The back road journey to Alan Wilzig’s “Racing Manor” in Columbia County, New York involves rustic farms, grazing cattle, sun-drenched structures and fields—lots of fields. The entrance to his estate is unmarked and blends in with the landscape, making it nearly impossible to find. After a few U-turns, my boyfriend and I let out a sigh of relief when we reach the gate. But we were still fairly confused. Where was his infamous racetrack? Driving up to the house, it was nowhere to be seen. Finally, after cresting a grassy forge, a small glimpse of asphalt appears.
It is the ultimate dream for a gearhead: a personal racetrack in the backyard. According to Wilzig, it’s “the only privately owned, personally used field of dreams racetrack in America.” There may not be stands for a roaring crowd, but it is surrounded by rolling hills and a few tasteful buildings. And by buildings, we mean a home, two barns and a museum that houses an extraordinary motorcycle and car collection. Not bad.
Wilzig’s first inspiration for the track came after a rather gloomy winter in Marbella, Spain. He and his Belgium-born wife, Karin, bought a house in “sunny” Spain for her mother. The idea was to get her away from the damp, chilly Brussels air, but that year the weather was a bit out of sorts. Instead of basking at the beach, Wilzig found himself racing on a track. Named after racer Alberto Ascari, the Ascari track is located in Malaga, about an hour north of Marbella. Founded by Dutch oil tycoon Klass Zwart, not only is Ascari the most exclusive motoring club in the world, it is also the most expensive and agreeably one of the most beautiful. “The place is just organic—it’s like the asphalt grew out of the grass,” says Wilzig. “It inspired what I was going to spend the next seven years building.”
Upon Wilzig’s return to the States, he continued to hone his racing skills at Lime Rock Park, roughly thirty minutes from his Columbia County home. After joining the Lime Rock Driver’s Club and spending more time at the iconic Western Connecticut racing grounds, Wilzig found more inspiration for his own track. Soon, driving semi-pro and having a place to race nearby wasn’t good enough. He wanted his own.
Grinning like a giddy schoolboy, Wilzig drives us around in one of his many vehicles. Surveying the almost 300-acre sprawl, he shows us the waterfalls, lake, museum and the barns. But to absorb the track, he takes us to the observation building. The “tree house,” as the Wilzig calls it, was constructed using lumber from the property’s woods. From there, we are able to see almost the entire mile-plus track. It had elevation changes, fast turns, a hairpin and a banked turn. “I wanted to make it challenging enough to keep me and my friends entertained for twenty years,” explains Wilzig.
We soak up the tranquility of the property before heading out. Alan and his friends zip by on racing bikes, Karin and the kids swim in the pool and food is being prepared for a celebratory barbeque. The sun, which will soon set over the Catskills, is in full view of the main house. As we drove away, I asked my boyfriend if he’d ever seen anything like it. “No,” he asserted. “It was just one man’s dream.”