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Debunked: Death Causes Closure of Disney World Speedway

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Is a recent death to blame for the closure of the Walt Disney World Speedway?

The Walt Disney World Speedway

The Walt Disney World Speedway track

For years, the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World has offered guests the chance to pilot a car they could only dream of. Nissan GTRs, Lamborghini Gallardos, and Ferrari 458s topped the list of supercars available to take for a spin. In addition, the Richard Petty Experience provided a NASCAR-style blaze over the Walt Disney World Speedway track.

This August, all of that action will come to an end.

On April 12th, 2015, Exotic Driving Experience instructor, Gary Terry, died while guiding a guest driver over the Perry Holdings operated track, located near Magic Kingdom. Terry was an experienced race car driver, and acted as the senior operations manager of the attraction. The guest driver, TaVon Watson, 24, had visited the track for his birthday to drive a $240,000 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera.  While speeding over 100 mph on the track, Watson lost control of the Lamborghini and hit a guardrail. Terry died of his injuries at the scene, while Watson was treated at a local hospital and released.

Disney Driving Experience Training

Gary Terry trains guest drivers at the Walt Disney World Speedway
Photo: Ricky Brigante

With the Speedway closing this August, rumors are now circulating that this fatal accident was the cause for the closure of the Disney Speedway.

However, the closure of the Disney Speedway was announced back in February:

While the Walt Disney World Speedway is owned by Disney, guests should keep in mind that Perry Holdings is the third-party operator. Bill Scott, executive vice president of attractions, announced in February to the Orlando Sentinal, “Disney has other uses for the property, and they have the right to do that, and we respect that. It’s not without some sadness that we leave Walt Disney World Speedway. We had a great home here.”

Fatal Accident at Disney is One of Three in the Past Year

The fatal accident at the Walt Disney World Speedway was the third this year in America caused by guest drivers at similar driving experiences. At the Kentucky Speedway’s Rusty Wallace Driving Experience, Stephen Cox paid for an authentic race track experience last September. He was airlifted to a Cincinatti hospital after sustaining injuries from a high-speed crash. A week later, Cox submitted to his injuries and passed away. In this high-publicized story, the family was left searching for answers, as law enforcement had not been called to the scene.

Amanda Gambacorto, 21, died after driving at the Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey last August. Participating in the Green Flag Driving Experience, Gambacorto lost control of her car and hit a wall head-on. She was a student at Stony Brook University who was a novice driver.

Back at Disney World, scrutiny has arisen over the direction in which drivers are taking the course; the course was designed to be driven counter-clockwise, but it is utilized for clockwise racing by the Perry company. Critics, like Jon Miller at Jalopnik, say that this well-known racing mistake could have prevented Terry’s death.

While Disney’s official word may be that they are closing the Speedway to make room for their transportation system, we can’t help but speculate that these prior, highly-publicized accidents weighed into the decision. But, the Walt Disney World Speedway is located just south of the Magic Kingdom parking lot, just off of World Drive, so it makes sense that Disney would want to utilize this chunk of real estate.

With the track closing this summer, those who dare to brave this experience have little time left to race at ‘The Mickyard’, where the Indy 200 raced from 1996 to 2000. The last booking date for the Richard Petty Driving Experience and the Exotic Driving Experience at Walt Disney World is August 9th (previously announced to be June 28th).