I don’t think I have enough testosterone to fully appreciate what I’m about to do.
I’m going to pull on a racing helmet, step into a Ferrari 458 Italia and drive it as fast as I can around a race track.
The man sitting next to me trackside, apparently anticipating his turn behind the wheel, is already drooling.
I’d rather be riding a rollercoaster.
We’re at the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando. About 18 of us — including one other woman — are going to get six laps around the track this afternoon in the car of our choice — the Ferrari, a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 or LP 570-4 Superleggera, a Porsche 997 S or an Audi R8.
The last time I tried to drive fast around a track was 30 years ago, in a toy car at a Malibu Grand Prix that is to NASCAR racing what mini-golf is to the Masters. I spun out.
The cost for getting behind the wheel ranges from $212 for the Porsche to $414 for the Ferrari and includes an instructor in the passenger seat coaching us through the course.
Although up to six of us will be on the track at the same time, we will not be racing — or even passing. There is one shortcut where fast drivers can get around slow ones and a detour where slow ones can be shunted out of the way. I suspect that in this crowd, there is a lot of shame involved in being relegated to the slowpoke detour.
The Disney public relations staff, which has been trying to get me into one of these hot cars since the Exotic Driving Experience opened in January, has signed me up to drive the Ferrari. The car has a V8 engine that produces 562 horsepower — enough to get me from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds — and a top speed of 201 mph.
I’m not totally immune to the Ferrari’s charms — just think what I could do with that kind of acceleration on I-95! The roar of the engine alone would intimidate drivers into getting out of my way. But driving the car in circles — what’s the point?
We sign away our right to sue Disney if we’re injured on the track, and watch a video of Christian Fittipaldi, a former Formula One driver, giving us driving tips. An instructor tells us that they’ve fixed the traction control so that it can’t be disabled and sternly tells us there will be no doing wheelies to impress wives, girlfriends or other bystanders. A couple of men groan.
Then we go outside to be photographed with the cars we’re about to race, uh, drive.
My Ferrari is red, which I don’t think much about until three men assigned to the black Ferrari decide their cars aren’t sexy enough and ask if they can have their pictures taken with the red Ferrari. Such a girly thing!
When it’s my turn, I put on a head sock and helmet and get in the car with Sean, my instructor. The car has an automatic transmission but is equipped with paddles on the steering wheel so I can upshift or downshift as if it were a manual transmission but without using a clutch. I opt to use the paddles.
To my surprise, the Ferrari is unassuming. I thought it would be pulling at the reins, skittish and impatient like the prancing stallion on its grille. The handling and braking are both smoother than I expected. When I accelerate, the car responds powerfully but not jerkily.
We make a couple circuits so I can get used to the mile-long course. Imagine the track this way: The top half is an arc that is slightly banked, the underside a zigzag of esses and switchbacks.