We go undercover to review Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World. David Whitley buckles up for a fast ride.
The requirement for plastic glasses – the sort that you get in high school chemistry lessons to stop you dipping your eye into the Bunsen burner flame – becomes quickly apparent.
Without them, the windrush feels like it would suck all the fluid out of my eyeballs.
Seconds into the ride and the excess cheek and forehead flesh feels like it is being vacuum-moulded for some higher purpose.
It’s terrifying and utterly, utterly exhilarating. My heart is surging so boisterously, I suspect it may have been temporarily transplanted from an overly excited puppy.
The Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is the world’s fastest rollercoaster.
Using the sort of hydraulic launch system that fires planes off aircraft carriers, it reaches 240 kilometres an hour from a standing start in just 4.9 seconds.
Before I’ve a chance to work out what’s happening to me, I’m fired to the top of a vertical tower, and am about to plummet downward along a sharply twisting curve.
At the top, the comparatively mundane reality of the rest of the ride doesn’t seem an option – I’m being fired into the next life, and there’s no better way to go.
The Formula Rossa is indisputably superb. The problem isn’t that it’s the highlight of Ferrari World – it’d be the magic moment of most theme parks across the globe – it’s that it’s the highlight by such a long distance.
Ferrari World is the world’s largest indoor theme park, and it’s an architectural marvel. The red roof is designed to look like the Ferrari badge and it houses a web-like metal lattice that sprouts geyser-style from a central point before gently forming an enveloping mushroom cup over the rides, restaurants and red cars.
There are plenty of the latter. Whether this is a good thing depends on how excited you are about Ferraris.
If you care about the brand as much as you care about, say, Sorbent or Listerine, then the relentless marketing overdose will begin to grate very quickly.
The sledgehammer approach sees needless chunks of the park devoted to the Ferrari back-story, how the Ferrari F1 team operates – including an excruciatingly dull section that’s basically an advert for Shell fuel – and every ride plastered with tenuous Ferrari gimmickry.
It feels as though the success of the park is measured by how much branded merchandise people buy in the shop rather than the quality of the experience.
Other rides don’t come close to the Formula Rossa, but some are enjoyable nonetheless. The Speed of Magic and Viaggio in Italia are similar – you jerk around in your chair in time with the thrills and spills of the journey on the big screen in front of you.
The G-Force offers more of a rush, shooting you 62 metres into the air while your legs dangle beneath you.
It’s a bigger version of something that can be seen in fairgrounds the world over, but with the twist that it then slowly inches you above the roof to see the water park, Formula One Grand Prix circuit and desert on the horizon.
The Fiorano GT Challenge has a nice concept that doesn’t quite come off – two coasters race simultaneously on adjacent tracks. But they don’t get close enough for there to be a buzz of danger – and the track is all speed, no height or suspense-building.
Lowlights – such as the V12 log flume and the Bella Italia which puts you in miniature cars as you dawdle pass Styrofoam models of Italian landmarks – are simply pathetic.
The quality of rides is patchy, but quantity is the main problem. There aren’t enough to fill a whole day unless you get trapped in the two to three hour queues repeatedly complained about on Tripadvisor.
This isn’t something I experienced – I arrived as the park opened at 11:00am on a Saturday.
I didn’t spend more than 20 minutes in any queue, although the place was much busier by the time I left at 3:00pm.
Get there at opening time, do the big rides, book your timed tickets for the Ferrari driving simulator as soon as possible, and queue frustration shouldn’t be too big a factor.
Ferrari World – The Details
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
+ 971 2 496 8001
The IT Verdict
David Whitley who paid his own way says:
A fast and furious half day, albeit an expensive one, with an unforgettable championship-winning ride. Even the most avid Ferrari fan might start craving a Red Bull by the end of the race, though.
David paid $59 for entry. Premium, fast track tickets are available for $84.