Feel the need for speed
There’s a thrilling new game in Las Vegas
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