IndyCar heading to Thermal Club for spring training 2023
The NTT IndyCar Series will make its first visit to The Thermal Club’s road course for a spring training test before next season.
Located 15 minutes south of where the popular Coachella music festival takes place in south-central California, the February 2-3 event in Thermal City will be the venue’s first collaboration with a major racing series.
The extensive property, which serves as a country club-style track where members build homes and garages to house their cars and high-performance racing machines, has grown as a testing facility used by many IMSA and SRO teams.
Set to receive FIA Grade 2 safety certification at the start of 2023, it is believed that IndyCar’s successful spring training event at The Thermal Club, which received design input from chain owner Roger Penske, could lead to a future race date being added to the calendar.
“We’ll use the design we call ‘Two Palms,'” track chief John Rogers told RACER. “It’s our South Palm course and our North Palm course together, and it’s 2.9 miles, 17 turns and includes our course, which should be exciting with a three-turn section A wonderful and imminent right there. We built the track with fast cars in mind. In fact, we made some changes before we laid the track, and we did that with Roger’s help on what grade of pavement to use and a lot of other things very early on because he obviously has a great depth of knowledge.”
Rogers floated the idea of hosting IndyCar during a meeting in April in Long Beach with chain president Jay Fry, where a range of options were presented.
He said of the decision to open the relationship with Spring Training: “We threw in some bigger and better ideas, and then we said, ‘Okay, OK, let’s try this.’ So without revealing bigger plans for the future, this is a test run to make sure the teams and drivers like it. Do our members feel this is a positive thing for them? Is it a good thing for thermal club?
“So we’re going to get members to meet teams and drivers, have parties, have lunches, dinners, and get to know each other. Some of our members are already involved in IndyCar and F1. And I know a lot of drivers and team owners are golfers, and maybe they’ll try to sneak away and play Some golf.”
At IndyCar’s urging, more baffles and runoff areas are being added to obtain the Class 2 safety rating by the FIA that the series requires for its drivers.
“Originally, the thinking was that we’re a private facility, we don’t really need FIA certification because we’re just going to do our indoor racing,” Rogers said. “But Jay Fry said we’re going to need to get the Class B certification if we’re going to do something big, so we’re on track to get the FIA certification here at the start of the year.”
Rogers hopes that the area’s growing popularity, with Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, the Salton Sea and other local attractions, will continue with IndyCar’s extensive fan base.
“While it’s snowing everywhere else, Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, thermal will be 72 degrees and sunny,” he said. “And we have a lot of other sports like AMEX and PGA golf and tennis in Indian Wells and music with Coachella and Stagecoach that attract a lot of people to the area. There are even wave parks that come out here so you can surf, which is no small feat. Pensioners are no longer 60 and 70. There’s definitely a younger generation that comes here and spends a lot of their time. Lots and lots of food and drink places, lots of clubs. And a great racetrack in the middle of it.”
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