America’s Fastest Country Club

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There are amenities and then there are amenities. Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel provides the latter as part of its Exotic Car Adventure program. Clients are given the keys to a Lamborghini, Maserati, Ferrari, or Porsche 911, a three-finger thick, dry-aged steak at Chicago Cut Steakhouse, a flight of single malt Scotch at the upscale hotel’s darkened bar, and driving lessons with three-time Indy 500 driver Tom Bagley.

One of eight so-called “educational opportunities” offered by Peninsula Academy, the car adventure doesn’t come cheap at $3,500, but most fantasies don’t. This 48-hour “lesson” gives those with a need for speed the chance to test-drive dream cars on the Windy City’s Alan Wilson-designed 1.46-mile Grand Prix track at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet. If you haven’t heard of Wilson, who also designed Gingerman Raceway and South Carolina Motorsports Park, just know that driving on his asphalt is the equivalent to driving off an Arnold Palmer-designed fairway.

After sampling five race cars (Audi S6, BMW M6, Mercedes AMG C63, Lexus IS, Cadillac CTS V), drivers select the one they’ll use in a time trial. Lastly, Bagley, Le Mans driver Tony Kester, or one of Autobahn’s other professional trainers takes each client on a lap or two around the 2.10 mile, 15-turn South Circuit. When not accelerating, Peninsula students brush fire-suited elbows with the likes of driving great Bobby Rahal – all without ponying up the club’s $35,000 membership fee. The place is the ultimate hangout for car lovers.

“Every day is a surprise here. You never know which one-of-a-kind car might be out on the track,” says sales and marketing manager Ron Dabisch. “This week, one of our members was driving a $2.5 million Audio DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) he’d just bought.”

And the scotch and steak waiting at each day’s finish line certainly trumps the milk offered at Indy.

More information: Peninsula Academy is offered at all nine Peninsula Hotels worldwide providing such unique local experiences as elephant rides through a Thai vineyard, a retro Shanghai historical tour, and an exclusive visit to a New York firehouse. The Peninsula Chicago’s Exotic Car Adventure will run you $3,500.

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