Imagine taking an average car, turning it into a race car and taking it out for a spin on a closed course racetrack.
Cliff Corwith, 39, of Corwith’s Auto Body Inc. of Water Mill started attending “Track Days” seven years ago and, since then, the Sag Harbor resident has been hooked. “Track Days” are when automobile afficionados meet up at race courses around the country—such as Watkins Glen International in western New York, Lime Rock Park in Connecticut and New Jersey Motorsports Park—and put their modified vehicles to the test.
They prefer calling what they do “Track Days,” instead of referring to them as “races,” because drivers are not participating in a competition.
“It’s really not racing,” Corwith explained. “Sometimes I’m the fastest guy there. Sometimes there is a guy with a Porsche that costs over $250,000.
“It’s not about winning, it’s more about being a gentleman’s sport,” he continued. “There is no passing in the turns. It’s basically the safest you can be on a racetrack.”
Corwith said there are even times when the cars ahead of a pursuing vehicle will let the driver who’s behind them know which side to pass them on. It’s called a “point-by,” a communication that allows one driver to overtake another.
There are also different experience levels to make things even safer for participants. Corwith is considered an expert driver, but there are also intermediate and novice levels that other drivers can compete in.
He recently recalled his first “Track Day” seven years ago at Watkins Glen.
“I had an older Corvette Z06, which was my favorite track-ready car, and we went to Watkins Glen,” he said. “It was exciting and overwhelming at same time. That track is over 3 miles long, and you’ve really got to know the course before you can really try and be fast.”
It is a rather expensive hobby, Corwith noted, but remains an addicting one. He’s invested thousands of dollars into his cars, which include a 2010 Camaro SS and a 2011 Corvette Z06 Carbon Limited Edition.
“The more specialized the cars get, the more addicting it becomes,” he said. “You always need more out of your car. You always need it to handle more, or you always need more speed. And that’s what makes it more expensive.”
Corwith enjoys driving Camaros, which tend to be heavier cars. With him sitting in the driver seat, his Camaro weighs nearly 4,000 pounds, which can be tough to handle. So, he’s made all of the necessary enhancements and improvements so he can get the best out of car on Track Days.
The Corwith family has been in the automobile business for the past quarter of a century. Charlie Corwith, Cliff’s father, has owned Corwith’s Auto Body since 1977, when it first opened in Southampton. They moved the business to Water Mill in 1991.
The Corwiths are long-time sponsors over at the Riverhead Raceway as well.
Cliff Corwith said he has gotten his father into Track Days recently. He tried it a few years ago, and while he isn’t into it as much as his son, he still appreciates the sport. Charlie Corwith drives in the intermediate division.
“It’s fun,” Mr. Corwith said. “You can go out, and if you’ve got a car that’s a performance car, you don’t have to look for the red lights in the rear-view mirror,” he added with a smile.