5 California Racetracks Where Michael Fassbinder, Patrick Dempsey and Other Stars Go "Vroom"

NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2018 - Getty- H 2018
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Ellen DeGeneres and Maria Sharapova also are among the stars who put in time on the raceway.

Speeding in a 911 on Sunset doesn't hold a candle to putting in hours on a track to shave a few tenths of a second off a lap time.

Filmmaker Michael Mann (Heat) — who is working on a biopic of Enzo Ferrari, the Italian race car driver turned brand founder — compares the sport (he drives a Ferrari F12 TdF) to directing a film. "Whatever impels me to make cinema — and some of the sequences in my films may have a similar dreamlike fluidity — comes from [what] makes me love being on a track," he says, adding that the experience is very zen: “You are moving quickly through turns, almost intuitively — break point, turn-in, apex, accelerating out — it can become fluid like a dream you had when you were 11 years old of flying. And you are absolutely alone inside that helmet. You are in communication with yourself in ways you usually aren’t. You hear the car, but it’s being in that interior place with your personal performance that can be very interesting.”

The director, 75, who is executive producing with Michael De Luca the television series Hue 1968, has raced the Ferrari Challenge  ("Most out in the field were better than I was") and "did instruction with Skip Barber at Laguna Seca." Here, other tracks where insiders put in their time:

Auto Club Speedway Fontana

Home to NASCAR races, seven driving schools and many shoots, Fontana is the track to beat in SoCal. "I brought a race car with a passenger seat — people were shocked at the performance," says director Erich Joiner, who drives the Pirelli World Challenge.

9300 Cherry Ave., Fontana, CA 92335

BMW Performance Center West

On the edge of Palm Springs in Thermal, the Center — where Steve McQueen's grandson, Vampire Diaries actor Steven R. McQueen, and Kristy Swanson have driven — offers instruction in BMW's M-Series (from $4,699).

61980 Tyler St., Thermal, CA 92274

Porsche Experience Center L.A.

Ellen DeGeneres, Patrick Dempsey and Maria Sharapova all spend time here — a $60 million, 53-acre facility with a 4.1 mile track where you can test any Porsche offering, including the impossible-to-get 911 GT3. "What I loved was the ability by the instructors to let you find your limits," says director Ben Younger (Boiler Room).

19800 South Main St., Carson, CA 90745

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 

A 15-minute drive from the private hangars at the Monterey Airport, Laguna Seca is one of California’s most storied tracks. The 2.238-mile, 11-turn track includes the famous Corkscrew, where Michael Fassbender says to just “aim for the tree.” Comedian Adam Carolla, who’s competed there numerous times, says: “It’s such a killer track.” 

1021 Highway 68, Salinas, CA 93908

Willow Springs Raceway

This local cult fave offers the fast 2.5-mile Big Willow and the treacherous 1.8-mile Streets of Willow. David Chang and Brian Scotto of Hoonigan Media Machine, which just signed an Amazon deal for the unscripted The Gymkhana Files, have visited.

3500 75th St. West., Rosamond, CA 93560

A version of this story first appeared in the June 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.