2019-2-25 | Chevy New Roads Magazine
Club of Dreams
If you pave it, they will come: Motorsports country clubs are on the rise.
On the scale of “everyday life” to “your best life,” the itinerary afforded by a luxurious racing country club ranks pretty high. Imagine shrugging off your helmet and racing overalls for a quick dip in the pool after a day of hot-lapping your Corvette ZR1 while your kids get a jetpack ride over an azure lake, surrounded by dappled desert sunlight. At a place like Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club, it’s all in a day’s play.
Central to the core of any private motorsports club’s appeal is making it easy for members to enjoy their cars, improve their racing skills, and get away from the daily grind. A motorsports club should be an adult’s playground, after all. It’s the same ethos behind golf or tennis clubs, but this backdrop has curbing, runoff areas, data logging, and horsepower in place of putting greens, fairways, and a pro shop. Actually, the more exclusive clubs all have a version of the pro shop at the track with instruction through a club school and real-time coaching using all the tools in the shed. But it hasn’t always been this way.
By the late 1990s, some of the grand racetracks that young baby boomers and older Gen Xers had spent lifetimes reading about had disappeared due to safety, liability, and financial concerns. Many surviving tracks had raised their fees. Insurance rates had skyrocketed by multiple factors, erasing many open dates available to nonprofessionals. Mere mortals would never again find a perfect line through S-curves and challenging chicanes, or face down blind, decreasing-radius corners at historic circuits where driving greats once roamed.
Performance-focused vehicles like the 2019 Corvette ZR1 and 2019 Camaro ZL1 1LE are right at home in this environment, as are the folks who buy these cars. From driving schools for new owners to advanced training for seasoned racers looking to get an edge, private tracks cater to the needs of many levels of driving enthusiasts.
But a number of enthusiasts saw opportunity in the wake of these closures. The private motorsports country club idea grew rapidly, some with only the basics offered to members, though some with nightly caviar deliveries along with fresh racing tires shipped in daily. Rather than golf or tennis as the country club’s rallying point, they offered racetrack facilities where members could bring (and house) their vehicular toys to unleash some performance driving and racing. Good, clean, loud fun.
And the notion has diversified, too. With initial membership fees ranging from $10,000 or $15,000 on the lower end all the way to $150,000, plus annual dues, members have a wide selection of services and amenities. Some of the top clubs around the country include Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., and Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, N.Y.
But the most stunning example has to be Spring Mountain, located in Pahrump, Nev., 55 miles outside Las Vegas. Currently boasting the longest road course in North America, it plans to expand its current site and construct the longest racing circuit in the entire world. Spring Mountain’s upcoming expansion adds well over 620 acres to its property with a 16.1-mile circuit—over three miles longer than the vaunted Nürgburgring Nordschleife in Germany. It’s a long way from where it began.
Spring Mountain started in 2004 with entrepreneurs John Morris and Brad Rambo. They learned that the previously existing track on the Pahrump site was for sale and bought it—not as a business opportunity, but as a venue to have friends join them in their own private track adventures.
“The existing 2.2-mile-long track back then came complete with two tents and port-a-potties,” says Todd Crutcher, Spring Mountain’s director of marketing. “Over time, though, John Morris and Brad Rambo developed the notion of a motorsports country club, even forging ahead with a Corvette partnership and the Ron Fellows school on-site. Fellows was instrumental in developing the curriculum of the school, as well as the sponsorships.” They then built the clubhouse, adding more track and facilities to the point where it’s already the longest track in North America at 6.1 miles.
Spring Mountain’s driving and racing school tutors everyone, from rank novice drivers all the way through those who race professionally. In addition to one-on-one instruction, the school also coaches drivers with full-on data logging gear. Each lap, each corner, each application of brake, throttle, and steering input can be forensically examined with a coach after the fact, the best possible way to quickly improve one’s skills—and a technique that comes directly from professional teams.
This new generation of country club racetracks attempts to cater to families as well as would-be champions. Spring Mountain has a lavish man-made lake, a restaurant, and a tony clubhouse with track views, as well as customizable garage facilities for the business of going fast.
Spring Mountain’s crew can take care of Corvettes, Camaros, or virtually any other steed members bring or house there with what amounts to a full racing team for members’ cars. The circuit also uses a track warning light system similar to the one used by some professional racing series.
Arrive-and-drive packages are totally customizable. Members can book a weekend for themselves or with guests, choosing from a whole menu of options while their car is serviced by the on-site crew. And in case one particular type of 8,000-rpm disaster strikes, they even have an engine builder on-site.
Spring Mountain’s roster now tops 350 members, with a mix of individuals and corporate participants who pay a membership fee plus annual dues. The track is also rented to individuals and car clubs for a small fee.
Darrell Hayley, a new member at Spring Mountain, joined to catch up with his son. “My son started racing karts at age 4 and eventually ran NASCAR K&N West, East, and then trucks, so we’ve been around racing for years, yet I never did any track driving myself,” says Hayley. “I bought a new Corvette last year, heard about the track and the Ron Fellows driving course, and discovered track driving for myself. I then quickly bought a membership and two Camaro 1LEs. We realized that because of the resort factor here, plus the proximity to Las Vegas, my whole family could enjoy time at Spring Mountain.”
“We realized that because of the resort factor here, plus the proximity to Las Vegas, my whole family could enjoy time at Spring Mountain.” — Darrell Hayley
Near-term plans, along with the track expansion to 16.1 miles, include a restaurant and hotel. Currently, you can rent full condos which have a view of the track. Like other motorsports country clubs, you can also purchase land in order to build your own on-site housing. Amenities include a pool and a fitness center, even a four-acre lake on which you can fly jetpacks, if ground-bound twisting and turning is not enough.
With the recent growth of electric-drive and autonomous-vehicle technology, some might view the good old manually driven internal combustion engine automobile as a little old-fashioned. If that’s the case, the private motorsports club should stick around as its living museum.
STORY: JIM RESNICK / PHOTOGRAPHY: MICHAEL KUNDE