The Autobahn Country Club blends the grandeur of the club with the thrill of the track
The Autobahn Country Club in Joliet is, for all intents and purposes, a product of a mind that believed that one could, indeed, have the best of both worlds.
The high-end car, and car racing, club was the brainchild of Mark Basso who, as a kid, enjoyed visiting the country clubs where the members chatted amiably over a drink on the patio and played a leisurely round of golf on the pristine, manicured course.
Yet, it appears Basso leaned towards the mindset of his namesake, Mark Twain, who once said “golf is a good walk ruined.” Basso could have added a line of his own: “And I would rather drive, thank you very much.”
He remembers “being a car guy all my life. I thought the country clubs were cool…except for the golf part.”
So, in 2004, Basso became a trendsetter, of sorts, when he married his lifelong love of cars with the gentile camaraderie of the country club.
The Autobahn Country Club was born and has grown to the point where it has 400 members. Autobahn also offers lots that overlook the tracks. Autobahn sold out Phase’s I, II and III for a total of 52 lots. Autobahn has now launched Phase IV which features 16 track side lots and 8 back side lots. So far 11 members have been willing to put down $200,000 to have a phase IV lot on which they will build a “garage-mahal”.
As well, if imitation is the truest form of flattery, Basso has reason to blush. “We’re in our ninth year. We were the first purpose built track to start with this concept. Since then, several billionaires have been building their own versions.”
A typical property at Autobhan differs from a standard country estate, insofar as the cars are the key residents. The first floor is likely to cover 4,000 to 6,000 square feet and all that is garage space.
The facility includes a configurable main track with a 1.5-mile (2.41km) north track and a 2.06-mile (3.32 km) south track, There is also a full track of 3.56 miles (5.73 km), skid pad, and a 0.8-mile (1.3 km) kart track. The kart track comes with its own fleet and is the scene of races.
Racing is a key component of the Autobahn lifestyle. Basso says the Spec Miata is a popular choice for those wishing to pursue the club’s checkered flag.
Designed to be an affordable race vehicle, the Spec Miata can be found at Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and National Auto Sport Association (NASA) events.
Spec Miatas use a specific Bilstein shock with an adjustable coil-over suspension with Eibach springs and adjustable front and rear sway bars and steel braided brake lines.
Models with 1.6 liter engines have a race weight of 2300 pounds (1057kg) and first generation cars with a 1.8 liter displacement engine have a minimum race weight of 2350 pounds. “Second generation Miatas”(1999-05) have a minimum weight of 2,400 pounds.
The club also has a Performance fleet of Audi’s, BMW’s, Cadillacs, Lexus cars, AMG Mercedes cars, Porsche 911, Nismo Nissan 370Z, and a Ferrari California. The club requires a $35,000 membership fee to use the tracks and club house, which features a bar, banquet hall and dining facilities with a private chef.
There is also a racing school and a defensive driving school for teenagers.
The membership includes noted professional drivers like Bobby Rahal and Tom Bagley. The club is home to just about any type of car you can imagine such as Ferrari Dino, a Ford Mustang Boss 302, a Nash Healey, a Ferrari Challenge Stradale, an Allard K2, an Alfa Romeo Zagato, among others.
There is a difference, of note, between the Autobahn Country Club and the more stereotypical clubs with the golf courses, tennis courts and often anal dress and conduct codes.
When it comes gaining acceptance to the latter, one must often bring wealth, connections…and a pedigree.
Basso says the Autobahn member is driven (pardon the pun) by a love of cars and driving, not the pursuit of status and mingling with the right people.
“It’s a very low key atmosphere. The members tend to be entrepreneurial professionals. But, most of all, they are car guys.
They like to race and they like to drive fast.”
Written by Dan Pelton