Ariel Atom

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Exposed, exhilarated and vaguely terrified. That’s the best way to describe the cocktail of emotions as I roll onto the Lightning racetrack at New Jersey Motorsports Park in a stupidly fast car that has no roof, doors or windshield.

The Ariel Atom accelerates faster than a Ferrari, yet my upper half is sticking out above the hood. Talk about letting it all hang out.

The Atom is a U.K.-designed racer now also produced in small numbers in Virginia. Costing $65,000 and up, it is meant for amateur motoring on the racetrack.

Racetrack culture used to have two very separate camps: Professional teams running million-dollar cars and blue-collar guys who wrenched in their garages and banged bumpers on weekends.

In recent years the allure has expanded to urban professionals who’d prefer to spend Saturday on the track rather than the golf course, testing the limit of their personal sports cars. Few actually race one another. Car clubs and private- membership racetracks have opened around the country.

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