If you have the slightest interest in cars, if you are in anyway a ‘petrolhead‘ and you happen to find yourself in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World must be your first stop!
I had a recent whistle-stop visit to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where the very latest in life excesses is on full view to the world. The tallest, fastest, biggest, most expensive of everything is to be seen here. I mentioned fastest and when it comes to cars, if you want to see the fastest and most beautiful cars, a visit to Ferrari World (right beside the Viceroy Hotel) on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi is unquestionably a must. The first thing that struck me, in the five minute cab ride from the Viceroy Hotel to the theme park, was the enormity of the structure I was travelling to.
The building was a sleek as it was large, with the crested metal dome rising out of the dry sand. The architecture reminded me a little of Terminal 2 at Dublin airport but on obviously a much grander scale and red. As the taxi pulls up, all is Ferrari red and the ‘prancing horse’ insignia is everywhere. Excitement grew. I was like a boy in a toyshop, but really a closet petrolhead about to have the chance to get very up close and personal with some very exotic supercars from the famous Italian stable. This is what Ferrari World is all about.
Beaten once again by the heat when I got out of the taxi, I quickly made my way inside to the comfort of the air conditioned building. Made my way to the ticket desk, collected my tickets and was directed towards the entrance gate. That’s when the drooling started! 🙂
Walking across the sleek entrance corridor, you are first greeted by Ferrari engines, on ‘thrones’ in the centre of the walkway. This gives you an idea of what to expect amid the Ferrari red of the walls and glass structure. Once at the end of the corridor you enter a cavernous building, filled with the iconic cars from Italy that is Ferrari. Wandering around, you see almost all of the cars that are produced by the Italian supercar manufacturer both new and old. Some are elevated on plinths, some just close enough to touch. Obviously the expensive ones are elevated to protect the paintwork from ‘sticky paws’! They are all here, from the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (incidentally the highest price car ever bought at auction, a snip at $38 million dollars, so I’m thinking this one was a replica), all the way up to the Formula One cars used by the Ferrari F1 Team.
Two highlights for me were the opportunity to ‘drive’ a Ferrari 458 in a simulator. Complete with the full body of the car and racing interior, you sit into bucket seats and outside, the windscreen is a full wraparound High Definition screen. You get the count down via digital traffic lights and on green, you ‘drive’ around the Abu Dhabi race track for a number of laps. The car shunts and wobbles under the power of the engine and you need to be careful not to run off the track – something I did not manage very often. The car pitches and rolls as you enter corners and you are thrown back into your seat as you navigate and accelerate down the straight. Whilst this is an experience in driving, all the while its a virtual reality ride. That said, my heart was racing and as I exited the vehicle after the ride, I noticed that the perspiration had built up on my brow from the adrenaline. That’s how realistic it was. There is also an opportunity to do the same thing in a replica of a Ferrari F1 car – I’d tried it too but as I sat into the cockpit of the F1 car, I had to sink further and further down. To be honest, I cried off before the ride started and opted for the regular car. I really found the F1 cockpit particularly claustrophobic and it made me feel really uncomfortable. Also gave me a new found respect for F1 drivers too!
You can also drive a REAL Ferrari California around an outside track for twenty five kilometres. No really, you can!
Driving a Ferrari has been on my bucket list for a while and now I was finally going to get to do it….or so I thought. I rocked up with my six hundred dirhams (about €150). Then when asked for my driving licence, I realised it was in Ireland. Not much good there and my dream was dashed. After a short but compulsory visit to the (very overpriced) gift shop, it was time to go. We had arrived in the early evening and spent three hours in the place. It closes at 8pm and we left around then. Arriving late in the afternoon, you run the risk of not being able to ride the fastest rollercoaster in the world, the Formula Rosso ; admittedly that didn’t really bother me if you know what I mean!!!
Suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Ferrari World. If you are in Dubai or Abu Dhabi make it your business to pay a visit, especially if you are into (super)cars.
(Husband of The Travel Expert) 🙂