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Start your (Ferrari) engines: Disney track lets tourists drive exotic cars

If the prospect of piloting a muscle car around a ribbon of asphalt doesn’t rev your motor, how about a few laps in a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4?

Walt Disney World’s Richard Petty Driving Experience, which has lured more than 250,000 Orlando-bound lead foots with stock car drives, is launching an Exotic Driving Experience in January.

Prices will vary depending on the car, with starting prices ranging from $99 for “Thrill Rides” around the mile-long track with a Petty instructor driving (models include two Ferraris, two Lamborghinis, a Porsche 911 and an Audi R8) to $389 for six laps behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia with an instructor in the passenger seat.

Richard Petty won’t be the only outfit that gives SUV Sams and Minivan Mollies a chance to drive outrageously expensive cars. Exotics Racing offers similar experiences at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, while World Class Driving organizes public-road tours in Las Vegas and other major cities across the U.S., along with a $4,995 “200 MPH Challenge” using exotic supercars on empty airstrips. (USA TODAY’s Marco R. della Cava took a spin and lived to tell the tale here.)

“For a price point of a few hundred dollars, you’ll be able to get behind the wheel of a car that costs a few hundred thousand dollars,” says Petty’s chief marketing officer Mike Bartelli, who adds that the company is expanding to exotics because “it’s no secret that the NASCAR industry isn’t what it used to be.”

As a proud veteran of Petty’s stock car “Rookie Experience” in Orlando, I commandeered a souped-up Pontiac Grand Prix to a top speed of 124.3 mph – and was curious to know how fast drivers of the supercars (all of which come with automatic transmissions) would be allowed to go.

Bartelli, citing such variables as “driver capability,” said speeds would be “in excess of 100 mph,” but less than the track limit of “the high 120s.”

Hmm…sounds like my kind of thrill ride. Readers?

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