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Raceway for the rich offers 140 mph dream

MONTICELLO, N.Y. — Bill McMichael braked his Ferrari F430 Scuderia into the turn, downshifting as he went into the corner. Then he punched it on the straightaway. Pedal down, engine an octave higher, the sleek car closed in on 140 mph in seconds.

Acting like a lead foot is OK at the Monticello Motor Club. Speeding is pretty much the reason the club opened this summer in the Catskills.

Down the road, gas goes for $3.70 a gallon and drivers think twice before running errands. But at this private club, work is going ahead full throttle to transform an old airport into a playground with pit stops for people who can pay the $125,000 entry fee. If the operators worry about launching a luxury club as the economy sputters, they don't show it.

They offer what they hope is a recession-proof offer to wealthy people with a Lamborghini or Lotus in their garage: Come and drive as fast as you can whenever you want.

"It's the most exciting thing I've ever done," said McMichael, an entrepreneur who is a partner and chief executive officer at Monticello. "I've played almost every sport you can imagine. Nothing gives me the same sensation, the excitement, the thrill of driving a really fast car on a track."

Monticello essentially is a high-end, for-profit country club where members tool around in performance cars instead of golf carts. The vibe here — with its helipad and storage garage loaded with European sports cars — is more Formula One than NASCAR, even though racer Jeff Gordon is a member.

The club's centerpiece, a 4.1-mile track that pretzels around the hilly landscape, is already in use. Worried about spinning out? The club has that covered. Onsite driving instructors have a "skid pad" to teach members what to do when their precious cars start moving sideways at 120 mph.

Monticello keeps membership rolls private expect for a few exceptions, like Gordon and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

Raceway for the rich offers 140 mph dream 09/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 11:44pm]
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