Competition thriving among racing operations at speedway

Dream Racing, a one-of-a-kind experience that puts the client in the driver’s seat of a Ferrari F430 GT race car, Sat Jan. 28, 2012.

Dream Racing

Dream Racing, a one-of-a-kind experience that puts the client in the driver's seat of a Ferrari F430 GT race car, Sat Jan. 28, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Contact information

How to reach the racing operations at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Richard Petty Driving Experience, 800-237-3889,

Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, 888-467-2231,

Mario Andretti Racing Experience, 877-722-3527,

Exotics Racing, 702-405-7223,

Dream Racing, 702-599-5199,

Fast. Furious. Flourishing.

Competition is thriving at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway among businesses that put ordinary drivers behind the wheel of high-performance cars.

Two racing experiences have opened this year at the speedway, adding to the three that were already there. Drivers can now choose between circling the banked track in a NASCAR racer, hitting the road course in a race-tuned Ferrari or driving the latest Lamborghini street-legal car on the speedway grounds, to name some of the options.

Chris Powell, president of the speedway, said interest from consumers was driving the trend.

“The public in general enjoys the experience of driving a car fast, and they get to do that here in a safe and controlled environment,” he said. “They can come here for the experience of a great thrill and do it at a reasonable price.”

The latest racing business to put down roots in Las Vegas is Dream Racing, designed to appeal to fans of road racing — those who would rather go to LeMans than Daytona.

The brainchild of two European entrepreneurs with experience as competitive drivers, Dream Racing gives anyone with a valid driver’s license – and the means to afford packages ranging from $179 to $499 — the chance to test their skills in a Ferrari F430 GT built and tuned specifically for competition. Options also include riding shotgun while a professional instructor takes the car around the course at speeds of up to 120 mph.

In addition to what happens behind the wheel, drivers are given classroom instruction and a session in a 3D simulator with an instructor. Once off-track instruction is complete, participants are outfitted with helmets and racing suits and sent to the pits to be buckled in for their on-track session.

Among the operation’s 15 employees are hostesses who escort drivers from station to station and staff a debriefing area with an espresso bar.

“We want this to be a five-star experience for our customers,” said Jodie Sacco, a sales and marketing executive with Dream Racing. “The goal was to create something that’s classy, different and stands out.”

Enrico Bertaggia, Dream Racing’s CEO, moved from Monte Carlo to Las Vegas to launch the operation with his business partner, Adriano De Micheli. Bertaggia said a variety of factors made Las Vegas ideal for a racing experience, including weather that allows four-season operations and lack of noise regulations.

But the most important factor, Bertaggia said, was the speedway’s proximity to the Strip.

“Nowhere else do you have 40 million tourists this close to a race track,” he said.

Other racing experiences beat Dream Racing in trying to take advantage of the mix of speed and tourist dollars.

The Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure opened in mid-January, offering NASCAR fans an alternative to the Richard Petty Driving Experience operation that has been at the speedway for several years. For enthusiasts of open-wheel racing, there’s the Mario Andretti Racing Experience.

Dream Racing is competing not only with those businesses but Exotics Racing, which puts motorists in the driver’s seats of some of the world’s most sophisticated street cars — Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston-Martins and others.

To distinguish their business from Exotics Racing, Dream Racing execs and staff stress that the vehicles in their fleet are pure racers — not street-legal sports cars. Dream Racing’s Ferraris run on slick tires and high-octane racing fuel, for example, and feature roll cages and five-point racing harnesses.

The business operates under a unique 20-year contract with the speedway that allows it to operate from NASCAR facilities when they’re not in use by the circuit or for certain other events, such as the Electric Daisy Carnival. That means Dream Racing can do business 165 days per year. Its offices were designed so that they could be torn down and stored to make way for other events.

Powell said the contract’s benefits for the speedway included providing revenue from resources that normally would be unused.

But having Dream Racing and other racing experiences on hand is good for the track in other ways, he said.

“There’s the benefit that the more people who come on the property become familiar with it and see we have a world-class racing facility here,” Powell said. “Some come to our gift shop, some buy tickets for upcoming events. So it’s a hand-in-hand relationship.”