Feel the need for speed

There’s a thrilling new game in Las Ve­gas

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - TOM CHESSHYRE

A sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion (mixed with ner­vous ten­sion) fills the air in the Speed Ve­gas brief­ing room. Rob Greene, the pro­fes­sional driver ad­dress­ing our 20-strong group, is fill­ing us in on the 2.4km rac­ing track we are about to at­tempt in a se­lec­tion of the world’s best su­per­cars — Lam­borgh­i­nis, Fer­raris, Porsches and Mercedes.

We are likely, he says, to touch 195km/h to 225km/h and the most tricky, and dan­ger­ous, cor­ner is known as No Man’s Land. This is marked on a board with a skull and cross­bones. “You can get hung out to dry pretty quick there,” he says, eye­ing us care­fully. This could mean speed­ing off the track into the Ne­vada desert dust, po­ten­tially col­lid­ing with a wall of tyres. We are ad­vised to take it easy. “Even a pro driv­ing on a new track can find con­trol dif­fi­cult. Re­mem­ber, this is not a competition.”

Out­side it is touch­ing 39C and a heat haze rip­ples above the moun­tain­ous sur­round­ing ter­rain. Speed Ve­gas opened on a stretch of land next to In­ter­state 15 ear­lier this year, but we are the first to try the ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing a state-of-the-art new club­house, with its equip­ment room, cafe and panoramic view­ing ter­race.

The at­trac­tion was set up by Aaron Fessler, an en­tre­pre­neur who pre­vi­ously ran a su­per­car hire com­pany in Las Ve­gas but re­alised cus­tomers were frus­trated that they could not go full throt­tle on the streets with­out end­ing up in the lo­cal jail (and/or hos­pi­tal). So he found a 40ha plot of land, far away from ho­tels so as not to an­noy any­one with noise, and built his own race­track, with a fleet of about 20 cars.

After lis­ten­ing to Greene’s ad­vice not to “slam brakes at the apex” (which could cause a spin) and to fo­cus on what’s 30m or 60m away, so we’re al­ways pre­pared for awk­ward turns, we ven­ture forth to pick our rides. This is a glo­ri­ous mo­ment — a bit like head­ing out into a rental lot, only it’s un­like any Hertz or Avis you’ve vis­ited.

Be­fore us is a col­lec­tion of ca­nary yel­low Fer­rari 458 Ital­ias, elec­tric blue Audi R8s, tan­ger­ine orange Porsche 911 GT3s and mus­tard-coloured Ford Shelby GT500s. “Which one do you like?” asks Greene, who will be in the pas­sen­ger seat dur­ing my three laps (a seat that, very sen­si­bly, has its own brake pedal). “Some of these cars can do 200mph [320km/h], but if you hit that, you’re not go­ing to stop,” he says.

We are given hel­mets and I am soon sit­ting in a Lam­borgh­ini Hu­ra­can with more than 450kW and a price tag of $US237,000 ($308,000). With a squeal of tyres, we’re off into a pit lane, paus­ing to let an­other car scream past, and then hit­ting the track for real.

The feel­ing of ac­cel­er­a­tion is awe­some (es­pe­cially as I’m used to driv­ing a 10-year-old Volk­swa­gen Golf, mainly to the su­per­mar­ket and back). Desert scrub­land flies

Su­per­cars roll out on the Speed Ve­gas track, top; the casino strip, above

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