks like" etc.  Good stuff, love it.  Also the bay bottom crawl is on my bucket list even if I haven't done an autocross in like a decade.

Bay Bottom Crawl has been defunct for several years now, since the last big hurricane rolled through and did some damage to the roads that make up the course.  But I'd love to see it happen again.

aw614
aw614 Reader
8/31/22 9:50 a.m.
Lof8 - Andy said:
aw614 said:
Lof8 - Andy said:

And here's an event that became dubbed the "Zombiecross". The previous owner of the Firm bought an abandoned army training facility near Arcadia. It was supposed to become another rally training facility, "Carlstromring".  But at the first and only event ever held there, a car went off course, hit an electrical box, and started a fire.  To my knowledge, the dude sold the place afterward. :(  (not me, I did not get to attend). 

A two people I know went to this, one friend loved it in his stock Miata, another thought it was sketchy as hell and only ran once before tapping out. His shop is doing more spec e30, and other sanctioned stuff now. It's interesting to see the few news articles on Carlstromring before their first event. 

Tom Panzarella?  If so, I know him a bit as well!

lol yep thats him. Usually catch up with him at Fixxfest, but he did my mk6 GTI's clutch when he was transitioning from dealer work to his shop. 

 

EDIT: You are the one with the yellow mr2 challenge car? 

hunter47
hunter47 Reader
8/31/22 10:09 a.m.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vjrjXud-WE

This is all I can think of. 

Unfortunately the price of land nowadays really takes away the ability to (potentially) do fun stuff like this. Every square inch must be packed.

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
8/31/22 10:25 a.m.

In reply to aw614 :

That is me.  Currently working on getting a 2zz engine in there before the challenge.

darkbuddha
darkbuddha HalfDork
8/31/22 1:44 p.m.

A friend in high school lived in a similarly mostly un-developed neighborhood in east Brandon (Florida) in the late 80s... we did more than a few dumb things bombing around in my woefully under suspended '70 Mach 1 and his family's Caravan.  Had a few offs, but none that resulted in hitting trees or the rather precariously placed (for a "race track") fire hydrants.  Thinking back, it's more than a little surprising that my Mach survived that era of my life so that I still own it now. But boy, do I miss having un(der) developed areas to go f'around... this part of Florida has grown to make that sorta thing nigh on impossible.

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