Travel – Abu Dhabi: The scariest?minute of my?life

2014-06-11 10:00

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The iconic black stallion emblazoned on a ­signal-red racing car has never held much ­appeal for me.

That was until I visited Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The world’s largest indoor theme park opened in 2010 and has a floor space of 86?000m².

Its distinctive red roof was inspired by the classic ­double-curved profile of the Ferrari GT. It stretches over 200?000m² and sports the largest Ferrari badge ­ever made.

A huge attraction is the Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster, where you ­accelerate from 0 to 240 kilometres per hour in less than five seconds.

Red-hot fun rides

A visit to this park was not on our agenda when we went to visit relatives in Dubai, but my aunt said it was a must.

So we set off early in the morning and an hour later we were in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, heading for Yas Island. The man-made attraction also boasts an award-winning golf course and a water park. From a long way off, you can see the red roof of Ferrari World gleaming in the hot sun.

A basic ticket costs about R680 for adults and R550 for children. It’s not a cheap excursion, but it’s a full day of fun. There are 19 rides, two shops filled with Ferrari-branded items (everything from coffee mugs to ­children’s pyjamas) and five restaurants.

Right from the start, you can’t help gazing around (and up) at the impressive architecture. Then you take a look at the visitors’ map and head for your first adventure (all the while, the advantages and disadvantages of riding the world’s fastest roller coaster are going through your mind).

We pick the first ride we see, Speed of Magic. Wearing 3-D glasses, we go on a virtual 4-D ride in a car through a dreamland of landscapes on the trail of a rascal who has stolen a man’s Ferrari keys.

You fly down the mountains, dive into the heart of a jungle and experience the icy cold of a cave – ­sophisticated technology making it all feel very real.

Try being Räikkönen

Next we go on an entirely unplanned and rather ­serious ride, the Fiorano GT Challenge. Here you race against one another in Ferrari F430 Spiders.

With pounding hearts, we think for a moment we have unintentionally got into the Formula Rossa. But this ride only reaches 95 kilometres per hour.

It’s a good preparation for the big one (if you’re still considering it). The course – based on Grand Prix racetracks – curls around hairpin bends and barrels along straights.

Made in Maranello is a ride that takes you on a behind-the-scenes look at how a Ferrari is made in historical factories in Italy. You are lifted in your chair in a massive theatre with a dome-shaped screen and then go on a virtual flight over Italy.

During this flight, inspired by the legendary Mille Miglia race, Italian villages and mountains, cities, forests and vineyards flash by.

In the Scuderia Challenge, you are a racing driver (you can be Kimi Räikkönen or Michael Schumacher, among others) and race in a simulator on a virtual course.

Afterwards we share a pizza at Mamma Rosella and finally decide to take on the Formula Rossa.

World’s fastest roller coaster

Luckily the ride isn’t too long, otherwise fear may have won the day. It takes 10 victims at a time and before you get in you are given plastic goggles to protect your eyes.

And you’re off, at 240 kilometres an hour and experiencing the effect of 4.8Gs on your body. The coaster shoots you 52m into the air before screaming around sharp bends.

It is the most frightening minute of my life. But now I can tick off the world’s fastest roller coaster on my list of challenges.

Check out the park at ferrariworldabudhabi.com.

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