Disney without kids
Why go to Walt Disney World if you don't have kids? Lots of reasons. Here are some:
Drive a supercar at Disney
The Richard Petty Exotic Driving Experience can put you in the driving seat for six one-mile laps in a Ferrari 458 Italia for $419 (£260), a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera for $389 (£250) or a Porsche 997S for a mere $169 (£104).
The Walt Disney World Speedway is used for the successful Richard Petty Nascar Experience, which has thrilled celebrities including John Travolta, Colin Powell and Leonardo di Caprio (so much for his Prius-owning green credentials). It’s also hosted IRL, Nascar truck and US Auto Club-sanctioned races.
The professional driver preparing to show the journalists what these machines could do had a glint in has eye and a rather evil grin on his face. My hair didn’t thank me as I had to pull on a fireproof balaclava and helmet, but there was no dressing up in a boilersuit or cute driving shoes. Pity, it would have added to the drama.
I hopped into the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, as black as an evil Queen’s heart, and luxuriated in the big black alcantara seat. I had an urge to stroke the gorgeous dash, but resisted leaving sweaty finger streaks all over the suede-like finish. Another guy helped strap me in tight.
The engine said “Rarrrgh” or something similar in car-speak. Its V10 engine (also used by the Audi R8) delivers 570hp at 8,000rpm and 398lb ft of torque at 6,500. It's lighter than the standard Gallardo by 220lb/100kg thanks to carbon fibre panels and details such as titanium wheel nuts.
Mr Driver grinned again, probably expecting me to ask for a sick bag. He doesn’t know about all the hours I’ve spent at Millbrook Proving Ground, driving or clinging on to equipment, trying to test cars to breaking point in the name of journalism. I remember the smell and smoke as all the oil sloshed to the side of the De Tomaso’s V8 engine as we hammered round the banking at 156mph. Andy Kirk was driving, while I tried to keep the two-tonne computer working from the passenger seat.
He also didn't know that I’d just been on Aerosmith’s Rocknrollercoaster in the Disney Hollywood park, which slingshots its ’59-Caddy style buggies from stationary at something close to warp speed.
The Lambo can sprint from 0 to 60mph in 3.4 seconds and it will reach 100mph in 6.8 seconds if treated roughly enough. As it blurred the scenery round the banking at a mere 125mph, I was struck but how creamy smooth it was. Mr Driver was changing gear by flicking the wheel-mounted paddle with his pinky finger.
Then we headed for a tyre-blackened patch and in a blink we were taking a ninety-degree right-hander having scrubbed off about 100mph withour so much as a sueal from the brakes. We hit every apex on a twisty section designed for the supercars, then hurtled back up the banking at three figures again.
If you get behind the wheel at the Experience, the instructor will allow you to go as fast as you want, but will teach you how to drive smoothly and with precision to get the most out of it. The organisation has invented an ingenious box that sucks the power out of the engine; it’s rarely used, but is useful if the student is not listening to their instructor.
As we pulled in, all too soon, I just wanted another go. Better still, I wanted to drive. The PR man says that since the drive started in January, they have had far more international customers and women, some with partners, but a few on their own. Next time, that will be me.