x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ferrari World ready for October blast-off

Thrill-seekers will experience speeds of up to 240kph when Ferrari World on Yas Island, opens with the world's fastest roller coaster.

One of the Formula Rossa roller coaster cars from Ferrari World Abu Dhabi pictured yesterday.
One of the Formula Rossa roller coaster cars from Ferrari World Abu Dhabi pictured yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Thrill-seekers will experience speeds of up to 240kph when Ferrari World, the indoor theme park on Yas Island, opens on October 28 with the world's fastest roller coaster. The Formula Rossa will take just four seconds to reach its top speed, subjecting riders to 1.7G (1.7 times the force of free fall). It will "pull the skin back on your face", the park's manager, Andy Keeling, promised yesterday as organisers disclosed the when and what of the keenly anticipated coaster.

"It's definitely a white-knuckle ride," Mr Keeling said. "The G-forces on your body will be like the kinds of Gs that you feel in a Formula One car." A 20,800-horsepower hydraulic winch system will hoist the Formula Rossa's passengers 52 metres before it drops them into a sequence of tight turns. Mr Keeling said the ride, which will cover 2.070 kilometres in 90 seconds, will simulate the feeling of being strapped into the chassis of a high-performance car.

"In the queue, you look at the train and you're looking at a Formula One car," he said. "It's the car-driving experience of driving a Formula One car. The environment of the track is like being in a racetrack, with what looks to the naked eye like gravel runoff zones in the tight corners." The theme park is scheduled to be open in time for the second Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, on November 14. Ticket prices for that event are expected to be announced in the next few days.

Torbjorn Bodin, the general manager of the Radisson Blu hotel, said: "That's wonderful news. Ferrari World is going to be a big driver of business to the hotels on Yas Island." The Formula Rossa will take the fastest roller-coaster title from the current record-holder, the Kingda Ka at New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure in the United States. That ride, opened in 2005, makes it up to a positively glacial 206kph. As for whether the Formula Rossa's speeds would be blinding, given the wind speed and the chance of sand in the air, Mr Keeling said the coaster's designers had thought ahead.

"Relatively simple answer," he said. "Goggles." After testing hundreds of pairs of skydiving glasses on roller coasters in Europe, the park will ask all passengers to wear them aboard the red beast. Stefan Zwanzger, 30, a former Dubai resident and theme-park enthusiast who has visited more than 100 fairgrounds in 26 countries, said: "The glasses, that's definitely a new one. Is it the speed alone? Is it to protect your eyes from sand? It's interesting."

Mr Zwanzger, a German, runs the website thethemeparkguy.com and gives top grades to Formula Rossa's Swiss manufacturer, Intamin. "I was recently in a brand new Intamin roller coaster in Chengdu, China, and they're extremely smooth," he said. "You don't feel this normal 'tukka-tukka-tukka-tukka', so you don't come out with motion sickness. What you feel is like a runner's high. You'll smile. It'll make your skin and your hair stand up."

David Arnold, 36, a British coaster connoisseur living in Dubai, was giddy to hear about the opening of Ferrari World in October. "That's sooner than I thought," said Mr Arnold, who estimates he has climbed into more than 120 roller coasters around the world. "I think it's going to be amazing. It's going to be more like an experience like a Ferrari car model, which is a different concept from other roller coasters, so I'm incredibly excited."

Aside from the Formula Rossa, Ferrari World will also boast a "duelling GT roller coaster". Other attractions include a canal cruise through a V12 engine, a tour through a replica of the Ferrari factory at Maranello and a drive-through "miniature Italy" for children. mkwong@thenational.ae * This version corrects an earlier version which mistakenly makes reference to Ferrari Rossa instead of Formula Rossa.