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Exotics get sideways at Monticello's 'Drift With the Supercars'

Mon, 25 Oct 2010

Monticello Motor Club president Ari Straus and his PR guy, Roger Garbow, were brainstorming in early October and came up with what initially sounded like a crazy idea: Bring a bunch of supercars to the track for a day of drifting.

"Beer was involved," says Garbow, in an attempt to rationalize the insanity of the concept. The next day, the two decided it was still a crazy idea. "But in a good way," notes Straus, who is always looking for innovative opportunities to showcase the club's versatility. (Check out the club at on the Web).

As luck would have it, a local drift enthusiast club, D-UP!, had reserved a section of the track for a practice session just 10 days hence. So Straus swung into action and persuaded some of his tony members to bring their heavy metal to join the tire-shredding fun fest. Recruits included a Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 Black Series, a Ferrari Maranello 575, a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, a Ford GT and a brand new Porsche GT3 RS. The club's fleet of Cadillac CTS-V coupes was also pressed into action.

Of course, asking a supercar to get sideways is like asking a mountain goat to jump off a cliff; it simply goes against their nature. The club's chief driving instructor, Jason Holehouse, acknowledges that getting the GT3 to break loose was a challenge.

"Porsche spent a whole lot of time and money creating a car that would stay put on the track," he said. "If nothing else, this event proved that those guys know what they're doing."

In fact, the only supercar that generated any smoke to speak of was the Black Series CLK, proving that massive horsepower and torque can trump even Mercedes-Benz's sophisticated ESP system.

The dedicated drifting cars, on the other hand, are designed to do just the opposite. Equipped with rally-car handbrakes and slide-friendly suspensions, they're built as much for show as go. In fact, Formula D awards as many points for "overall impression" (i.e., blatant showmanship) as for speed.

And that raises an interesting question. In his keynote speech at the Motorsports Hall of Fame induction ceremony earlier this year, Chip Ganassi laid down a pointed challenge: "Let's get motorsports back on track," he urged. "We need to stay relevant. I don't see many young people in this room, and that worries me. . . . Where the hell is the innovation?"

Traditional racing enthusiasts likely regard drifting as a novelty sport designed to benefit tire manufacturers at the expense of Mother Nature (clearly, this is not a green sport). And while that's hard to deny, it must be said that the spectacle is mesmerizing, especially for the younger-than-30 set.

So maybe the Drift With the Supercars event isn't as crazy as it sounds after all. Maybe the "cultural exchange" between spectacle-crazy kids and legitimate road-racing enthusiasts is a petri dish for the very innovation that Ganassi is talking about. It has to start somewhere.

Meanwhile, pass the beer.

Watch video of the drifting at Monticello Motor Club:

By Don Klein