The spectacular trees of New York State’s Catskill Mountains had to settle for backdrop status early last week. The New York City-based International Motor Press Association assembled a magnificent collection of cars, trucks, and motorcycles as well as a bunch of car and motorcycle writers at the Monticello Motor Club‘s (MMC) racetrack and extensive off-road course for IMPA Test Days 2016, 48 hours of intense on- and off-road testing.
Last week, Matt Smith detailed the impact Test Days had on his heart rate. Monticello’s 4.1-mile, 22-turn track is challenging and technical enough to quicken any attendee’s pulse, but club driving coaches offered training laps and plenty of tips on the first day to ensure everyone could safely navigate the track. Careful starters, cones marking turn-in points and apexes as well as the more difficult turns, and a chicane to force braking on the longest straightaway kept drivers and speeds relatively under control the next day, when drivers flogged a wide variety of vehicles around the track.
Here’s a look at one lap of the Monticello track from behind the windshield of a Lexus GS F. The guy with the accent is one of MMC’s driving coaches, who joined us for some practice laps on the track on day one.
We returned to the track the next day and drove many more laps, one of which was in the Ford Focus RS, which has been winning European fans since its 2002 debut and finally arrived in the U.S. as a 2016. Its all-wheel drive (AWD) provided tenacious grip, and its tuned version of the Mustang‘s 2.3-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine provided plenty of power and a lovely soundtrack. We did not engage the RS’s Drift Mode, but did enjoy a very noisy smoke show when someone else did.
Test Days would draw a crowd if it offered track time alone, but the rigorous off-road course set up by a team from Land Rover and Polaris made sure anyone interested could also test much bigger and burlier vehicles than those on the track. That testing took place at much lower speeds and didn’t involve much tire squealing, but it did let us check out the incredible off-road capabilities of vehicles such as the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, not to mention the interior luxury—and incredible stereo—of Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport. You’ll see more of both those trucks in Impressions videos.
Here’s a quick video recap of this year’s Test Days we hope you’ll enjoy. As you’ll see, the event offered us the chance to test a huge variety of vehicles on the road, on the track, and in the woods. We count ourselves fortunate to have been there, and we look forward to returning to Monticello next year.
Big thanks to IMPA, MMC, Test Days sponsors, automakers who brought cars, and everyone else who attended. Take care—we hope to see you next fall!
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