You'd think the prime location of this new racetrack would have meant more to a guy with dozens of Porsches at home. Yet despite being Official Member #1 at the Monticello Motoring Club -- meaning nearly unlimited access to its undulating 4.1-mile road course located ninety minutes from Manhattan -- Jerry Seinfeld had never actually had a chance to visit this automotive playground for the fiscally endowed, which opened a little more than a year ago.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
At least now, thanks to a heads-up from his pal Ms. Editor Jean Jennings, the poor man has been to Monticello. And so have we, because he wound up inviting us as his guests on the occasion of his first visit, although it's not like we arrived empty-handed.
While the television comedian has delivered for his amusement and edification some recent acquisitions -- an aqua blue Porsche 911 GT3 and a Kawasaki green (yow!) Lotus Exige SC -- we came for the Abarths. We being: your humble servant, Jennings, and senior editor Joe Lorio. At the track, we met our friends and mechanics the Spadaro brothers, Frank and Santo, who were joined by their junior wrenchmate, Andrew Paredes. They'd come from White Plains, New York, and Domenick's European Car Repair, a sports car shop founded by their father, Domenick, in 1961. They arrived bearing gifts. For there, in the paddock as we drove up, were three different Abarths, spanning the years 1955 to 2009. Supplied by a crazy cool (but very private) customer of theirs, they formed the field for Automobile Magazine's first annual Afternoon of Abarth.
Now that Fiat is returning to America to bail out Chrysler, we figured that a crash (no pun intended) course in Abarth, the Turin carmaker's sometimes racing team and long-standing tuner of choice, was in order. Back in meaningful action after an extended fallow period as a badge casually applied, the Abarth name has long been synonymous with Fiat motorsport and performance. With more than 7400 racing victories to its credit, Abarth represents a big slice of Italy's performance heritage, thanks to its work in the underrated but fundamentally wonderful corner of the business known as getting the most out of a little. As timely an art in the twenty-first century as it ever was, it's one to which Abarth is poised to restake its claim, staffed again by Fiat to the tune of dozens of engineers.