A few years ago, I received a speeding ticket on the Interstate 4 off ramp for Disney's Animal Kingdom. Although I was going above the freakishly low posted limit, it all seemed unnecessary as there were no other cars in the vicinity except for the trooper's. So I went to driver's school, paid my fine and eventually had to arm-wrestle with government agencies to prove all that. Since then, I've noticed that there's never, ever a member of law enforcement at that spot. Not that I'm bitter or that I shake my fist a la Karen Walker every time I drive by. Nope, not at all.
I'm not a speeder now. Honest. And I share all this because I felt this experience was keeping me out of the target audience for the Exotic Driving Experience, now opens to the public at the Walt Disney World Speedway, the track that's located adjacent to the Magic Kingdom's Ticket & Transportation Center.
But sitting behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Gallardo there, I had to smile.
The Exotics Course is in addition to the longstanding Richard Petty Driving Experience at the track. Instead of stock cars as seen in the NASCAR circuit, drivers are behind the wheels of "supercars," a term I think goes better with "Disney" than "exotics," which brings to mind either the Enchanted Tiki Room or stripper poles.
Supercar options include the Porsche 997 S, Audi R8, Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, Lamborghini Superleggera and Ferrari 458 Italia. They all retail between $100,000 and $300,000.
Here are notes I made during last week's media day:
+ The cars' speedometers are covered so you don't really know how fast you're going while on the course. I mentally pooh-poohed this practice, but once driving I realized I would have stared at the speedometer the whole time. They want you to appreciate the way it feels more than the mph.
+ The course uses the speedway's backstretch and turn two, then makes a right into a "street course" with a hairpin curve plus a series of "esses" and switchbacks. Guests make six laps around this course, and you're advised to go cautiously the first couple of times around to get accustomed to the course.
+ Shifting is done through paddles near the steering wheel. And yes, I felt stupid one time when I turned on the windshield wipers instead of upshifting.
+ The cars are authentic, as if driven off the lot with one exception: Your ride-along instructor has the power to cut horsepower. If you follow the rules, this tool is only used when leaving and returning to pit row.
+ Two advantages that supercars have over stock cars: Air conditioning and doors that open.
+ I'm sure I could have gone faster. I was a bit (unrealistically) paranoid about the sheriff coming after me and (more realistically) worried about crashing. Without the speedometer – or other cars or landmarks to judge by – I found it hard to estimate my speed. The course's design through the curves slows you down, so I would encourage guests to gun it after clearing those obstacles.
+ I don't like to tell people how to spend their money. Everyone's checking balance must be their guide. But there is a bit of sticker shock with the Exotic Driving Experience. The price varies depending on the car requested, but it can cost nearly $400 for the drive. That does not include the still photos or video — trust me, the video is cool, you're going to want it — which adds up to around $100.
To me, this needs to be your dream, to drive a supercar. Or it's a gift for a special occasion for a race enthusiast. Or you really want to brag to friends about driving a Ferrari.
Whatever your reason, it's certainly cheaper than buying your own supercar — and more exciting than the Tomorrowland Speedway.
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DBevil@Tribune.com or 407-420-5477
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