Inaugural Petersen Invitational: Private Track Hot Laps

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Los Angeles CA, Feb 26 2015 - The Petersen Automotive Museum continues to be more than a collection of interesting cars in Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile district. The latest example of a beyond-the-building experience is the Petersen Invitational.

Held February 21-22 at the private Thermal Club near Palm Springs, California, this fund-raiser gave museum members and guests a rare opportunity to experience an exclusive motorsports country club. Situated on 330 acres, The Thermal Club is centered on a racetrack instead of a golf course. Membership involves buying real estate at the club.

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Members, their accompanied guests and guests of tenants such as the BMW Performance Center West Driving School are allowed behind The Thermal Club’s gates. Fortunately, a member of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s Checkered Flag 200 club is also a Thermal Club member. This paved the way for museum members and friends to participate in the Petersen Invitational, a dynamic fund-raiser.

“We were more than thrilled at the first running of what will be an annual Petersen event,” said museum Chief Marketing Officer Adam Langsbard. “More than 135 enthusiasts drove to an exclusive location 140 miles from the museum’s footprint for a unique Petersen experience. The motorsports weekend was a collaboration between The Petersen, The Thermal Club, and great sponsors such as BMW, Sage Automotive Group, O’Gara Coach, Tesla and Lexus ­— relationships that we look forward to extending into the future. Overall, we had great people and spectacular cars coming together for a good cause.”

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The Thermal Club’s Sales Manager, Dave Jenkins, added, “This was a premier event for the club. It showcased the magic of Thermal, from luxurious dining and entertainment under the stars, to adrenaline-fueled days driving historic, world-class cars. The timing could not have been better, all coinciding with the completion of our new clubhouses, road courses and trackside garage-villas. The Petersen is the center of automotive culture in Southern California, if not the United States and beyond, and The Thermal Club was proud to be a part of an event that helps extend its legacy.”

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Saturday’s behind-the-wheel events allowed participants to autocross some of the automotive industry’s most exciting sports cars. These included the BMW M3 and M4, supplied by Thermal Club partner BMW Performance Center West Driving School. Further, Lexus lent its stellar RC F, Tesla grabbed enthusiasts’ attention with its buzz-worthy Model S, and attendees also salivated for the Porsche Cayman S.

Thrill rides were also available. Mike Sage and Lotus of the Desert brought several cars. The Evoras in particular attracted a lot of attendee attention.

2013 Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series World Champion

Further, O’Gara Coach had its full-race Lamborghini Super Trofeos on hand. Petersen Invitational participants got to suit up, strap in and reach speeds of up to 170 MPH on the Thermal Club’s 2,500-foot-long main straightaway.

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Saturday night’s gourmet dinner honored 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner Danny Sullivan, who was interviewed by ABC-7 Los Angeles automotive specialist Dave Kunz. Sullivan told stories about racing in IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR. He then answered participants’ questions.

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The Petersen Invitational’s silent auction featured Sunday laps with Danny Sullivan. Petersen Automotive Museum Checkered Flag 200 member Doug Carter was the high bidder. He got to ride shot-gun with Sullivan in the museum’s Ol’ Yaller Mark III, one of 10 racecars built by Max Balchowski. Powered by a 414-ci Buick Nailhead V-8, Ol’ Yaller enjoyed many wins in the 1960s, beating Jaguars, Ferraris and Maseratis.

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Sunday also offered catered track-side meals and additional autocross and thrill-ride seat time, plus hot laps in participants’ own cars. The Thermal Club has three circuits comprising 4.5 total miles of track, and Petersen Invitational attendees enjoyed many laps in their exotic street cars and full race machines. One driver even tracked his commuter SUV.

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In addition to participant-owned exotics, several unique machines were on display. Arciero Racing brought a rare Lister Jaguar. Scarbo Performance showed off its prototype SVF1, a 1967 Ferrari Formula 1 tribute track car powered by a GM LS-3 small-block. Petersen Automotive Museum board member/MotoAmerica CEO Richard Varner brought a custom Mule Motorcycles-built “uprated” Yamaha TZ750 café racer. This bike inspired the MotoAmerica roadracing series, which debuts in April.

Attending media members included two from Petersen legacy brands: Motor Trend Associate Editor Scott Evans and Hot Rod Staff Editor Elana Scherr. Other esteemed media included Car and Driver Executive Editor Aaron Robinson, Automobile Contributing Editor Ronald Ahrens, Creative Director James McKeone, Digital Content Manager A.J. Gordon, the staff of and Valerie and Randy Berg, owners of the classic-car portal Special Car Store.

Proceeds from the Petersen Invitational will help subsidize the Petersen Automotive Museum’s $120 million re-imagining. The new museum, scheduled to reopen in December 2015, will feature 25 world-class automotive exhibits and a satellite campus for the Art Center College of Design. Approximately 150 vehicles will be displayed on the three main floors and another 150 or so will be in “visible storage” in the museum’s underground vault.

For further information, please visit and

Source: Petersen Automotive Museum

Photos: Randy Berg

Related: Petersen Invitational: Thermal Thunder Ware; and Petersen Invitational: SVF1 1967 Ferrari Formula 1 tribute track car

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