Indy Racing returns to Walt Disney World
Vacationers who aren’t auto racing fans may not realize when their standing at the entrance of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, they’re less than a half mile from a former Indy Racing track. They may suspect something, however, when they hear the sounds of a hurtling race car as they walk through the parking lot to their cars.
Nine years after the last Indy 200 sped around the 1-mile Walt Disney World Speedway, Indy Racing has returned in the form of an attraction that leaves other Disney car adventures in its dust. For $109, thrill seekers can take a minute trip in comfort, hurtling three times around the track at speeds of up to 165 mph.
If the idea sounds familiar, it may be because the Richard Petty Driving Experience shares the same track, offering NASCAR vehicles as its ride. The Indy Racing Experience picks up when the Richard Petty experience stops, operating from 4 p.m. to dusk each day.
Aside from the fact that Indy’s open-wheel cars also sport open cockpits, a big difference between the attractions is that Indy’s vehicles are driven by veteran race car drivers. Last week, Davey Hamilton, whose first Indy race was at the Walt Disney World Speedway, took the wheel.
“I’ve been doing this game a long time and I’m very fortunate to race when I want, where I want,” Hamilton said. “As you get older in your career, it’s all about championships and the bigger events.”
Hamilton has raced in the past two Indiannapolis 500’s following a devastating crash in 2001 that left him sidelined for six years and nearly two dozen operations. He has driven fans and media on Indy Racing Experience rides in the past at the Brickyard and before other races.
“I do all the Indy Car events with these cars,” Hamilton said. “I probably do 50-60 events a year. Sometimes more than 100 rides a day – so there’s a lot of rides a year that go on. It’s great to give everyone just a little tase of what we go through, kind of give them a taste of our sport. It’s a lot of fun.”
Hamilton has spent a lot of time at the Disney Speedway. In addition to being one of five drivers in an inagural ‘V’ formation for the first lap, he raced in every Indy 200. He also spent five weeks at the track as they set up for the official launch at Disney.
“I ‘ve always enjoy this track. It’s pretty unique and difficult, really,” he said. “We run 26 or 27 seconds with a rider and we ran 19 seconds around here at the race pace. So it’s not all that different. You definitely have a chance to feel the G-forces.”
The rider sits in a second cockpit behind the driver in a modified Indy car. Wearing a flame-proof coverall and a flame-retardant hood under a racing helmet, the small hole can quickly heat up. As soon as the car takes off, the air starts flowing through the helmet and by the time the car hits the first turn, the feeling is a pure adrenaline thrill.
Hamilton said most riders are surprised by the feeling of being so low to the ground and the car’s grip on the asphalt.
“Even the way you sit is so different than an everyday car,” he said.