First 5 Minutes: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

20140123_095548You know NASCAR – a bunch of low-tech monster V8 racing cars with the nominal appearance of family saloons and a propensity for going round and round in circles.

Doesn’t look much like proper motorsport, does it? Well, yesterday morning I drove the new BMW M235i on the oval at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and, believe me, this gives you a different perspective.

I say oval; the 1.5-mile Vegas ‘Superspeedway’ really has three corners, so it’s more of a triangle. Chaperoned by a BMW bod in a Z4, first lap out we stop to admire the steepest section of banking. You practically need crampons and an ice pick to climb it (the pictures do not do it justice). Hmm.

Then we start making loops, a slow opening round then increasingly faster. Z4 guy has us braking for the turns – probably sensible – but even so, the way the car loads up, and then the way you load up begins to make an impression. The surface is terrible, covered in gritty bits that are constantly hammering at the wheel arches and the bottom of the car.

We’re clocking over 140mph through the fastest section – which the M235i achieves with ease, btw – maybe 100mph+ through the turns, and after five laps it’s already starting to feel quite… challenging.

NASCAR drivers do this for hours at a time, in packs of 50 cars racing as close to each other as M25 traffic at a standstill – while doing speeds well in excess of 200mph. The lap record was set at an average of over 190mph. And just in case you still don’t think this is dangerous, Las Vegas was the venue where British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was sadly killed during a racing incident back in 2011. This is a serious business.

I don’t want to ever hear you saying NASCAR isn’t real motorsport ever again

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