The Florida Highway Patrol said Thursday that the way the cars were run at the Exotic Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway contributed to a fatal accident in April. Driving instructor Gary Terry was killed when the driver of the Lamborghini, 24-year-old Tavon Watson of Kissimmee Florida, lost control of the exotic sports car and crashed into the end of a guardrail. According to the FHP report, the guardrail shot 4 feet into the car, striking Terry’s torso.
The Lamborghini was traveling 102 mph when it slid into the exposed guardrail. Terry was killed instantly. The Richard Petty Driving Experience is a chain operated by Petty Holdings where fans can drive NASCAR style racecars or ride shotgun at speeds up to 165 mph. Four years ago, Petty Holdings introduced the Exotic-Car experience, where people can drive Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches.
The Walt Disney operation opened in 1997 at the 1-mile tri-oval speedway just south of the Magic Kingdom parking lot. It was built in 1995 as a venue for the Izod IndyCar Series and then became the exclusive home to Richard Petty Driving Experience year-round. Earlier this year, Disney announced they would be closing the speedway to make way for additional parking. The speedway closed shortly after the accident and never reopened.
When it operated, the Richard Petty Driving Experience ran its NASCAR style stock cars counterclockwise, the direction for which the track was designed. The affiliated Exotic Driving Experience’s cars traveled clockwise. At the time of the accident, many critics pointed this fact out. Thursday the FHP confirmed it.
“If the cars were going in the proper direction, yes, this probably would not have been a fatal accident,” crash investigator FHP Corporal David Rodriguez told the Orlando Sentinel. He added that the end of the guardrail had no impact attenuator, also called a crash cushion. Having one in place could have lessened the wreck’s seriousness. “That definitely would have prevented the endpoint from penetrating into the vehicle because they’re made to collapse and take all the force,” he said.
Disney referred questions to Petty Holdings, which operated the track’s racing attractions. Petty Holdings would not answer specific questions:
“With the release of the Florida Highway Patrol report, our thoughts remain with Gary’s family, friends and our crew members,” the company said in an emailed statement. “With safety as our most important priority, we will continue to review our operations and safety procedures.”
Terry competed in NASCAR’s Southeast, Southwest and Midwest Series from 1999-2002. In 36 starts he scored two top-5 finishes. He was the head driving instructor for the RPDE at the Walt Disney World Speedway from 2001 to 2013 when he became the operations manager.