AMER­ICA’S NÜR­BUR­GRING

THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE HELL

Automobile - - Ethos - By JONATHON KLEIN

GER­MANY’S NÜR­BUR­GRING HAS

for decades seen com­pany af­ter com­pany chase blis­ter­ing lap times to prove its prod­uct is the quick­est in the world.

Ferrari, Lam­borgh­ini, Porsche, and Koenigsegg rou­tinely take cracks at best­ing the renowned track and each other. Records fall as su­per­cars get bet­ter and more like their racing coun­ter­parts. Now, Spring Moun­tain Mo­tor Re­sort an hour out­side Las Ve­gas is de­vour­ing land in an at­tempt to soon ri­val Ger­many’s tor­ture test.

Built by mo­tor­sports-lovers John Mor­ris and Brad Rambo, the track Koenigsegg used as its base camp dur­ing its on-road record runs was founded in 2004. The idea was to not only cre­ate a place where the pro­pri­etors could un­leash their own cars with­out worry but also to cre­ate a world-class fa­cil­ity that would at­tract like­minded en­thu­si­asts to its cir­cuit lay­out and beau­ti­ful back­drop.

Spring Moun­tain’s track mea­sures an im­pres­sive 6.1 miles when all of its lay­outs are con­nected to each other. How­ever, the plan—al­ready in the con­struc­tion phase— is to ex­pand much more, in­cor­po­rat­ing turns and de­signs from some of the best cir­cuits around the world and in­creas­ing the to­tal track dis­tance to 14.5 miles. When com­pleted, that length will pit it squarely against Ger­many’s 12.9-mile Nord­schleife.

When asked why, Mor­ris laughs and says, “Why not?” That’s a lot dif­fer­ent than the orig­i­nal con­cept, which was to pur­chase a piece of land by the side of Ne­vada’s State Route 160 to “build a small race­track for our­selves and have some fun.” But that nar­rowly fo­cused dream quickly evolved into the mas­sive ex­pan­sion project Mor­ris and Rambo—ef­fec­tively the project’s only fi­nanciers—now en­vi­sion.

Upon com­ple­tion, Spring Moun­tain will be the planet’s largest race fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing an off-road por­tion, kart track, and a straight long enough to land a small Gulf­stream air­craft. The plan also calls for ameni­ties to ri­val any track in the world. Along with grow­ing the over­all length, de­vel­op­ment ideas for the sur­round­ing area in­clude a new ho­tel, casino, mall, cinema, housing de­vel­op­ment to sup­port the ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion, and a 24-hour Star­bucks on the re­cently pur­chased 630 acres bought through Ne­vada’s Bureau of Land Man­age­ment.

“It’s go­ing to be re­ally in­ter­est­ing watch­ing the com­mu­nity grow and see the im­pact of the track,” Mor­ris says. AM

SPRING MOUN­TAIN’S PLAN—AL­READY IN

THE CON­STRUC­TION PHASE—IS TO EX­PAND, IN­CREAS­ING THE

TO­TAL TRACK DIS­TANCE TO 14.5 MILES.

Watch­ing them go off into the dis­tance, noth­ing about the car seems dra­matic. It’s speed on the ge­o­log­i­cal scale. When they re­turn, some­one asks Stid­ham how it went. He says it was a pretty good test run. They hit 220 mph.

The idea was for Lilja to slowly build up speed. Take a stab at 160 mph, then 180, then keep jump­ing up, run af­ter run un­til he beats the record. But the man has no pa­tience for that. It’s like he doesn’t want to spend too much time near that tee­ter­ing edge.

The wind never set­tles, but on his first of­fi­cial run Lilja heads up­hill into the spo­radic gusts and rips off an av­er­age speed of 271.2 mph over the fly­ing kilo­me­ter. He leaves the he­li­copters film­ing the event well be­hind. It’s stun­ning, al­most un­be­liev­able to be there to wit­ness the thing. When Lilja gets out of the car and re­moves his hel­met, some­one tells him his speed. He nods. “Then I will try for 300.”

