A Club for the Driven - TheStreet

A Club for the Driven

Start your engines: Monticello, N.Y.'s upcoming Drive & Race Club is taking the country club into the fast lane.
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As long as there are wealthy people around, bless them, there will be new high-end private clubs to join.

Take, for example, private golf clubs. In just the last few years, in the metropolitan New York area alone, at least four six-figures-to-join oases have opened: Friars Head, Sebonack, Liberty National and Bayonne.

As wonderful as it must be to be a member of these places, from a novelty standpoint they might as well be yacht clubs, tennis clubs or, really, book clubs.

The difference is of degree, not kind. Been there, hit that shot, had that single-malt Scotch, undertipped that bag boy.

For the well-heeled with a lead foot, there's a fresh option on the horizon.

In 2008, the

Drive & Race Club will open in Monticello, N.Y., about 90 minutes northwest of Manhattan. (You can probably make it in 75 if you step on it, but please don't mention my name to the state trooper when he pulls you over.) It promises to be a fast-paced, car-based country club dedicated to member use, with a luxury clubhouse to boot.

Its road course is over 3 miles long set on 225 acres of heaving terrain, with a three-quarter-mile straightaway and ample twists and turns. Three different types of driving will be available.

"Tour" is high-speed driving in performance groups for about a dozen cars at a time. The focus is on driving skills and instruction, with speed restrictions and strictly limited passing.

The most frequent driving at the club will be "hot-lap." It features more aggressive driving -- it's for moderately experienced drivers -- but without trading paint, also in performance groups and with limited passing. Laps will be timed so members can compare their performances vis-a-vis themselves and fellow drivers.

"Race" is all-out driving, with a full complement of corner and safety workers and facilities. Racing may be done in member cars, rental racecars or with the club-owned fleet.

To assuage any nervous Nellies back home, let them know that the limited number of cars per mile, grouping by driving ability and cars' performance capability, extensive safety systems and equipment, driver rating and instruction, and an experienced racing commissioner and a full-time pro staff -- led by driving director and British auto racing champion Mark Hales, one-time record holder of the 0-60 mph world record -- all promise a safe driving environment.

The club will even have a skid-pad area where drivers can learn how to spin one of those cool 180-degree turns. Actually, maybe don't mention that, even though it does fall under learning to be a safe driver. Just point out that none of this is as dangerous as the slow lane of the Cross Bronx Expressway.

But slow your engines, because there's more. Members have exclusive use of the entire road course on weekends as well as a dedicated circuit every weekday except Tuesday, and the club expects a nine-month operating season, weather permitting. As for local competition, it's a limited field: There's Watkins Glen, 150 miles from Manhattan, and Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., whose track is less than half as long.

The Drive & Race Club has four membership options available. One of the 500 resident memberships will set you back $100,000 to join, plus $7,500 a year.

If you don't have a business or home in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, the 200 national memberships, which include five track days a year, cost $50,000 plus $5,000 annually; international memberships run at the same rate for the same privileges. Lastly, 10 race team memberships are available by contract for racecar testing and timing -- but if you have a race team, you're no doubt already familiar with the club's pending arrival.

Members can invite three driver guests per day, although the same guest may only come three times a year (tell him to join, the miserable moocher). The only extra charges are for guest fees, food and drink and lesson fees. Memberships will be saleable when the membership class is full, although the transferee must be approved and a transfer fee is involved.

Of course, you can't have a club without a clubhouse. The Drive & Race Club will have trackside dining with direct video viewing of members whizzing past, a chef and staff, meeting rooms, an exercise room and spa, a locker room and overnight accommodations. Here you'll also find your digital driving and racing history; nearby is the private heliport if you want to keep your driving exclusive to the track.

As your car or cars won't fit in your locker, there is also on-site storage, maintenance and service, including repair management, tires, fuel and other necessities. There will even be brokerage and exchange services available. (But can't you let the office go for the day?)

Should you decide to make a weekend of your visit, the

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, site of the original Woodstock and the summer home of the New York Philharmonic, is nearby. So, too, is the

Monticello Raceway (harness racing, not cars); the town of Roscoe, purportedly dubbed "the trout capital of America"; and yes, several fine golf courses, mostly notably the

Monster at the Concord Resort.

With your need for speed sated, just promise you'll practice defensive driving on the ride home.

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Evan Rothman is a freelance writer living in Staatsburg, N.Y. A former executive editor at Golf Magazine, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Men's Journal and other leading publications.