Wheels: Hot Laps
On the Thermal Club’s South Palm circuit, a 1.8-mile racetrack set amid the desert landscape of Southern California’s Coachella Valley, a Porsche Cayman blazes along at 120 mph as it nears the end of the track’s 2,500-foot straightaway. Just ahead lies Turn 7, a 180-degree bend. The car, operating in fully automatic mode, belongs to the club’s fleet of Caymans that serve as instructional vehicles. In another car up ahead is the track manager, Jeff Rodrigues, who is providing the Cayman’s driver, a visitor to the track, with the same type of guidance that he offers Thermal Club members. Rodrigues, who has more than 20 years of experience as a driving coach, delivers succinct instructions over the radio: Brake hard; reduce the pressure; turn the wheel. As the driver follows those commands, the Cayman tracks through the corner and then points out of it like a Weimaraner.
South Palm is smooth, wide, clearly marked, and safe. Paved less than a year ago, it is the first of what will be three linked tracks at the Thermal Club, a private motorsports community with space for some 300 garage villas in which members can store their cars and spend downtime during track days. (The current zoning laws will prohibit members from staying overnight in the villas.)
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