Later, he’ll say the head­wind gusts had the car drift­ing a few me­ters left and right as he ap­proached his top speed.

The day warms up. Lilja heads for the req­ui­site re­turn run over the same dis­tance, and when the car fi­nally ap­pears over a swell in the pave­ment, a crowd gath­ers as he opens the door, and a tech pulls the Vbox data. There’s a snow-day ex­cite­ment. A flurry of hushed num­bers whis­pered among the crowd be­fore the of­fi­cial word comes down. He’s av­er­aged 284.6 mph this time for a com­bined speed of 277.9 mph. It isn’t just the fastest any­one’s ever of­fi­cially gone on a pub­lic road. It’s the fastest any­one’s gone in a pro­duc­tion car, pe­riod.

The Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion per­mit is good for all day, and Lilja’s keen to make the most of it. Ear­lier this year, Koenigsegg set an­other record, beat­ing the Bu­gatti Ch­i­ron’s pre­vi­ous bench­mark in the 0-400-0kph test on a bro­ken con­crete WWII run­way. With all this per­fect pave­ment on hand, Lilja can’t help but take an­other run at that feat. Some­one asks if they should con­sider chang­ing tires. The driver eyes the fronts. “We don’t need to change the tires,” he says, “be­cause we’re not go­ing that fast.”

For the record, 400 kph is around 250 mph.

There is some drama this time. The trac­tion-con­trol sys­tem over­heats, and on his first run Lilja loops the car. Af­ter a cooldown, he takes an­other stab at it but doesn’t quite reach the magic 400-kph mark. On his last run, he blasts from a stand­still to 401.7 kph and back to a stop in 33.29 sec­onds, put­ting more than 8 sec­onds be­tween the Agera RS and Ch­i­ron. Von Koenigsegg is smil­ing.

“I’M RE­LIEVED. THIS IS DAN­GER­OUS STUFF,

YOU KNOW? WE’D NEVER DRIVEN FASTER THAN 250 ANY­WHERE. WE’RE PUSH­ING THE

BOUND­ARIES.”

“There’s prob­a­bly some­thing left in it, but I think we’re done for the day,” he says. “I’m re­lieved. This is dan­ger­ous stuff, you know? We’d never driven faster than 250 any­where. We’re push­ing the bound­aries.”

In­deed. Their ef­forts have gained them five pro­duc­tion-car records: the high­est top speed for a pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cle at 277.9 mph (beat­ing the 267.8 mph achieved seven years ago by Bu­gatti’s Vey­ron Su­per Sport); the 0-400-0 kph record at 33.29 sec­onds; the fly­ing kilo­me­ter on a pub­lic road at 276.9 mph; the fly­ing mile on a pub­lic road at 276.9 mph; and the high­est speed on a pub­lic road at 284.6 mph (best­ing the Nazis who set the pre­vi­ous record of 268 mph in 1938 with a Mercedes-Benz W125).

Maybe this is the point of th­ese cars. To be un­bur­dened by racing’s reg­u­la­tory bod­ies. To grasp at the uniquely hu­man pur­suit of go­ing faster for the sake of say­ing we’ve done so. To take the mea­sure of our­selves not against our com­peti­tors but against the very fab­ric of physics. Von Koenigsegg could not have picked a more per­fect name for his world-best­ing car. The Agera. In Swedish it means “to act.” AM

No cus­tom rub­ber for this Agera RS. The Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires came right off the shelf and fared well, even af­ter sev­eral high-speed record at­tempts.

As beau­ti­ful as a desert rose to track rats, the Spring Moun­tain Mo­tor Re­sort has a mas­sive ex­pan­sion in its fu­ture.

Nik­las Lilja, the fastest man on pub­lic pave­ment, makes his mark.

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