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This Luxurious Residential Group in Tennessee Is Opening Its Personal Personal Race Monitor

This Luxurious Residential Group in Tennessee Is Opening Its Personal Personal Race Monitor

In the hills of eastern Tennessee, on an 800-acre plot of land, a small army of construction workers is hustling to finish a $250 million gated community. On the day of our recent visit, the place was little more than a 3.5-mile loop of pavement—albeit one that jinks across the land like a back road in the Great Smoky Mountains, with 127 feet of elevation change from beginning to end. 

The vision of Knoxville developer Rusty Bittle, Flatrock Motorclub is a private racetrack and luxury residence community rising about 45 minutes west of the city. Collaborating on the project is Tilke Engineers and Architects, the German firm behind numerous Formula 1 tracks around the world, including Circuit of the Americas, home of the U.S. Grand Prix. 

“When Tilke started,” Bittle recalls, “I said, ‘Listen, guys, I need a track that’s ever-challenging, one I can’t conquer, one that scares me every time I get on it.’ ” 

Bittle raced karts as a younger man but hadn’t run a car in a closed-course race until four years ago. Hooked, he soon noticed that most American circuits were, as he put it, “under-serving.” One thing led to another, and now Bittle aims to have Flatrock open for member laps sometime this year. When completed, the facility will be one of just 13 permanent stateside circuits to meet FIA Grade 2 standards, its design and safety features suitable for most forms of road racing short of Formula 1. That’s largely down to cost: Grade 2 standards are expensive, Bittle notes. 

The track-as-country-club model isn’t new; some European circuits have been run as members-only organizations for decades. In America, though, the format basically dates to the 2004 launch of the Autobahn Country Club in Illinois, but it really gained ground with the 2008 opening of New York’s Monticello Motor Club. A 90-minute drive from Manhattan, Monticello was one of the first U.S. motorsport operations to combine five-figure membership fees with luxury benefits. 

Grand Prix Track Start/Finish Length 2.67 miles

Courtesy of Flatrock Motorclub

Monticello boasted celebrity charter members including Jerry Seinfeld and NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon, and its success spawned a host of competitors. These days, Bittle says, club-track demand remains strong, helped along by the success of Netflix’s reality show Formula 1: Drive to Survive and the related boost in that race series’s popularity. 

As for Flatrock, Bittle envisions a place where families can spend the weekend—and to that end those 3.5 miles, and that $250 million, are merely the first phase of his project. A separate 2.67-mile “Grand Prix” track is also planned, along with a boutique hotel, an amphitheater, a kart track, and at least two helipads. Premier membership requires $25,000 in annual dues plus a $250,000 initiation fee. A founder’s membership, with lifetime access for your immediate family, lifts those commitments to $50,000 and $500,000, respectively. 

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If all this sounds like big ambition for a relatively quiet corner of the world, you’re not wrong. An initial visit to the site in June 2023 revealed mostly dirt, making the end product difficult to imagine. That picture comes into better focus now, though still not completely. But at first blush, Flatrock already appears more fun and challenging than many big-league tracks in America or even Europe, including more than a few highly regarded Tilke circuits. 

The market seems to have noticed. According to Tim Chandler, Flatrock’s vice president of marketing, more than 100 Flatrock memberships have been sold to date. That figure includes 23 of the 25 available founder’s packages, with customers from as far away as Alaska. 

Race cars are neither beautiful nor ugly, as Enzo Ferrari supposedly said—they only become beautiful when they win. Launching a track is difficult in the best of times, which makes every circuit a winner, in a sense, from the day it opens. Eastern Tennessee is pretty to begin with; Flatrock, we hope, will only add to the beauty. 

Source: Robb Report

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