Subscribe to Our Newsletter
FOLLOW US ON: Twitter Facebook

Lap it Up: Ferrari dream drive

I was getting speeding tickets before the professional driver sitting next to me was born, so why was I nervous?

Because he had driven this $300,000 Ferrari 458 Italia at top speeds and I hadn’t.

And I had forgotten everything Dustin, the driving coach at the Richard Petty Exotic Driving Experience at Disneyworld in Orlando, had told our class of would-be Christian Fittipaldis.

My hair had been smashed under a tight-fitting knitted sleeve with a hole for the face then jammed into a helmet that rendered the wearer top-heavy. I was ushered to the car and into the driver’s seat with nary a reminder.

I was told to drive the gleaming black road-eater forward onto the track.

Me and my Ferrari dream drive

“Just press down on the accelerator,” Chris, the baby-faced pro, said as I searched for the ignition and gearshift.

I wanted to utter a retort as bright and cutting as the morning sun but was too befuddled. Of course there’s no gearbox, bozo, the gears are the paddles on either side of the steering wheel. Also, I hadn’t heard the slightest g-r-r-r-r from the engine that was running and waiting to rev.

“Onto the track?” I asked somewhat incredulously. “No parking lot warm up to test responses?”

“Yep.” “Nope.”

Hands gripping the wheel at 9 and 3 – I did recall something from the classroom tutorial – I eased up to the stop sign to wait for the starter to give us the go-ahead. Two other pairs were out in the Lamborghini Gallardo 560-4 and the Porsche 994S.

Dustin’s words, Take the first lap slow and speed on the rest, flashed through my mind as we got the OK so I doubt if I pushed the car to its 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. It just seemed and sounded like it.

Steer for the cones, another instruction followed so I did, heading up then down the banked oval with the occasional prompt from Chris to hit a paddle and gear up or down.

All too soon he pointed to the paved lane that veered off the track to the “road” part of the course, a series of deceptively easy-looking curves and switchbacks.

They were work but each time through I steered sharper and maintained a higher speed. Having the nerve to do it was another factor altogether, one overcome a little more each lap.

I must digress for a moment. Were I a true gear-head I would have dropped a trunk load of esoteric stats and specs on you by now – torque, rpms, liters, valves – but I’m not. Just have, as Tom Cruise once uttered, “a need for speed.” Always liked to go fast. In a boat. On a horse. On a bicycle. And especially in a car.

Never mind what makes it go 0 to 60 in the blink of a gnat’s eyelash. Let out the clutch and floor it. You’ll have to look up your own specs. Google it.

The biggest excitement was the feel of the G’s as we tore ever faster around the banked track and how those tires hugged the surface.

The biggest frustration was just as we hit really fast with another gear or two to go (the car will do 202 mph), there was the turn-off road ahead.

Every lap I anticipated the turn and slowdown too soon; never put those brakes to the test. I blame it on 55-plus years of defensive driving.

Just one more lap….

I bet Fittipaldi felt that way sometimes, too.

NOTE: You, too, can do this. The Richard Petty Exotic Driving Experience at Disneyworld in Orlando offers the Exotic Driving Experience in the Ferrari, a Lamborghini Gallardo, an Audi R8 or a Porsche 997 S. Prices range from $169 for the Porsche experience to $419 for the Ferrari;




1 Comment

  1. ferrari joe says:

    loved the story!

Leave a Comment