Wednesday, December 14, 2011

OneHotLap Track Review: Monticello Motor Club

To us driving enthusiasts, tracks are like our own children: we love them all. Short or long, wide or narrow, flat or hilly, mostly turning left or right, close or faraway, runoffs or Armcos, all tracks are good. But some are better than others and some are downright addictive, especially when they feature 4.1 miles of track pavement, 22 unique turns, and 12 distinct configurations like Monticello Motor Club. With over 1.5 miles of straights and 450 feet of elevation changes, MMC has challenging technical components, as well as seriously fast sections. The “Full Course”, a 3.6 mile driving heaven with 18 fantastic turns is by far the most popular configuration. Here's what the telemetry looks like on a fast lap:

At Lime Rock, a good lap would be close to a minute; at NHMS, maybe 1:20; At Tremblant, around 2 minutes; even at the Glen, it’s under 2:30. At the Full Monty, a good lap is anything under THREE minutes! During my first full course lap at Monticello, I realized too late there were no cars in front of me to follow and after a few minutes I started thinking I might actually get lost on the track. Ugh, does anyone around here have a GPS I could borrow?

The Course Layout
The spectacular course design is a combined effort of Brian Redman, world-famous driving champion and winner of 77 races in 12 countries, and Bruce Hawkins, an established track architect and engineer of some of the best racetracks in the world. Monticello is a highly technical track and it offers every turn imaginable: increasing radius, decreasing radius, high speed sweepers, a mostly blind high-speed left turn, a carousel, a hairpin, a double-apex turn that tortured even the most advanced drivers, a classic 90, a magic mushroom (don’t ask, just go on with your trip!), a tight switchback that only autocrossers have seen before, and a long straight comparable in top speed to Watkins Glen’s back straight.
Throw in some elevation changes and compromise turns that allow many different lines through them and it’s safe to say you will not get bored easily with this track. One significant advantage of MMC over many other tracks is that it does not allow professional racing series to run on it and the pavement is smooth as glass.

A Beautiful Country Club
MMC is a private country club with immaculately landscaped grounds and beautiful facilities all around. In addition to the track, it features a modern clubhouse with classrooms, bar, kitchen, pro-shop, breakfast/coffee bar, private member’s lounge, lockers and showers, attached temperature controlled garages, an automotive service center to prep and keep your car on track, private car storage, trailer storage, and even off-road courses and karting for kids. MMC is unique in offering over 200 track days per year but you'd have to be a Gold Members to qualify. Additionally, it offers Silver and Bronze Memberships with a more limited driving schedule. Given the right membership status, mechanics will check your tire pressure, torque your wheels, and check the fluids and brake pads, so you can just fly in your own helicopter (helipad is just off the track) and go out for a session without having to prep the car. Arrive and Drive at its best!

Beg or Steal to Get on This Track!
The course was open to driving clubs for just a year in 2010 but due to rumored pressure from some members, it closed its doors to non-members. Since most of us cannot afford the club membership, you’d have to be a MMC member guest or one of the lucky automotive journalists testing/unveiling a new car model there to be able to get on the track. Monticello, NY is only 1 ½ hours from New York City and 3 ½ hours from Boston and there is no other track of that excitement level in the vicinity. You’d have to drive about twice as long to get to the Glen from New England for that kind of track fun. Even a year after I had the opportunity to drive Monticello, I still miss it! Let me go check the Powerball numbers real quick. If I'm not back writing here for a while, you'd know where to find me.