Speed thrills in Las Vegas

By Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson overcomes his nerves to feel the power of driving a Ferrari - very fast.

The Dream Racing Circuit at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway allows petrolheads to race a Ferrari F430 GT at speeds of up to 200km/h. Photo / Supplied
The Dream Racing Circuit at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway allows petrolheads to race a Ferrari F430 GT at speeds of up to 200km/h. Photo / Supplied

Having crashed a scooter in Thailand travelling about 8km/h last year, I wasn't entirely sure that racing a Ferrari around a speedway circuit at break-neck speed was a smart idea.

The Dream Racing Circuit, located at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where they hold Nascar races, allows petrolheads to race a Ferrari F430 GT at speeds of up to 200km/h. I'm not a petrolhead by any means - as exemplified by my scooter mishap - and controlling a high-powered motor vehicle going that fast initially appeared a bridge too far.

But a bit of peer-pressure works wonders and, not wanting to look a bit of a wimp, I eventually agreed to give one of these bright red beasts a whirl.

Then came the 15-minute safety video. It conveyed the need for extreme care so powerfully that I almost felt sick. I didn't believe I'd be able to control one of these things. I certainly got the message that you can't muck around when you're in the hot seat of a Ferrari.

Nonetheless, when I learned the car I'd be driving wasn't legal for road use, I felt a pleasant glow of elitism and the first dose of adrenalin kicked in.

As those of us who were game - or crazy - enough to race one of these things made our way through to the simulation room, my confidence grew.

In what was by far the most realistic arcade car-racing experience I have ever undertaken, we strapped ourselves into the simulator and headed out for a few circuits of what was, as my instructor put it, "99 per cent" like racing the car itself.

Then, finally, the time was upon us. Despite my earnest request for a shot of rum to calm the nerves - the hostesses thought I was joking - we were ushered to the changing rooms to suit up. With a race suit on, face sock and helmet jammed on to my skull there was nothing left to do but fire up my Ferrari - that has a nice ring to it.

When you're in the car you have a pro driver with you in the passenger seat to offer advice on the corners: when to brake and when to hit that sweet gas pedal. My new-found best mate, TJ, was a Las Vegas local who told me we would have nothing to worry about in the car. He was more confident than I was.

But although driving a car of this power is not something to take lightly, it was surprisingly easy when you got out to the track. The ultra-sensitive brakes felt as if they could stop a world war in an instant and the speed with which the car accelerated was amazing. I couldn't get over how quickly you could fly through corners and the car stuck to the road like super glue.

The only disappointing thing was that just as I felt as if I was starting to get the hang of how to take corners at 80-90km/h my five laps were over and we had to pull back into the pits.

Still, I survived - and next time I'm in Thailand those motor scooters will hold no fear.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand has daily connections to Las Vegas. Fares start from $2166 return.

Where to stay: The MGM Grand Hotel is one of the iconic buildings on the Las Vegas strip. Guests walk straight out of the door and on to the strip.

What to do: The three-hour Dream Racing experience begins with a shuttle to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway from the pick-up location inside Crystals at CityCenter. Once there the hostesses will guide you through the safety procedures before you can have a whirl on the simulator and then get behind the wheel.

Further information: See visitlasvegas.co.nz

Daniel Richardson travelled to Las Vegas courtesy of Air New Zealand and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

- NZ Herald

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