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In the heat of the night

  1. Let Tom Ford take you on a hot, edgy, not-quite-street-legal tour along The Strip in Las Vegas… in the middle of an anything-goes drag race. Click through the gallery for the full story…

  2. Cultures are clashing so hard that some boundaries are being gently squeezed past the point of no return. 

  3. Here is the upright tweediness of motorsports officialdom trying desperately to accommodate and diffuse what is obviously a whole bunch of gang-related grudgery just looking for an avenue down which to launch the evidently simmering frustration. 

  4. It’s American Graffiti with size 60 jeans and concealed handguns. And yet it never actually seems to go pop. 

  5. Cars tear up the Las Vegas drag strip incessantly, the air thick with the scent of vapourised rubber, the heat close and sticky, like the State’s aircon has chosen this moment to backwash all that laden, wet heat. 

  6. Middle-aged women drag-race period Mustangs, as drunk spectators chant incomprehensible abuse at rivals. they appear to be using either primitive sign language or a form of Makaton that Mr Tumble from CBeebies is unlikely to recognise. 

  7. But nothing really scary materialises, despite the feeling that there’s a quite a bit of serious nastiness out there, lurking not far from the lights. Probably because this event is organised by the police. except the police aren’t actually here, in case they are seen to be encouraging racing, which seems a little odd. 

  8. Still, ‘Midnight Mayhem’ is how they bill it, presented by MetroPCS at the strip at Las Vegas Motor speedway, and tonight is what they call the ‘Top Dog’ competition that aims to find the fastest street-legal car in Las Vegas. 

  9. The background is familiar: the local constabulary had a bit of a problem with street racing in and around Vegas, the local network of grid-system roads lending itself naturally to drag-style face-offs.  

  10. Add to that a pinch of gang rivalry, and you’ve got yourself a ready-made flashpoint. except, thought the police, we have a facility that might enable everyone to let off some steam in a controlled and safe environment. and, incidentally, where we can see them. 

  11. Hence, tonight, $15 gets you as many runs up the strip as can be organised, and all you need is a car that doesn’t leak, a licence and insurance. I’ve never seen ‘drive by’ scrutineering before, but believe me, you don’t need a race-prepped car to get some track experience here. 

  12. And the definition of ‘street-legal’ is under some serious pressure, even when you find out that slicks are considered grey-legal in Nevada in summer. 

  13. There is everything here from Civics with 3in of slick peeping around the front arches to monster trucks that pour 80ft of black smoke from vertical exhaust stacks on launch. 

  14. Broken-looking pickup trucks take on Lexus IS-Fs straight off the forecourt. It’s brilliant, a little uneasy and all the more exciting for that. It works, on every petrolhead level.  

  15. And the fastest car in Las Vegas right now? A little, noisy 1971 Chevy Vega driven by a guy called Michael Hadrath with a 9.876/140mph pass. Apparently the car has insurance, mufflers and street-legal tyres. To which I say, my arse.

What do you think?

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