You Too Can Live it up at Speedvegas, Scene of our 2017 All-Stars Track Running
Go big before you go home
The proliferation of private racetracks has been swell for supercar owners but irrelevant for everyday enthusiasts who dream of caning high-dollar exotics far from the specter of law enforcement. The present world order makes Speedvegas, the site of our 2017 All-Stars track test, a dream destination for the automotive 99 percent.
With a fleet of blue-chip exotics including an Audi R8, Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Huracán, and Porsche 911 GT3, Speedvegas offers driving packages that start at $196 for four laps or $99 for a two-lap ride-along in a Ford Mustang drift car. The 1.5-mile circuit was designed by Bob Barnard (Monticello Motor Club, Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit) and features 12 turns with a little bit of everything — elevation changes, banked corners, and a variety of increasing and decreasing radius bends, as well as a half-mile straight that enables speeds upward of 150 mph.
Founder Aaron Fessler's background in experiential motoring began with his acquisition of World Class Driving, which offered track and road drives of high-end cars in 45 cities per year. "Frankly, it's tough to do on the open road," he said. "We worked really hard to respect local and state speed limits, but at the end of the day it's not what people wanted." The operation ran several years but, as Fessler put it, "We knew we wanted to give people the opportunity to realize the full performance of these cars, in the manner they were intended to be driven."
The nationwide quest for a track-based venue was exhaus-tive but ultimately ended with Fessler hanging out his shingle 10 minutes south of the Las Vegas welcome sign. "Las Vegas has the year-round climate," he said, "but most important it's a place where people go to check off their bucket lists." Securing the optimal desert spot, however, proved difficult. Much of the landscape outside of Vegas is controlled by what Fessler called "irrational property owners who think that any day, the next big thing will come along and build a $10 billion casino," spiking property value through the ozone. Once he found the 100-acre plot, zoning and public planning requirements were tackled and local investors were sourced for the $30 million or so construction budget. Those funds covered construction of the 22,000-square-foot welcome center and 6,300-square-foot event center, grading and paving the track, and erecting a 100-foot tall $400,000 sign to draw from the 50,000 or so cars that pass by daily on Interstate 15.
"The people who show up here have grins on their faces. They've been dreaming of this day. I'm really proud to be part of something where that's what I do for a living. "
But the real attraction is the circuit, which I experienced in our All-Stars contenders as well as in Speedvegas' 458 and 911 GT3. Accompanied in the exotics by an instructor, the track is both challenging and approachable for novices and experienced drivers alike, presenting technical sections with a level of flow, visibility, and geometry that reduces the odds of an ignominious spin-off. Similarly, unlike the famously tricky (and easily botched) turn 11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the final bend before Speedvegas' straightaway is heavily banked, which dramatically reduces the odds of potentially idiotic moves.
The facility's vehicles — some purchased new, others at auction — undergo routine maintenance on location, though local dealerships are tapped for more complex work. Fessler remarked that supercars are considerably better built than in the World Class Driving days. "I've been shocked at how some of the brands have matured over the years," he said, citing Ferrari and particularly Lamborghini for their dramatic improvements in cost of ownership and reliability. "However, it's still not for the faint of heart," he added, pointing out that replacing a blown engine in a Ferrari 458 once cost the company $110,000.
At the end of the day, Fessler said that though he's spent a large part of his career building and selling technology companies, what he enjoys most is the satisfaction of dream fulfillment. "Many people read about these cars in magazines, but a lot of people have never seen them in person let alone had the chance to drive one.
"The people who show up here have grins on their faces. They've been dreaming of this day. It's satisfying to put these people through our experience and watch happy people get even happier. I'm really proud to be part of something where that's what I do for a living."
As for the future of Speedvegas, Fessler is working on a membership club (à la automotive country clubs such as Thermal or Monticello) as well as the first-ever arrangement where regular Joes will be able to drive a Bugatti on a track—a sort of accessible hypercar experience for the speed-hungry set.
Speedvegas, which can be seen from Interstate 15 as you approach the famed Strip, is at 14200 S. Las Vegas Boulevard. Reach it at (702) 874-8888 or visit online at speedvegas.com.