Zooming really fast in an ultra-speedy M Series BMW may seem like one of those experiences James Bond has—not you. But now those need-for-speed fantasies are available to anyone willing to plunk down a credit card and show up, ready to roll, at the BMW Performance Driving School in the Southern California desert south of Palm Springs.
Splurges with a side of adrenaline don’t get much better than taking part in high-speed driving classes, conducted year-round at The Thermal Club—a posh, 30-plus-acre racetrack, training facility, and motorsports club just south of Indio. The goal of all BMW classes, stress the course instructors, is to improve your driving skills and let you feel what it’s like to push these high-performance machines to the limit in a safe driving environment.
And push them you will. Instructors (many of them professional racers) first outfit you with ultra-padded race helmets, then show you how to customize your driving position in one of a fleet of gleaming M Series BMWs. Quick tips like “A squealing tire is a happy tire,” and “Don’t be afraid to skid,” are reminders that going fast—or at least faster than normal—is the order of the day.
Then, seatbelt snugged, you head out on the tarmac. Depending on the course you sign up for, you could be pitted against your classmates in a time trial. Or you could do power laps of the impressive 1.6-mile South Palm Circuit, the largest track at The Thermal Club with banked turns and a pedal-to-the-metal main stretch. Finish off riding shotgun with your instructor, or another top driver, to see (and feel) what it’s like to go really, really fast around the track.
Useful info: Two-hour experiences start at around $300; private racing instruction starts at around $400 an hour.