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“When Corvette launched the C7 last year, they brought about 40 C7s in every color.  You looked around out there and it was like looking at Skittles.  It was like a rainbow!  It was beautiful.  No one had seen that many C7s in one place at the same time."

 

Palm Beach International Raceway & The Palm Beach Driving Club

by Ziva & Michael Allen

 

PBIR6We met with Aidy Alonzo, V.P. of Marketing and Communications at Palm Beach International Raceway, and Jackie Rea, Assistant Manager of the Palm Beach Driver’s Club to talk about new developments at PBIR’s motorsports complex in South Florida.  Here is what we learned.

 

Being situated in Palm Beach County, the driver’s club, which offers an annual pass to members so they can use the track every Wednesday year round, attracts many from the upper echelons of the wealthy.  As Aidy explains, “We have multi-millionaires with Porsches who belong to the club.  We have a $30 million Ferrari that comes out and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Just last week, there was a Lamborghini Aventador.  Some guys even come with multiple cars and they have their drivers drop them off for them.  We also have a husband and wife team who come and they love to race each other.  They even have matching Porsches!”

 

 

In addition to the driver’s club, PBIR attracts many manufacturer events.  “Porsche, Rolls Royce, Lexus, Bentley all come here to launch their new products,” says Aidy.  “When Corvette launched the C7 last year, they brought about 40 C7s in every color.  You looked around out there and it was like looking at Skittles.  It was like a rainbow!  It was beautiful.  No one had seen that many C7s in one place at the same time.  So Chevy invited prospects, not just current Corvette owners but Porsche owners and Ferrari owners to maybe convert them or in hopes that they might add something else to their stable.  Lexus is debuting an SUV and they’re going to do that same kind of event here where they debut it to the public, the dealers, and prospects.  So when the track is not being used for testing for motorsports events or Wednesdays for our members, we do a lot of manufacturer events as well.”

 

We asked about whether the club members are held to their Wednesday night schedule.  “The other thing we do on the last Thursday each month is a member’s only – no guest/no food night.  So from 6:00 to 9:00 the members can come out and just drive.  We also invite them to other events throughout the year.  For example, Braman Motorcars comes once a month and we open up the track to the driving club members as well.  Although Braman uses the track time just for their clients, they don’t mind if our members add on.  We also do karting with our members once every couple of months just to mix things up.  PBIR has an 8/10th mile course and they just got all brand new karts in May.  We outsource the karting to a company called Race Line and they just bought brand new karts, which can go up to 100 miles per hour.” 

 

 

Aidy told us about the staff at the club.  “Jackie is our membership manager and coordinator.  Ken Fengler is our vice president of the driving club.  And ShanePBIR Shane and Derrick Lewis is our resident pro driver.  Shane is an active driver who has won the 24 Hours of Daytona, has raced at Nurburgring, Watkins Glen and all of the top household names in tracks.  He’s been very successful in his racing career.”  As Jackie explains Lewis’ role with the driver’s club, “Imagine if you were at a golf club.  They have a golf pro that instructs you.  Shane does the same for the members and his coaching is part of the membership.”  Aidy explains “It’s very loose here.  People will just kind of come up to him, ‘hey can I get 10 minutes’ or ‘hey, can you do this for me?’ and he kind of mingles with everyone.  Basically, he’ll ride in your car or he’ll drive you in your car.  And then he’ll watch you drive your car.  And you’ll leave with video footage so you can hear his pointers and use his expertise for later.  And I have to tell you, it’s really incredible for people to watch their car in his hands because they don’t realize how powerful their car is or what their car can do until he gets in there and dives into those corners.”

 

Jackie added, “That’s why he always goes first and drives your car.  Then, once he’s done a couple of laps with you in the passenger seat and has pointed out areas of the track such as the straight-aways, so on and so forth, then he’ll put you in the driver seat.  He’ll go passenger and you take him around.  If he feels you’re comfortable and you feel you’re comfortable, then you’re out on your own.  Shane is based in Palm Beach and this is his home track so he knows every centimeter of it.  In addition, Shane also gets hired by other manufacturers to test their cars here as well as at other tracks.  Just the other day he was in a super hot Camaro somewhere in Indy.  They had flown him up there to test the car on a track in that area.”

