What does driving 200 mph feel like?
In a word: slow.
Strange as it may seem, taking a showroom-ready sports car to just over one-quarter the speed of sound puts the brakes on time, making each "one, Mississippi" feel like an eternity.
The weapon proffered for this assault is a Lamborghini LP 560, whose alphanumeric name hints at the only data that matter: 560 horsepower, double the oomph of the already spry Lotus Evora. This is land-rocket territory, a realm stalked by $200,000 supercars that can hit 200 in about the same time it takes to read this paragraph (less than 20 seconds).
The first attempt is all about getting cozy with fear. The brain is on the defensive, adjusting to what it is sure is a hijacking of the usual user. The car crosses the starting line at a 25-mph lope – instead of a 60-mph lunge – and the foot isn't sure about mashing the accelerator to the floor.
The result: a humble 170 mph.
After a stern talking-to, the brain decides to get with this forget-the-rules program. The Lamborghini's tires yowl as they bank the car into a movie-chase U-turn that leads to the start of this 2.7-mile airport runway. This time, the right foot pegs the pedal to the metal and never lifts up.
That's when things slow down.
The Mojave landscape is barren, so there are no reference points to create the impression of speed. The car does hop slightly on the uneven tarmac and shimmies thanks to a stiff crosswind, but otherwise the experience is like sitting on top of a washing machine operating at full tilt. You know something violent is going on quite nearby, but somehow you're removed from it all. Even at 205 mph.
That said, the mind dares not wander. Glancing at the speedometer is tempting but verboten. At these speeds, the slightest distraction can command the ultimate penalty. Instead, the eyes scan for the orange cones that signal to slowly lift off the throttle and roll onto the brakes.
Ultimately, exceeding 200 mph in a car divides humans into two camps: those who could do this all day long, and those proud to have survived the test but happy to no longer be brawling with their finger-wagging brains.