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

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
Feb 26, 2023 | 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
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

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