Dr. Michael Sontag – Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences

mike sontag


Dr. Michael Sontag has plenty to keep him busy at the Mount Monday through Friday. But when the weekend rolls around, this Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences knows how to relax.

His latest adventure: participating in the Sports Club Car of America’s Starting Line training. Long a fan of sports cars, Sontag recently drove north to Trader’s World in Monroe, Ohio, for a day of professional driving instruction.

Until recently, he was driving a 20-year-old car that was in the shop regularly last year. Finally, his mechanic had an “end-of-life discussion” discussion. It was time for a new car.

And his dream car just happened be for sale: a 2023 Subaru BRZ, “with manual transmission, of course.”

During the ten-hour day, professionals instructed participants in “vehicle dynamics, traction management, vision and control,” according to the SCCA website.

In the morning, Sontag built up skills on a slalom course and an oval course. In the afternoon, he applied those skills on a full autocross track.

Before going solo, Sontag rode with an instructor.

“You can’t believe how they are able to drive,” he says. “There’s a g-force like you get on a roller coaster, plus the feeling of panic that you’re about to slide off the road.”

On the final course, Sontag’s first time was 60 seconds compared to his instructor’s 41.  By the end, he had made “an amazing improvement—46 seconds.”

When participants weren’t driving, they were helping keep the tracks safe. His job was setting up cones that were knocked over, while others would be assigned to wave flags when a car spun out.

He met “a ton of people who love cars,” but what struck him as unusual was that “no one talked about what they did for a living.” It was only when he looked up new friends on Facebook that he found how diverse the group was. Yes, he was a university dean, but he discovered that another was a biomechanical engineer at Ohio State.

He’ll be doing this again. “It’s so exciting and such a challenge. I compare the experience to a satisfying drumming session, or teaching a class that goes really well. It’s totally absorbing. You’re fully focused, in the state of flow.”