Some people take up hobbies like golf or fishing, but for a number of exceptionally well-off enthusiasts, a membership at a private race track is one of the best ways to blow off steam. More private racing clubs have popped up in the US over the past few years, from Thermal Raceway in Palm Springs to the M1 Concourse outside Detroit, a membership at a private track is an increasingly popular purchase for wealthy enthusiasts. But a new course is opening its doors to just a few hundred members in Miami later this month, and I was the first journalist allowed to drive the track.
It's called The Concours Club, 20 minutes from Miami Beach and a just few steps across the street from the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, where nearly all of the track's globetrotting members will fly in. The track itself took two years to complete and offers seven different configurations, including a 2,100-foot front straightaway, a 46-foot wide driving surface, and a few elevation changes.
Beyond that, The Concours Club promises to set the standard for automotive country clubs with a private gated campus, resort-style amenities, and an exclusive member's lounge catered by award-winning Miami chef Brad Kilgore. My early access only provided me a taste of these more lavish features – opening day still isn't for another few weeks – but my focus was on getting behind the wheel and seeing what this track was all about.
On The Track
The Concours Club boasts some of the most advanced track telemetry of any private course we've seen. One of the main calling cards is that there are no human flag marshals. Rather, The Concours Club employs a digital tracking system that representatives say is among the most accurate data gathering found on any track in the world. There's also virtual coaching, which means no one needs to ride shotgun – but more on that in a bit.
And while the club encourages its members to take their Ferrari 250 GTOs or Porsche 959s out on the track – which, Concours Club President Aaron Weiss assures us its members will do – you don't have to. The Concours Club provides its members access to their own safety gear and a small fleet of track-prepped BMW M2 CS and M235i Racing models with full roll cages and six-point harnesses that they can flog around the course instead.
My personal 959 was at the shop, so the Concours Club offered me some time in one of its track-prepped M235i models, as well as some direction from Ozzy Negri, Jr., the club's lead instructor. Negri is a seasoned racing driver with one Rolex 24 at Daytona win and a Brazilian Formula 3 championship under his belt, so he knows a thing or two about what it takes to tackle a course such as this.
The first order of business is a quick walkthrough of the track layout itself. In this case, we're running the main configuration minus the optional chicane on the back straight. Representatives tell us that the chicane was a late addition that came at the request of the club's many high-performance EV owners. The hard kink makes it perfect for regenerative braking and a bit safer as the elevation drops shortly thereafter. But in the lightweight, six-cylinder BMW I'd be driving, we decided to skip the chicane.
The track itself isn't all that technically challenging, but Negri notes there are a few spots to be aware of. The trickiest corners are the ones off that back straight, which lead into a blind left-hander just before getting back onto the front straight. But apart from that, the Concours Club track was explicitly designed to be fun, not intimidating. Even less-experienced enthusiasts can toil away for hours without fear of binning their multi-million dollar Ferrari, and then head back to the member's lounge in time for a nice high-end meal. And that's exactly the feeling you get once on the course.
Suited up and strapped into the car, I hear Oz in my headset as I make my way into the first turn – "hard on the brakes, keep it in third, gas gas gas." Like similar experiences I've had with McLaren's driving school at Thermal or Ferrari's program at Homestead-Miami, my instructor knows this track top to bottom and his goal is to help me extract every tenth of a second out of my lap time. But unlike some of those prior experiences, Oz isn't riding shotgun.
The Concours Club’s virtual coaching method means Negri is monitoring my lap times, throttle, braking pressure, and more via a tablet safely from the paddock. Virtual coaching makes the process safer and less nauseating for instructors, but also, less nerve-inducing for the driver – considering the only person at potential risk here is me. It's a method that I now prefer as opposed to the traditional shotgun rider, and my guess would be that members of the Concours Club will really like it, too.
This type of instruction allows me to lop seconds off of my lap time at each pass off the start-finish line. All of my data and onboard video is being stored in a track telemetry program as I go, which means once back in the pit, I can see exactly what I did right – and what I did wrong – as my instructor walks me through those ups and downs directly on his tablet. Looking at the data, I could easily see the improvements in my lap times with each go around.
Worth The Price Of Admission
As the private track genre becomes more popular, the Concours Club finds itself in an ideal position. Unlike some other courses that are two hours away from the nearest major city, the Concours Club sits 20 minutes from Miami Beach and only a few dozen steps away from a private airport. Add to that the number of high-end amenities that the property has planned, plus a really fun track, and it makes an ideal landing spot for those lucky enough to secure a membership.
Thus far, the club has 50 founding members. Many of those members come from out of state and a few from overseas. But the club says it can comfortably accommodate up to 250 members at a time, with enough garages and facilities to assure that each one of them is appropriately taken care of whenever they do want to take their car out on the track. As you'd expect, the price for a membership doesn't come cheap – the average membership costs about $250,000. But even with just a few laps under my belt and a quick tour of the grounds, joining the Concours Club feels like it would be worth every penny.