Experts assess sound level at Cowichan motorsport circuit

International experts are evaluating sound levels at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit in the Cowichan Valley, after people living in the area raised concerns about noise.

Berlin-based sound engineers Alexander Knobloch and Dominic Gutsche spent three days conducting a battery of tests at the track and in the Sahtlam neighbourhood.

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They are expected to produce a report in the next few weeks.

Knobloch and Gutsche, who have evaluated sound levels at tracks in Europe, will look at possible sound-containment measures, such as berms or fencing.

The Cowichan Valley Highway circuit is part of a 19-hectare automotive resort opened in June 2016 on land purchased from the District of North Cowichan. The circuit, with a 2.3-kilometre vehicle-testing track, was created by the GAIN Dealer Group, which has 13 dealerships on Vancouver Island that sell Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Fiat, Mini, Porsche, Smart, Sprinter, Subaru and Volkswagen vehicles.

The initial conclusion of the tests is that the noise from the track is below ambient noise levels in the community, and below the average for similar facilities.

Peter Trzewik, the chief executive of the GAIN Dealer Group, said some drivers who use the track have already taken steps to make their vehicles quieter.

He said clients are often older adults, and are interested in the performance of their vehicles, not in making noise.

“Instead of playing golf, they come out to motorsports,” said Trzewik, noting noise-monitoring started after people living in the area raised concerns.

Monitors worth a total of $28,000 were brought in to see how much sound was coming from a range of vehicles, and Wakefield Acoustics was asked to look into sound levels at the track.

Trzewik said sound-measuring data is available to any member in the public who wants to see it.

Measurements taken at trackside have shown a high reading of about 100 decibels when the noisiest cars were passing. Knobloch said 100 decibels is like a loud scream and 70 is like regular speech.

The only sound restrictions in the area are a 60-decibel maximum in the neighbouring Cowichan Valley Regional District, and the measurements there show the track noise is below 50, Trzewik said.

Knobloch said he and Gutsche started working on the project before they arrived at the track.

“Before we came here, we did a computer prognosis of the sound propagation in the area,” he said. “We are using a three-dimensional model of the topography here and the track layout, and also the locations of the nearest dwellings.”

It is specialized work, Knobloch said.

“Our customers are motorsports venues, especially in Germany and Europe, but also all over the world,” he said. “There are noise regulations for tracks in most countries and this is why people like us get involved.”

They went into the surrounding neighbourhood to measure the amount of noise heard there.

Knobloch and Gutsche spoke with area residents, including Isabel Rimmer, who has raised concerns about noise levels in the Sahtlam neighbourhood.

“It’s a small, rural community and we spotted these guys,” said Rimmer, who lives close to the track. “Several of us have had conversations with them, actually.”

She said it was good to see people involved in sound issues.

“I would certainly like to be optimistic about that,” Rimmer said.

Trzewik said GAIN wants to be a responsible part of the community, and it is important that neighbours met the two sound engineers.

“I think they realize something is going on, that the venue is determining its impact on the surrounding community.”

Trzewik said the track fared well in its first year of operation, and attracted a world launch of two new Porsche models last month. Many companies have used the track on a regular basis as well, Trzewik said.

Along with that, a fundraising event at the track last August — the Vancouver Island Motor Gathering — generated $53,000 for the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation, he said. This year’s show is scheduled for Aug. 27.

A rezoning application is being submitted for the entire property to make it a single development zone. Plans call for expansion to the north, away from the residential area, and the addition of amenities such as a nine-hole golf course in the next three to five years.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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