Generally speaking, there are two things that stand between the true speed junkie and fulfillment of his/her adrenalin needs: money and track availability. Now, if you can handle the former condition, then the new Thermal Club outside of Palm Desert, Calif., can give you the latter in spades. Make that miles of freshly paved raceway.
After years in the making, Thermal is open for business. Technically speaking, it’s an invitation-only club, but the roughly $1.3 million (minimum) you’ll need to spend to become part of the tribe is a self-selecting process. For your investment, you get a trackside “villa,” built to your specs. On the ground floor, there’s a state-of-the-art garage that holds up to 20 cars and boasts soaring ceilings—ideal for lifts and car-stacking. Upstairs, there’s a kitchen and several rooms for R&R and entertaining, including a generous great room with a big deck overlooking the club’s private pavement. Firepit and splash pool are optional.
Thermal also has a clubhouse; a Tuning Shop for repairs and restorations; and Fuel Island, where regular and racing fuels are available 24/7. Personal concierges handle everything from stocking your villa prior to your arrival to organizing catering, babysitting, and private jet charters.
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But let’s get to the really interesting part: There are three tracks, which combined offer 4.5 miles and 22 different configurations. The main straight on the largest circuit (1.8 miles) is a healthy 2,500 feet long—all of which I used up in the M4 I was playing with. I was lapping alone, but the tracks at Thermal have been built to handle four cars across in most areas, so there’s ample opportunity to blow past your buddies. And when you overreach (and you will), the runoff areas are also generous. There are also two separate karting tracks on the property.
BMW has recently signed on as an official partner to Thermal and has established its BMW Performance Center West on the property (the original is on the grounds of the plant near Spartanburg, NC). All of the company’s driving programs, including the M school (which I highly recommend) and the teen course are offered regularly.
Members have unlimited track access for private instruction, lapping and wheel-to-wheel competition. There are also track cars—Porsche Caymans—if your D-Type, GT40 or GT3 are in for repairs.
Even this petrol-head paradise has its downsides, though. There’s the cost, of course, which includes a non-equity 30-year refundable initiation deposit. Then there’s the heat. Located near La Quinta smack in the desert, Thermal’s summertime temperatures stretch into three digits and even winter days are often in the 80s. (At least the owners were kind enough to tell it like it is via their brand name.)
But considering the cost of a car collection, travel, track rentals and trying to keep the family entertained all at once, Thermal provides an elegant and easy turn-key solution.