Wednesday morning saw us depart Hurricane UT for the short drive to Las Vegas NV.
After another ‘Wally World’ stop for some supplies we saw the famous Las Vegas strip emerge from the desert haze. Arriving too early to check-in we drove down the strip headed straight for the Welcome sign for a photo-op. As we drove down the strip we passed all of the big casinos: Caesar’s Palace, The Bellagio, New York New York, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay etc.
This was followed by a quick trip to the famous Premium Outlets South of Vegas – girls you would be in heaven here in Vegas, not only are there Premium Outlets at both ends of town, but most casinos have a shopping centre within their grounds, with The Forum, Miracle Mile and Grand Canal Shoppes amongst the most popular.
After some retail therapy we checked in to Bally’s Hotel and Casino, our base for the next few days, before wandering down the strip. A family-friendly town, Vegas was full of people wandering the strip and surprisingly it was not ALL about drinking and gambling (though there was plenty of both occurring) with food also big business in town. I checked out a few novelty food shops such as M&M and Hershey’s World.
For dinner, I lined up to visit Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR for a delicious gourmet burger showing that the US is not just all about fast-food style burgers. It was also nice to have a burger cooked as ordered (medium-rare, not diamond encrusted).
Wednesday night saw our final group activity before disbanding – a Las Vegas Party Bus. For 2 hours we visited The Fremont Experience, Welcome sign (again, though at night this time) and Bellagio Fountain show before we bid farewell to almost half of the group (9 people left the tour Wednesday night, with only 1 extra person joining on Thursday).
On Thursday morning as others nursed their sore-heads I took a private stretch-limousine to Exotics Racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Exotics Racing has been operating for about 4.5 years. Starting with a fleet of 5 cars, they now have 50 cars in their garage, over half of which are less than 6 months old. Exotics Racing allows you to drive as fast as you can with only an instructor in the passenger seat, and they also take requests for new vehicles for customers to drive, leading to the purchase of 3 Nissan GTR’s amongst others. Apparently the most-requested car is a Bugatti Veyron, but at US$2.4 million a pop our instructor said we had no chance, with the business owners drawing the line at a lazy US$1 million per car.
While waiting for a driver-briefing, we were able to wander around a tent lined with super cars: 4 Ferraris, 3 Corvettes, 2 Lamborghinis, 2 Corvettes, 2 Audi R8, 2 Porsches, an Aston Martin and more. They were less than precious about their cars, allowing customers to sit in and play with the cars, pop the hood and poke around as well as take photos.
Following the briefing we took 2 sighting laps aboard a Porsche Cayenne (which were probably as quick if not quicker than my own laps) before I climbed into a Ferrari F430 F1 to drive ‘crazy fast’ as the instructors would say. After adjusting the seat and buckling up (safety first) the instructor ran through the controls of the F430 before I stepped on the brake and stabbed the ‘Engine Start’ button and the Ferrari growled to life. I had 7 laps around the track (they twisted my arm to purchase extra laps on top of my original booking, after all who could resist buy one get one free laps) in which to soak up the experience and enjoy driving a dream supercar.
At first it was a bit weird to be driving on the wrong side of the car, and more than a bit intimidating to be driving such an expensive car at speed, but before I knew it my foot was flat to the floor as I slammed up through the gears at the urging of the instructor. The sound was awesome and I was surprised at how much the instructors urged you to go faster. Our driving was aided by some cones marking braking zones and apexes, and I was soon able to pass 2 cars (a Lamborghini and something else) which was very cool. Thankfully I didn’t break the car but unfortunately my laps were soon over, it was an amazing experience just to be able to drive a Ferrari, let alone being able to drive a Ferrari flat-out around a private race-track. My favourite parts were the sound of the cars, and how brutal driving these powerful cars can be when driven hard. I expected the automatic flappy-paddle gearbox of the Ferrari to be an instantaneous, smooth F1 style change, however, the gear changes occurred with a reassuringly mechanical violent thump – particularly when up shifting at full-throttle. If I come back to Vegas, visiting Exotics Racing again will be at the top of my list – the tough decision will be which car/cars to drive.