“I want you to feel the car. Feel the gas, feel the brake,” my racetrack instructor Jason Rabe is saying. We’re driving along 4.1 miles of looping, winding asphalt at Monticello Motor Club, a members-only venue near the Catskills in New York that bills itself as “the world’s premier automotive playground.” The course has 22 turns and 450 feet of elevation change, designed with the help of a former pro racer so that it never gets boring. There’s a switchback and hairpin turns, corners inspired by grand European racetracks, and a kink in the road they like to call “kryptos.”
It’s my first time on a track: strapped in, helmeted and behind the wheel of a yellow-gold BMW M4. I stop checking the speedometer because I need to keep my eyes on the track. Later, on a straightaway, I push the car to 90 mph, but most of the time I probably wasn’t going more than 65. Still, it feels fast. The course that seemed intuitive a few minutes ago, when I was in the passenger seat, no longer makes any sense. Turns that I thought were on the right now appear, out of nowhere, on the left. The faster we go, around and around, the more disoriented I become. So I turn off the thinking part of my brain and focus all of my energy on doing what Rabe is telling me: Get your eyes way down to the right-hander here. Left side. That’s it, wait there. Now, bring it in. Hit your apex. Nice and tight to the curb. Left side. That’s it. Good job. Light brake. Now, turn it in.