THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE HELL
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
“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.