x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

All inspired by mystique, charisma and thrills

Under the cavernous red dome of a racing wonderland, and above the revving of engines, visitors can lose themselves in the speed and glamour of a car legend.

A lucky 3,000 special guests last week were given a sneak preview of the theme park, including the opportunity to try out some of the rides. Theme-park fans from across the world have arrived for the opening.
A lucky 3,000 special guests last week were given a sneak preview of the theme park, including the opportunity to try out some of the rides. Theme-park fans from across the world have arrived for the opening.

ABU DHABI // The high-velocity feeling hits visitors straight away as the roar of engines at full throttle fills the red dome of Ferrari World.

Speed is the theme in the world's largest indoor amusement park, which opens tonight after three years of construction on Yas Island.

The high-octane soundtrack that greets visitors provides a thumping introduction to the 86,000 square metre racing wonderland.

And the park's manager, Andy Keeling, wants to make one thing clear.

"It's not just for petrol heads," he said, his voice competing with the eight speedway simulators during a tour of Abu Dhabi's newest and biggest entertainment attraction.

With the massive F1 chassis of the Scuderia Challenge simulator bobbing above him on hydraulic stilts, Mr Keeling said Ferrari World would give visitors an emotional connection to the Italian sports car maker.

"The point is we're trying to capture this mystique, the charisma, and the thrill of Ferrari in here for anyone," he said. "That's what inspires all of this. We're creating memories."

Ferrari World not only boasts the world's fastest roller coaster - the 240kph F1-inspired Formula Rossa - it also bears the world's largest "Prancing Horse" logo, the symbol of Ferrari, which covers 3,000 sq m of the 20,000 sq m roof.

And that's not to mention the world's largest Ferrari merchandise outlet. Visitors will find a full-sized, carbon-fibre F1 replica car on sale - for an undisclosed price.

Until now, Mr Keeling said, the only way for UAE residents to experience a world-class leisure venue of this scale was to book a flight elsewhere.

"This has given the residents of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain 12 months of the year to have access to a world-class attraction, where we have a big domed building with 6,000 sq m of air-conditioned space," he said. "In the summer when you can't go to the zoo, this is always a pleasant experience."

Last Thursday, 3,000 special guests were invited to preview the attractions in the park. The building can hold 15,000 people.

On the duelling GT Challenge coaster, which launches competing trains along two tracks, passengers who raced in both carriages whooped and taunted one another as they hurtled towards the finishing line.

"The inspiration was to give the sensation of racing in a Ferrari 430 Spider," Mr Keeling said. "This evening, our team car won. We all turned and just waved to the other car behind us."

Another ride is the G-Force vertical drop that flings thrill-seekers 62metres up through the centre of the roof before falling with the same G-forces felt by high-performance drivers. The ride and the Formula Rossa were among the attractions still in trial testing last week. Both will be running tonight.

Dave Arnold, a theme-park fanatic and sound recordist who is filming a documentary on the Formula Rossa for German TV, has seen it launch several times. An online video of the ride in action "caused quite a stir among coaster enthusiasts", he said.

"Nobody believes it's as fast as it is. Everybody thinks they've sped the film up, but I've seen it move that fast. It's the same type of speed you'd reach skydiving. Very impressive."

Mark de la Cruz, 31, a Yas Hotel concierge, will be among those in the queue when the park is open to the public. Under the glow of theme-park lighting last week, he called the complex the country's "first real amusement park".

"We'll be back. People from all over every emirate are going to come to this park now," said Mr de la Cruz, from the Philippines. "It's a wonderful thing to have this for people to enjoy. For me, this is going to be Abu Dhabi's best attraction."

International guests including Stefan Zwanzger, known through his theme-park review website, www.thethemeparkguy.com, have arrived in the capital in anticipation of tonight's opening.

Mr Zwanzger, a German who has visited more than 120 international theme parks, couldn't wait for the doors to open, despite admitting he knows little about cars or Ferrari.

The rail-guided "dark rides", which feature the Speed of Magic 4-D ride and the Made in Maranello experience, are expected to be highlights.

"And I'm definitely curious about the fastest coaster in the world," he said. "I've heard you wear goggles on this coaster. I've never done that before - wearing goggles at 240kph."

For a developing city filled with office space and shopping, Mr Zwanzger said he was "fascinated" by the idea that Abu Dhabi now has a place "where all the locals and residents can come out, have fun and just scream together".

Standard Ferrari World tickets for visitors taller than 1.5 metres cost Dh225, because those heights can access more of the rides, and Dh165 for everyone else. Guests can also buy premium tickets that range from Dh270 to Dh375, which guarantee shorter queues and access to an exclusive refreshments lounge.

Ferrari World is open every day except Mondays. Tickets can be bought at www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com or at the entrance gates.