 

We asked about Lewis’ current racing efforts and past accomplishments.  “Shane is with the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series which is with IMSA.  I think they just had their last race at Road Atlanta for the season and now he’s on a break until Sebring or Daytona in January.  He’s done seven Petit Le Mans.  He won two 6 hours of Nurburgring.  He won the 12 hours of Magny Cour in France and the 24 Hours of Dubai.  Last year he had back-to-back wins with the 24 hours in Dubai and then the 24 Hours of Daytona.   He’s very proud of that Rolex on his wrist! ” 

 

 

Jackie explains that on Wednesday evenings, “The paddock opens at 5:30, the track goes hot at 6:00 and then from 6:45 to 7:30 we break for dinner.  At 7:30 the track is hot again.  Unlike with Hooked on Driving or Performance Driving Group where you’re grouped by categories according to your driving skills and then go on in sessions which typically run about $300 for the day and only get you maybe four half hour sessions, with our membership, you pretty much are driving all evening long.”

 

PBIR2The driving club is in the process of securing permitting to build a permanent structure which will contain five garages.  The building will have a second floor, which will hold the club house.  The third floor will have towers and a control room tower, as well as a viewing deck on top.  As with so many other projects of this kind throughout the United States, Timothy Frost has been a consultant for PBIR as they work through this project.  As Aidy explains, I know that Timothy was intimately involved with basically providing the knowledge and the expertise on the drag racing specifically because the owners want third party information, not just what we provide.  Timothy was involved heavily.”

 

We asked about the club membership and how it works.  “Much like a golf membership, or a resort and spa or any private club, the public cannot just come here.  They have to be invited by the members.  There are different levels of memberships.  There’s a seasonal one which is a no frills package.  It gets you 15 sessions for the 12 month period for $7,000.  That gets you here in the driving club with your car and is great for somebody who lives up north, comes down here in season, and just wants to come out with their car.  Then we go to the next level, which is an individual and the member can bring a guest with them.  That guest is allowed two times out in the same 12 month period and is allowed to bring their own car.  They’re waivered and are not allowed to put anybody in the car with them.  However, once they become a member, they’re allowed to bring somebody and put them in their car and take them as a guest.  And then it goes to the next level of membership which would be, as an example, father/son, mother/daughter, or business partners.  We also offer corporate memberships and team memberships so it goes up the scale.  As the membership level goes up, so do the frills that come along with it.  You can get a social membership with the PGA Resort and Spa.  In addition, we are linked with six different tracks in the country and can get you onto other tracks at discounted rates.  Now, if somebody called me off the street and said, ‘hey I heard about Palm Beach Driving Club and I want to come out as a guest,’ my way of qualifying that person is by telling them that we have a $500 guest fee.  ‘You can come out for the evening, have dinner with us, bring your spouse or whoever you’d like with you and if you like it and you want to join the club, we’ll take that $500 and put it towards your membership.”

 

Coming up on November 22, the club is sponsoring a fund raising event for local charity Place of Hope which is called Cars Under the Stars.  It is alsoPBIR Cars Under the Stars the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the track, which many people don’t realize was originally named Palm Beach International Raceway long before the name had changed to Moroso.  Once the track was sold again to IRG, they restored the name back to the original PBIR.  “At this event, our Palm Beach Driving Club members will be donating their time and cars and doing charity rides to raise money.  There will be a rock concert by the band Breeze, car show, charity rides, a fund raiser, dinner and a party.  Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale will be here with their race car.  The Chalet will be all up lit, staged, and we’ll have a silent auction as well.  We will have celebrity drivers such as Brian Johnson, the lead singer of ACDC, Brian Redmond and Derrick Bell who will be offering charity rides.  We will have different levels of charity rides.  For example, a Porsche will be one level, a Lamborghini will be another level and then if you want to drive with Shane, he will be the celebrity VIP level.  After those levels, it goes on up from street car to race car.  We expect to top last year which turned into a huge party in the chalet.  It was a great evening.”

 

Like other tracks around the country, PBIR has embraced the model of offering a country club experience for well-healed driving enthusiasts.  Timothy Frost, race facility consultant, would tell us that diversified revenue streams are a good thing.  (Follow this link to read more about Timothy and his niche consulting efforts.)  Even if we cannot afford the price of admission to a private driving club housed at our favorite track, if it helps them stay open for regular track day events, we all benefit.  Learn more about the track and the club at www.racepbir.com and www.palmbeachdrivingclub.com.

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