Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Disney World to Offer World-Class Driving Experience

Recent visitors of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida might have wondered what their Speedway is primarily used for, since it's almost always clear of cars and the stands are just as empty.

While at one time it hosted professional racing competitions, lately it's been the scene of the company's introduction of the “Richard Petty Driving Experience”, an expensive ride for grown-ups which allows them to test-drive NASCAR stock racers. But recently Disney has decided to give visitors the chance to get behind the wheel of a Lamborghini or Ferrari in addition to the stock car options. It's a totally different new offering as compared to the usual draws of the theme park, and car enthusiasts are certainly now more likely to take out auto title loans in order to afford the formerly too-expensive family trip to Florida.

Dubbed “The Exotic Driving Experience” by the Speedway's chief marketing officer Mike Bartelli, the addition is expected to start in January, with pairs of Ferraris and Lamborghinis, an Audi R8 and a Porsche 911. According to the Orlando Sentinel, all available vehicles will come with automatic transmission, and the starting price of $199 for a six-lap experience will be preceded by an instructional class where an instructor will accompany you on the raceway. For half that price, thrill-seekers can pay to sit in the passenger seat while a professional driver whizzes them through the three-turn tri-oval track. Either way, Bartelli and his Disney overlords all both counting on boosted success at the Walt Disney World Speedway.

That's because the Speedway has been a thorn in the company's side ever since it was built back in 1995. Originally meant to be a site for the newly created Indy 200 at Walt Disney World, the track hasn't seen a professional race in over a decade. Since then, it's either sat deserted or used sparingly in various driving experience thrills over the years. But a constant high price, a required half-day devoted to preparation, training, and the thrill itself, and a general lack of target-market visitors has made the Speedway the source of cost over-runs for sometime. In the mid-2000s Disney saw an opportunity in the rising popularity of NASCAR, but in the wake of the global recession, NASCAR numbers have dwindled and Disney is once again looking for a way to turn a profit from the Speedway.

Starting in January, visitors will have the chance to experience what it's like to operate some of the world's most luxurious sports cars. It will certainly entice a wider variety of car enthusiasts than just letting people get behind the wheel of some retired NASCAR stock racers. However, the question is whether there is a market it needs to sustain itself? Those immediately informed may attempt to orchestrate the annual family trip to include Disney World in order to jump on the opportunity, but what about the long-term? Disney is desperate to find a way to make their Speedway useful, and they hope they've finally found what they were looking for.

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