Many new amusement park projects were announced for the United Arab Emirates in the early part of this century. At the time of writing the only one to have made it off the drawing board is Ferrari World, located a few miles away from Abu Dhabi International Airport. There has been a lot of attention given to the new park by the media, with many lauding the park as a triumph for the Ferrari brand. Yet all may not be quite as it seems.
The biggest warning sign for my visit was the lack of guests in the park. Thursday night in the UAE is equivalent to Friday night for the western world, a night when the majority don't have to get up for work the next morning. Perhaps recognising this, the park is open until midnight. Why then were there no more than one hundred guests in the entire facility? Why then were the vast majority of rides standing idle, with staff awaiting patrons to alleviate the boredom? The answer, in the view of this writer, is fairly simple; it is possible to see all that the park has to offer in two or three hours, and there is simply not enough to do there to justify regular visits; even if I lived nearby I couldn't see myself visiting more than once a year at the outside.
I'd planned to mark my sixteen hundredth coaster on the star attraction, but unfortunately it was down for technical issues. As such, the questionable honour went to Fiorano GT Challenge (#1600), a twin-tracked racing coaster built by Maurer Sohne with a layout that is supposed to feel like a race car circuit. To that end, the trains are braked at sharp corners, before being accelerated back to speed again by blocks of LSM motors. The experience is pretty neat, though it is marred somewhat by fairly poor tracking; the back cars on both sides can be quite jarring. It's also slightly odd to be sitting in a race car that doesn't accelerate on the straights until a second or two after the train clears the corner; this is undoubtedly a limitation of the LSM technology, but it's still a weird feeling. Overall though, the ride is a good if not outstanding family coaster; worth a few laps, but probably not worth a trip to Abu Dhabi for.
The park log flume is V12, nominally a trip through a Ferrari engine. The theory behind this ride has definite potential, but the real life implementation falls far short due to a combination of poor quality ride hardware and mostly pointless theming. Much of the experience is taken in complete darkness, with only the occasional bit of light which brightens up what looks like third-grade paper modelling. To add insult to injury, the final splash at the end is drenching. At the end of the ride I found myself wondering whether I could have my five minutes back, not something I'd ever expect from a major park such as this one.
It was only after almost two hours in the park that park engineers managed to fix the ride that I was really interested in. Formula Rossa (#1601) is the new record holder for the fastest roller coaster in the world, launching its passengers to a speed of 149 MPH in less than five seconds. As luck would have it I managed to get a front seat for my first ride, where protective eyewear is compulsory (are you listening, Knotts?). Safety goggles are available to the rest of the train on request, including special versions which allow regular eyewear to be worn underneath.
Words are utterly insufficient to convey the sheer thrill of this ride; the rate of acceleration may not be the fastest out there, but the train keeps speeding up even when those on board cannot take any more. Facial features are distorted throughout the train, not just in the front row, as the wall of wind hits those on board. At the end of the launch sequence, the train spends about two seconds at full speed before climbing a hill into a set of trim brakes. While these do bleed a lot of speed from the train, perhaps as much as fifty miles per hour, it is clear to this enthusiast that they are there for passenger safety; without them this ride could potentially cause injuries. The limited time at top speed is more than enough to realise that this ride pushes the limits of human endurance as far as they are meant to go. Be that as it may, I was still quite happy to do multiple laps!
I tried out two other rides during my visit. The Driving with the Champion simulator is a motion based ride that takes passengers around a race track at speed, and definitely worth doing once. I'm not able to be as enthusiastic about the Speed of Magic dark ride; though it uses the Spider-Man system the theming is disjointed at best, and worse yet, passengers are able to see previous scenes resetting themselves as the journey progresses.