California’s member-only motorsport mecca

The private playground for performance driving is also a residential resort community.

By Miles Branman 21/06/2017

The Palm Desert region of California is known for its hot springs, music festivals, and golf courses, but soon it may also be known for its racetracks. Hidden within blankets of arid terrain, a 139-hectare oasis in the town of Thermal offers the finest amenities for motorsports enthusiasts. Unveiled in 2012, the Thermal Club is a members-only haven with proving grounds, resort luxuries, and, most importantly, 8.2 kilometres of winding tarmac.

Three racing circuits, with varying degrees of difficulty, test the limits of even the most extreme performance cars in a safe, controlled environment. Thermal wants its members to fret less and drive more. To that end, the club accommodates every aspect of storing, maintaining, and tuning vehicles so members can simply arrive and drive.

While most members hit the track in their own toys, Thermal offers Aston Martin GT4s, Porsche Caymans, and BMW M cars for members, their families, and their guests to enjoy. An on-site skid pad (wet and dry) and black lake give drivers a chance to find (and exceed) the grip threshold of their cars – training that informs on-track driving behaviour. For some zero-risk fun, members can whip around a short autocross course in high-speed go-karts.

Even without logistical concerns, hours of racing in the desert sun are draining. To rejuvenate its members, the Thermal Club is developing a $US150 million (about $A197 million) facility (scheduled to be finished in 18 months) that will house a gym, locker room, spa, pool, kitchen, kids room, and 48 guest suites.

Thermal seeks only the most dedicated affiliates, and asks for a token of that commitment beyond the annual rate of $US14,400 (about $A18,900). Each member must purchase a piece of property within the club grounds and build a home within five years. Residences can be custom built or constructed from several design plans provided. Trackside properties offer a spectacular view of the racing action, which includes GT3, GT4, Lotus Cup, and other hosted series.

Pledging an abode is no small consideration, but the benefits of a private, hyper-local getaway are undeniable. Multi-car garage space, ample room to host guests and parties, and access to Palm Springs (a mere 30-minute drive from the track) are among the main draws.

For the Thermal Club, it's about building a community of car enthusiasts and giving them the ideal private playground. A place for those who would rather master a tricky corner than perfect their golf swing.


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