By Mike Schneider
ORLANDO, Fla. — For fans of speed, the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World offers a heart-pounding thrill.
People who drive minivans during the week can settle in behind the wheel of a Ferrari, a Porsche or another one of the fastest, most finely engineered cars in the world and hurtle around a track at up to 120 mph with a professional driving instructor offering advice from the passenger seat. The cost: $200 to $440.
The customers are just pretending to be race car drivers, but the danger is real.
TaVon Watson chose a Lamborghini on Sunday for his 24th-birthday thrill ride. With instructor Gary Terry by his side, they raced around the one-mile course until Watson lost control of the sports car and slammed into a guardrail, killing 36-year-old Terry.
“It’s not the kid’s fault. It’s a freak thing that happened,” said Timothy Horvath, a Terry family friend. As for Terry, “if he thought he was in any danger, he wouldn’t have done it.”
It was at least the third death in the past year at speedways in the U.S. that allow customers to get behind the wheel of a fast car. Last September, an Indiana man was killed in a crash at the Rusty Wallace Driving Experience at Kentucky Speedway, and a New Jersey woman died at the Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey.
Watson had paid under $400 for the chance to drive the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, which sells for around $240,000.
He failed to maneuver the high-powered vehicle through the course while driving around 100 mph, and the passenger side struck the guardrail, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Terry died at the scene. Watson was treated at a hospital and released.
Both Watson and Terry were wearing helmets and lap and shoulder belts, said Sgt. Kim Montes, a spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol.