The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Road racing track new definition of country club outside Atlanta for the exotic car crowd

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. - Hidden in a remote area at the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, there's a new country club of sorts for the well-heeled. You won't find them driving golf balls down a fairway because they're too busy driving exotic cars. Fast.

After more than four years in development, Atlanta Motorsports Park has a growing membership to run its two-mile road course and a waiting list to lease garage space. CEO Jeremy Porter created the development based on the slogan, "Why Buy a Fast Car, You Can't Drive Fast."

"Our members are really just people that enjoy sports cars. Somebody that owns a sports car that wants to drive it fast and safe," Porter explained.

However, on a recent visit there wasn't a single car running the track that you would likely find in your neighbour's driveway: Ferrari F430 Scuderia, McLaren MP4-12C, a highly modified Mercedes gull-wing SLS with nearly 800 horsepower, and a Lotus Exige S240.

"It's like heaven here," remarked Lotus owner David Wert. "It's a place you get to surround yourself with likeminded people. Everybody here is passionate about cars."

In less than two years since the track became fully operational, it has resonated with collectors who want more room to show off their expensive toys. Membership has grown to 322 and construction has just begun on 40 more garages for lease. The club has tiered membership fee structure that tops out at $40,000 per year for unlimited track privileges. The fees include insurance.

A $3 million clubhouse is coming with 14 luxury garages and a lift so members can display their cars during parties and events on the main level.

If you can't afford a fast car but want a taste of the experience, Evan Halliday, AMP member and owner of Velocity Motorsports, can provide you with instruction and track access with their fleet of exotics.

"Here they get to push the car as hard as they want and get to drive one of their absolute favourite cars in the best environment," he said of participants who must have driver's licenses.

Founding member William Staab, owner of a highly modified Corvette Z06 with nearly 650 horsepower, points out there is a universal need-for-speed among members that precludes most leisure activities common to the country club crowd.

"You know there's a lot people that play golf, a lot of people play tennis, a lot of people travel, but there's some of us it's what I call adrenaline junkies. That is, we have this unbelievable passion to go fast."

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