Guests visiting Walt Disney World can now hop inside some of the world’s most expensive cars for a few laps at a far more reasonable price than owning one of these powerful machines, each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The new Exotic Driving Experience by from Petty Holdings officially debuts today offering visitors a chance to ride in or drive their choice of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, or Porsche. This new experience has joined the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Speedway as one of Walt Disney World’s fastest attractions.
On Friday, I had a chance to preview the flashy new cars, even taking one of the absurdly expensive vehicles out for a spin. Though slightly nervous at first, not wanting to be the one to scratch, dent, or crash their brand new cars, once I hit the track, nothing but excitement, adrenaline, and uninterrupted fun followed.
To learn more about the Exotic Driving Experience, I spoke with its president and COO Rick Fedrizzi as well as professional race car driver Christian Fittipaldi, one of the few racers who has raced in NASCAR, Formula One, and Indy Car – so he knows a thing or two about driving. Get their insights on the new experience and preview a few highlights from around the Walt Disney World Speedway in the video below.
Video: Exotic Driving Experience overview at the Walt Disney World Speedway
The Walt Disney World Speedway is located just outside the parking lot for the Magic Kingdom theme park and now features the Exotics Course, a new one-mile circuit custom- built for the Exotic Driving Experience. A ride around the track in a $200,000+ car is available at the far lower price $99 for two laps driven by a professional whose aim is to keep passengers on the edge of their seats. But the real thrills come when sitting behind the wheel, an experience that currently ranges from $199 up to $389, depending on which of the five available cars is chosen. Six laps of full control over the vehicles are included in the driving packages, with additional laps available as an add-on.
The cars available for riding in or driving are (in order of increasing driving cost):
It is indeed a bit intimidating to climb into a car that’s worth as much as a house, knowing that one wrong turn could result in one expensive wreck. But instructors are there to guide drivers along the way, ensuring that the experience moves at their pace. Even before getting near a car, all drives sit through an instructional class, outlining the dos and don’ts of driving. Fittipaldi makes an appearance in an introductory video, previewing all the twists, turns, and straightaways of the new Exotics Course.
Drivers can easily get these cars up well over 100mph out on the course, but many drivers will stay at usual highway speeds while maneuvering around the track. While professional racer Christian Fittipaldi was able to get the Ferrari up to around 140mph on this track, it’s not recommended that guests try to duplicate such a high speed unless equally experienced at driving. (In fact, instructors do have a kill switch of sorts, allowing them to reduce the car’s horsepower all the way down to 10%, just in case drivers decide to ignore the rules.) But even novice drivers can take part, as the only restrictions on driving are that guests are at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license.
No manual driving know-how is needed either, as each car comes equipped with computerized automatic modes that will handle shifting for those who aren’t comfortable with the handy paddle shifts on the steering wheel. And from driving, I do recommend trying the paddles. I’ve never driven a manual transmission vehicle in real life (only in video games) and had no problem getting the hang of shifting with the paddles rather quickly. For those who can’t quite get it, the instructor riding along can switch the vehicle to automatic during the experience without stopping. But the feeling of controlling each shift and subsequent speed boost certainly heightened the drive for me.
So what’s the whole experience really like? Let’s climb into the driver’s seat of the Ferrari 458 Italia so I can show you via the video below, highlighting my first lap as an introduction to the course, my fourth and fastest lap (around 1:08 and topping 100mph), and my sixth and final lap, presented in a 4-camera split-screen, showing me, the instructor, the road, the steering wheel, and the car itself all simultaneously. The video also features binaural audio, so be sure to wear headphones for the most immersive experience.
Video: A few laps around the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World
As you hear me say in that video, the Exotic Driving Experience is simply fun. Though my top speed of 103mph may not sound like much to those who dare to punch it on the freeway, this experience is about more than just how fast you can drive. In fact, the Exotics Course offers surprisingly little room to punch it, with only a relatively short straightaway included in the exterior portion. Much of the course focuses on the interior, which includes tight turns of increasing difficulty. The lateral forces exerted when taking these turns is thrilling regardless of how fast you’re traveling.
And you won’t know exactly how fast you’ve gone until the experience is all over, as speedometers are covered in these otherwise stock vehicles. The goal is to keep the driver’s focus on the road and not on the dashboard. But data is recorded onto a USB stick throughout the drive, viewable in realtime along with two-camera video after it’s all over.
The video and data can be purchased at an additional cost, adding roughly $100 to the experience, give or take a few bucks depending on whether it’s bought on a CD or USB drive. Data accompanying the USB version of the video can be loaded into the free Race Keeper Comparo software, though it is unfortunately available only for computers running Windows. A photo is also taken of each driver standing next to the car before the drive, also available for purchase afterward.
Here’s my photo:
Adding in these extra costs, the whole experience can get quite expensive. I personally can’t say whether the experience of driving a Ferrari was worth $389, as my day was provided as part of a media preview, but I can emphasize that it was incredibly fun. Being in control over such an impressive machine at high speeds offers an entirely different type of thrill than riding on a high-speed roller coaster with no control over the direction or speed.
When choosing between the various experiences now available at the Walt Disney World Speedway, there are quite a few plusses to the new Exotic Driving Experience. Unlike the Richard Petty Driving Experience in stock cars or the Indy Car Experience, the drive in these exotic cars is pure comfort, with air conditioning and cushy leather seats making the ride entirely enjoyable. Plus, there are real car doors on these vehicles, so no climbing in through a window is required, nor is wearing a jump suit. There are no strict height or weight limits, so as long as guests can fit into the cars and meet the age requirements, the track is open for the taking.
Those curious about any of the Walt Disney World Speedway experiences can show up there any time to watch the cars as others hit the track. There is no cost for spectators on any day. Two viewing areas are available to watch both sides of the track, including the interior portion of the new Exotics Course. It’s a great way to take it all in before committing.
The Exotic Driving Experience is only just getting started, officially launching today, but future plans already include adding more exotic car models. But for now, the assortment of some of the world’s fastest and most flashy cars is sure to get thrill seekers’ attention.
More information about the Exotic Driving Experience, including pricing, vehicle details, and an extensive FAQ, can be found at ExoticDriving.com.
More photos from the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World: