America's Most Exclusive Car Club

A private racetrack in upstate New York offers thrill-seekers a place to push their customized multi-million-dollar Ferraris into high gear without risking a ticket.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

"Each time you drive around the racetrack, it brings back the first time you went to Disney
World and rode Space Mountain," says Ari Straus, 41, a medical-software entrepreneur and the CEO of the Monticello Motor Club.

Modeled in part on Ascari, an automotive resort in Spain, this two-year-old racing center in New York's Sullivan County, an hour and a half northwest of Manhattan, caters to the kind of guy who doesn't let a recession interrupt his fun. Its crown jewel is a 4.1-mile course where speed junkies push their Lamborghini Diablos, customized Ferraris, and race-ready Radicals in ways they could only dream of on the highway.

Boys will be boys, but it helps to be superrich, and the club's 100-plus full-time members have an average net worth "north of $20 million," according to chairman Bill McMichael. Each has paid more than $125,000 (plus annual dues) for a membership, which includes unlimited track time, full-service maintenance, and access to the club's exotic rental fleet.

A novice can get behind the wheel all alone with just a single day's instruction; after that he decides how far to take the ride—whether it's competing in club races or graduating to the pro circuit, as a handful of members have. Some have even discussed importing Formula One cars, further cementing the club's image as a place for men who crave something more rarefied than that other kind of driving range. "You could play golf," Straus says, "but between holes you're thinking, What's going on at work? What else do I need to get done today? Being on a track requires all your concentration. It's one of the best forms of meditation that exists."

RACE RELATIONS: Occupying the site of a former airport, the Monticello Motor Club in upstate New York features a repurposed runway that serves as a skid pad for practicing tight turns. Many members, like the owner of this Lotus Exige S 240, plaster their cars with decals bearing club insignia—both to show their pride and to hide racing damage.
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