Any desert traveler should be relieved to see palm trees. A large grove of palm trees along 62nd Ave. in Thermal, CA, signals the automotive kind of oasis.
A brand-new state-of-the-art race track spanning 4 and a half acres with three different courses, not including go-kart and autocross courses sits behind
This track is so nice and new that BMW recently signed a multi-year contract to hold driving schools here. If you’ve got several hundred thousand dollars gathering dust in the bank, you can play race car driver here.
While building my own private race track would be pretty damn cool, I didn’t have much of an idea as to how I would pull that off. Then I heard about Tim Rogers, whose personal $85 million has gone into making this track, the Thermal Club, a reality.
You could safely say that building a race track is much harder than building a strip mall. Rogers said in an interview with Hot Rod Magazine (where I got all of his quotes from, so credit is given fully to Hot Rod) that even in the middle of the California desert, he still had to do a lot of paperwork and grading before he could even start pouring concrete and asphalt. He told Hot Rod, “We had to build the highway out here. We had to put in the structure for all the utilities. The hardest part was that the water table was eight feet down, so we had to raise the ground before we could dig. Who would have thought there would be a water-table problem in the desert?”
He estimates that the final cost of building the Thermal Club will be about $120 million, and so far all of the money put towards the track has been used to satisfy all of the city requirements, relocate the palm tree grove that originally was on the land, grade and pour the main tracks, build a 24-hour gas station (that sells race fuel), and put up a “clubhouse” complete with a restaurant, locker rooms, a car wash (in the middle of a drought? Seriously?), and multiple garages.
One of the requirements of being a member at the Thermal Club is that you have to purchase land and put up a structure that meets rigorous and various aesthetic criteria. No, a quonset hut does not count! Rogers said, “The property starts at about $375,000 and goes up to a little over a million.” My dreams of two shipping containers and a travel trailer as a structure are on hold until I can raise sufficient funds to build a house that meets the criteria (hint hint!). Should you donate money to my cause, you will get unlimited visitation rights!
But seriously, if you had a nice car collection and a desire to go fast, chances are this kind of money is just waiting to be spent. Membership at the Thermal Club could pay off. The track was designed to be both fast, safe and fun, with famed track designer Alan Wilson giving feedback about the curves and Roger Penske consulting on the exact chemistry so the asphalt could survive the grueling summer heat (the town was named Thermal for a reason).
If the rest of your family isn’t interested in bombing around a race track, maybe the thought of a nice restaurant, a spa, a pool, and various other luxuries will entice them. An added bonus is the track is close enough to an airport that you can simply fly in whenever the racing bug bites. It’s the ultimate rich Californian dream. Thermal is close enough to Coachella that the kids can go there. Plus, Thermal is about two hours from Los Angeles, so it’s really not that far from a big city. Rogers told Hot Rod that most of his 40 available lots. Since I don’t have enough money to buy a lot and build a house there, I can only hope that I’ll be invited to a private event there. The sample house is used to house journalists and VIP guests, so the Thermal Club doesn’t have to worry about hotels and logistics.
If you’re really keen on getting a look at the track, the BMW Driving School is a good start. You can visit the BMW Driving School website at http://www.bmwusa.com/performancecenter. It’s much cheaper than membership, but you don’t get 365-day track access. However, several large Los Angeles-area car clubs do book the track for meetings and events periodically.
You can visit the Thermal Club’s website at http://www.thethermalclub.com/
There you have it. That’s how one very rich and determined man built a race track. Or, you could just become a member of your local track, which might be cheaper.
The Thermal Club is located at 86030 62nd Ave, Thermal, CA 92274. Their phone number is 760.674.0088.