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Walt Disney World Beyond the Parks: the Richard Petty Exotic Driving Experience
First Things First
Do you feel the need for speed? Have you ever wanted to drive an exotic sports car? Have you ever wondered what it is like to be behind the wheel of a real NASCAR race car? Don't worry, Walt Disney World has you covered. There is a real racetrack at the Walt Disney World Resort and it is home to the Richard Petty Exotic Driving Experience. Guests can ride along with professional drivers or drive themselves and experience the thrills of the racetrack.
It is important that guests read all the guidelines before heading over to the speedway. For example: the speedway will close for inclement weather. Think about it: do you really want to dive at 100+ mph in the rain and high winds? I thought not. Also, guests that wish to drive must be at least 18 years old and have a valid drivers license. Oh, and if you plan on driving you need close toed shoes.
For those too young to dive but still want to experience the thrill of driving fast they have you covered. Guests as young as 6 can enjoy a ride along with a driving instructor. If your little one is a big fan of Lightning McQueen they can even have a chance to meet him in person!
The Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway
If you or someone in your family is a fan of NASCAR this is the perfect gift for them. There are several different options for you to choose from. The cheapest is a ride along experience for 3 laps. During these three laps a drive instructor will take the race car to its limits and give you the thrill of a lifetime. The highest experience they offer is a full 50 lap drive where you drive yourself with your race instructor by your side. That's 50 full laps around the mile long speedway with a 600 horsepower race car! That is enough to get anyone's heart pumping.
For the little ones, or those that don't want the responsibility of driving a car with that much horsepower, you can opt for the ride along option. Kids can even take a ride inside Lightning McQeen!
The Exotic Driving Experience
This is where you have the opportunity to drive some of the fastest cars on the road. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Audi, and Nissan are just a few of the exotic cars that you will find on the track. There are many different models to choose from, and they all go fast. If you have someone in your family that has dreamed of driving a Ferrari this is for them.
Just like with the NASCAR experience guests can either drive the car themselves or have their instructor drive them. For guests that choose to drive themselves they even have the option of having the car shift itself (automatic) or take on the challenge of shifting at high speed (manual).
Would you rather drive or have the instructor drive?
I can honestly say that I did not experience the thrills of high speed driving myself. Its not really my thing. But, my father and my brother got to drive a high end Ferrari around for 8 heart pounding laps. My mom had signed up for the Richard Petty Driving email newsletter. last spring she received an email for a father's day special: buy one get one free. That's an amazing deal! Especially considering how expensive this program is. Not only did they both get to drive they got to drive the most expensive car in the line up: the Ferrari 458 Italia.
The boys headed over for their driving course before their turn to drive and when it was their turn to get their helmets and get behind the wheel my mom and head headed over to the speedway. The staff was very pleasant and let my mom and I sit in on the rest of their instruction session. The group was then given their driving lineup. Once everyone was in place they allowed the drivers and those riding along to get their picture taken with their cars. Of course they also had their own photographer taking pictures as well. (We'll get to that later.)
As they only had 1 458 Italia the boys had to take turns. My father went first and he chose to have to drive the car in automatic. He said that he wanted to just enjoy the drive and not have to worry about shifting at the right time. Then my brother took his turn and he opted to shift for himself. HE did really well and even managed to go faster than my father. My brother loved the part of the track with all the turns where he could experience the handling of the car, while my dad said he would have preferred to just drive the NASCAR track so he could fully experience the speed.
Once their drive was over they were showed the video of their drives. With the video there was a pedometer that showed how fast the car was going for the entire experience. By the time the videos were done they had put together plaques with their pictures on them. They looked very nice and professional, which is good considering their price... Of course, they gave a discounted price if you got the plaque with the video, which is what they did.
They both had the biggest smiles on their faces when they got out of the car. I think it is safe to say that they had a good time.
For Those That Aren't Driving
For those of you that won't be driving or riding along, like my mother and I, there are plenty of places to watch. You can watch from where the drives get in their cars, which is right next to the track. Or you can head over to the stands across the parking lot. The stands offer a full view of the track, which allows for great pictures. There is plenty of room for everyone to cheer on their drives as they zoom around the speedway. The stands are directly in front of the cornering portion of the track, which offers fantastic pictures of the cars.
Would you give this driving experience a try?
It was surprisingly very easy to get to the speedway. We were a little nervous about how long it would take given that we had such a long way to go: Animal Kingdom Lodge all the way to the Ticket and Transportation Center.
We simply took the bus to the Magic Kingdom, then took the Monorail to the TTC. (For those not familiar with Disney World you would also be able to take a bus to EPCOT and then take the monorail to the TTC.) All we had to do was go to the lost and found office, off on the far left once you get off the monorail, and let them know that we needed to get to the speedway. They sent a van right over for us. When you are done the van will take you back to the TTC, our driver was kind enough to take us to the Polynesian since that was where we were going for lunch.
If you have any questions about how to get there simply ask any cast member. If they don't know the answer off the top of their head they will call someone to get it for you.
Of course, if you are not staying at one of the many Disney properties or simply wish to drive yourself don't worry. There is complimentary parking at the speedway. When we were there there were only a few cars in the parking lot, so I'm sure that finding a space won't be a problem.
The Ferrari 458 Italia
In the End
If you or someone loves cars I think this would be a great experience for you. After all how often will the average person get the chance to floor a Ferrari in their lifetime? Not many. Not legally anyway. It is a pretty penny with the NASCAR experience starting out at $100 for a ride along ($60 for children) and maxing out at just under $2600 for the 50 lap driving experience. While the exotic driving packages vary by car, lap, and if you drive or ride along.
For more information on booking or about the driving experiences in general simply call 407-WDW-PLAY.
It is important to note that this attraction is no longer at the Walt Disney World Resort. However, you can still get the full experience at many other locations throughout the US. Just go to the main website to find the closest location to you.