Expensive rush: Indy comes to Disney Speedway
The latest tourist attraction at Walt Disney World weighs about 1,500 pounds and to ride it, you have to sign nine pages of legal waivers and provide contact information for your next of kin.
It costs $399 for about five minutes. So is it worth it?
"Definitely," said Greg Monk, as he pulled out his American Express card for a second session Tuesday in a G-Force Indy race car.
Monk, who was visiting with his wife and daughter, got a grand total of 16 laps around the one-mile Walt Disney World Speedway. He was behind the wheel of the same $250,000 car that Felipe Giaffone drove to the third-place finish in the 2002 Indianapolis 500 after qualifying fourth at more than 230 mph.
Well, almost the same: The four cars that the Indy Racing Experience has at Disney World have been fitted with less-powerful 1.8-liter six-cylinder Honda engines. Otherwise, they're the same as when they competed in the Indy Racing League.
Even with the smaller engine, however, some drivers already have hit speeds nearing 100 mph. That's not surprising, because the open-cockpit car weighs only about half as much as a 2009 Toyota Corolla.
Monk, who owns a wholesale nursery in Stevensville, Mont., and races late-model stock cars, was one of the first customers for the Indy Racing Experience at Disney.
The company, which has a good safety record, has been in business since 2001, traveling track-to-track out of Indianapolis. This week, the company opened an office at Disney's speedway.
Indy Racing Experience will operate alongside the track's longtime resident, the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which offers rides in stock cars specially built for the experience.
For $109, the Indy attraction also allows customers to be a passenger in a stretched-out, two-seat Dallara Indy Car that has a real Indy Chevrolet engine and is driven by a professional racer. The two-passenger car is worth $600,000, said Scott Jasek, co-owner of the Indy Racing Experience.
One of the other two owners, Jeff Sinden, who has fielded Indy Cars for a variety of drivers over the past 15 years, was driving the two-seat car this week. Indy Car veteran Davey Hamilton will take over those duties next week.
Jasek expects most first-timers to go for the ride in the two-seat car; then he hopes most will opt to drive a car.
The Experience travels with the Indy Racing League races, including the races in Florida at Homestead Miami Speedway and the St. Petersburg downtown street race, giving rides in several two-seat Indy Cars it owns.
Jasek said the company will continue to do that, but Orlando is likely to become its permanent home.
Tony George, whose family owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and built the Walt Disney World Speedway, insisted on making the experience as realistic as possible, Jasek said.
"One of our main goals is to create new fans for the Indy Racing League series races," Jasek said.