Ferrari World to open next week

2010-10-22 11:34

There are plenty of theme parks that take their inspiration from cartoon characters, superheroes and even horror movies. But not until this month has there been one dedicated to a sports car manufacturer. The iconic Ferrari brand is first off the grid.

With a 200 000 square-metre roof painted Ferrari red and a roller coaster that will be the world’s fastest at 240km/h Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is aiming to woo F1 fans and their amusement park-loving families when it opens on Wednesday.

It will be just down the road from the Yas Marina Circuit which hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November in the United Arab Emirates capital.

The park – which until now has been closed to the media?– will also feature a tower ride that shoots riders 62 metres in the air with G-forces that a race driver might feel, the largest collection of classic and modern Ferrari race cars outside of the company’s Maranello, Italy headquarters as well as an Italian restaurant inspired by Mamma Rossella, which is a favourite haunt of Ferrari drivers when they are in Italy.

Visitors can stroll through a Ferrari paddock, handle tools used during races and train to be part of a pit crew which changes the tires on an F1 car.

“It brings motor racing. It brings together beautiful cars. It brings nostalgia,” said Andy Keeling, the park manager of Ferrari World.

“Let’s also not forget it is a great, fun place to go. It’s not a museum. It’s not a car salesroom. You ride great roller coasters. The icing on the cake is that it’s a Ferrari Formula 1 roller coaster.”

The decision by Ferrari to launch its first theme park in the Middle East in many ways shows how important the region is to the future of motor sports.

The Gulf already boast F1 races in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain and Qatar is reportedly wanting to host a third. Drag racing is taking off and desert rallies fill the racing calendar from Jordan to Saudi Arabia.

The growing popularity of F1 in the oil-rich Middle East can be credited to Gulf Arabs’ love of speed and their taste for luxury brands.

And with some of the highest per capita incomes in the world, Gulf fans offer plenty of enticements for a sport that has seen its fortunes suffer during the recent economic downturn with car manufacturers including Honda pulling out of the sport and several advertisers ending their sponsorship deals.

“The locals are very interested in cars, fast cars. You can see that when you drive around,” said Khaled al Qubaisi, of the United Arab Emirates, who is the only Middle Eastern driver competing in the Porsche Supercup Series.

“That is something within us going fast and outperforming in whatever we ride whether it be the horses or cars,” he said.

“If people are interested in cars, they are interested in car racing. If you give them the right product in motor sport, they will naturally be attracted and follow it.”

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