Most of the initial buzz regarding the Top Gear America announcement yesterday centered around BBC America’s choice of presenters for the program, but for many members of the trackday scene the truly controversial aspect of the new show was tucked into the fine print. As its veteran fans all know, the original UK-based Top Gear uses a makeshift track at the Dunsfold Aerodrome, in Surrey. (The Dunsfold track is currently under threat of destruction, but that’s a story for another time.) Although there are plenty of airfields in the United States that could be used in the same way, like the Detroit City Airport that served as the location of our “Motown Mile” in years past, BBC America has chosen instead to select the SpeedVegas track in Nevada as a playground for the stars-and-stripes Stig
This choice is an implicit endorsement of a facility, and a program, that is still under active investigation from the Nevada OSHA following a crash in a Lamborghini Aventador in which a SpeedVegas customer and instructor were killed. In the days that followed that crash, multiple irregularities were disclosed by various sources to the public. The Aventador had reportedly been modified with an aftermarket wing and, according to one of our sources, a lower-cost brake system that replaced the factory carbon-ceramic discs. There were also reports that the car had been damaged previously in a crash, with the extent and seriousness of the previous damage unknown to everyone but the previous owner and SpeedVegas.
Most seriously, however, an outside expert consulted by the Las Vegas Review-Journalconcluded that the track was not safe or fit for its intended purpose, due to limited runoff space at the most dangerous high-speed sections of the track. Another expert stated that the track would only be safe for vehicles that met traditional racing safety standards–think roll cage, FIA-rated race seats, and the on-board fire-suppression system that might have saved the lives of the two people who died at SpeedVegas.