After a successful run in Europe and Asia, the BMW Sauber Formula One racing team has brought Pit Lane Park to CES for its American debut. This interactive racing playground takes up a large chunk of the parking lot across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center. Consisting of a partial grandstand and a series of race track-style garages surrounding a makeshift straightaway, Pit Lane Park has much to offer hardcore racing fans and the clueless (like me) alike.
Outside the grandstand:
BMW vehicles are, of course, everywhere to be found at the exhibit.
From a high-performance Formula BMW FB02 racing machine . . .
. . . to a more conventional BMW 135i Coupe.
Pit Lane Park isn't just about looking at pretty cars, though. It's a hands-on experience giving visitors a feel for what racing is all about. Want to know what it's like to quickly change a tire on race day? Visit the Pit Stop Challenge:
The BMW World of Motorsport gets you closer to the individual components of a race car than you probably ever will in your life. Visitors are encouraged to touch all the exhibits and see how they look and feel compared to everyday auto parts.
Think your steering wheel is complex just because you have cruise control? Try your hand at this BMW F1 wheel. Starting the car up, working the clutch and putting it in gear is all done using the buttons and paddles you see in front of you.
Pit Lane Park has a miniature race track where you can race remote-controlled cars. Being CES, though, there is a catch. The cars are here. The controls are at Intel's booth at the Convention Center. To demonstrate Intel's new WiMAX technology--Wi-Fi that's available everywhere, not just near a hotspot--the remote control signal is transmitted across the street via a broadband Internet connection and drivers see the track through small cameras mounted on the cars.
The Driving Experience has Formula One simulators powered by Intel Core 2 Quad processors . . . and pretty girls.
I decided to give it a try.
Race car driving is serious business.
ACCCCCCK!....Spun out on the infield. Those turns are sharp.
Back to reality, Formula BMW driver Daniel Morad poses with his vehicle:
Formula BMW is sort of a minor league for aspiring Formula One drivers. It's an opportunity for younger drivers to learn and develop in their sport.
Unlike some of the other cars on display, Morad's is the real deal. Here he takes his car out for a spin . . . literally.
Yes, we really were that close to the track. All spectators are given earplugs to use when the cars are racing. Yes, you definitely need them.
Give a listen when Champ Car driver Graham Rahal gets his car going . . . and check out that smoke.
CES has had automotive technology and test track exhibits in the past, but this is the first year I've ever seen Formula One racing in the spotlight. It's a sport unfamilar to most Americans, especially those loyal to NASCAR. It'll be interesting to see how American attendees repond, or whether Pit Lane Park will only be favored by foreign visitors. By the way, crowds were light when I took these pictures because this was a press-only preview event.
Next up, a handful of celebrity encounters . . . posting tomorrow, I think.