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November 24, 2014

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WEEKLY Q&A:

Talking speed with car racing champ Enrico Bertaggia

Enrico Bertaggia shares the rush through Dream Racing

Image

Sam Morris

As a driver, Bertaggia won the 1988 Macau Grand Prix, among other races.

The Details

Beyond the Weekly
Dream Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 599-5199, dreamracing.com

Formula Three racing champion Enrico Bertaggia moved from Italy to Las Vegas to give Average Joes like you and me the opportunity to drive street-illegal Ferrari F430 GTs around the Motor Speedway at breakneck speeds. I sat down with Bertaggia to discuss his life before opening Dream Racing.

When did you start racing?

I was 16. It was a mistake.

Why’s that?

I love my sport, but it required so much sacrifice. Most kids, they go through adolescence, then school, then life … but when you race—if you do it the way I did it—all you do is race. You’re like a horse with blinders.

So you feel like you missed out on childhood?

Yes, but, on the other hand, I learned things through racing that most kids don’t learn at that age. I learned how to travel; I met all kinds of people; I learned about other cultures. When I was 17, I was in Hong Kong by myself. Nobody does that.

Was that your first race?

No, my first race was with my father, back in Italy. He was passionate about racing. He and all his friends would drive go-karts around the parking lot on Sundays. And one day my father said, “Why don’t you come?”

And?

I lapped everyone.

How’d you do it?

It’s in my DNA. When you are a racing champion, you have racing champion DNA. If you were to see me playing tennis, at 6 years old, you could see that I didn’t have tennis champion DNA. But if you saw Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer at 6 years old, you could tell they did. My father saw this champion DNA in me, for racing, and he pushed me.

When did you move from go-karts to regular racing?

I took my driver’s test at 18.

Did you pass?

Not the first time.

Does Italy have a driving component of the test?

Yes, and I’m from a small town, so the instructor knew me as the go-kart champion. When I got in the car, he told me, “So che sei un pilota. Ma vai piano per la strada.” It means, “I know you’re a driver. But go slow on the road and be safe.”

Where did you race?

I lived in Italy and drove for a living. And then, when I won the Monaco Grand Prix, I was at a dinner reception at a table with the Prince and Princess of Monaco, and they said, “You have a lot of talent; you should come live here.” So that’s what I did.

What happened next?

I moved to Japan and competed in Formula Nippon, then Macau, then I tried Formula One, but I was not successful. I had the worst car on the road. And I don’t race for fun. I race to win, and I couldn’t win with that car, so I stopped.

For you, it was all about winning.

This is true. When I first saw a racecar, I didn’t think, what a beautiful machine or anything like that. It wasn’t the cars; it was going fast and winning as much as possible. Other people are in the sport to have the girls or to look beautiful or because their parents are rich, and they don’t have talent. But for me, it was always about winning.

How did you end up in Vegas?

Adriano de Micheli—this is my business partner and best friend—we were in Brazil, drinking too much beer and talking about starting a business. We thought about England and Japan and China, and then Vegas came up. Neither of us had ever been to Vegas. So I flew out here at night, and I saw the Strip lit up as the plane landed. I was driving up the Strip a couple minutes later with all the lights around me, and I called Adriano and said, “This is our place.”

Are you happy here?

I’m doing something I love. And my business partner, Adriano, is my best friend, and we get to do it together. Better than this is impossible.

One last question: Where can I go to get some good coffee in this town?

There are three places: Bartolotta at Wynn, Sambalatte in Summerlin and my house.

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