If you have the slightest interest in cars, or indeed 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. When it comes to cars, if you want to see the fastest and most beautiful cars, a visit to Ferrari World on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi is a must. The first thing that struck me, in the five minute cab ride from our 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 red, and obviously a much grander scale. As the taxi pulls up, all I can see is Ferrari red, and the ‘prancing horse’ insignia is everywhere. Excitement grew. I was like a boy in a toyshop, or a closet petrolhead that was about to have the chance to get up close and personal with some very exotic supercars from the famous Italian stable. This is what Ferrari World is all about.
Beaten by the heat, I quickly made my way inside to the comfort of the air-conditioned building. I 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, I was greeted by Ferrari engines, on ‘thrones’ in the centre of the walkway, set amid the Ferrari red of the walls and glass structure. At the end of the corridor I entered a cavernous building, filled with the iconic Ferrari cars. Some are elevated on plinths, some just close enough to touch. Obviously the expensive ones are elevated to protect the paintwork from hot sticky handprints. They were all there, from the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (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, I sat into bucket seats, with the windscreen fully wrapped around a High Definition screen. I got the count down via digital traffic lights and on green, I ‘drove’ around the Abu Dhabi race track for a number of laps.
The car shunted and wobbled under the power of the engine and I needed to be careful not to run off the track – something I did not manage very often. The car pitched and rolled as I entered corners, and I was thrown back into my seat as I navigated and accelerated down the straight.
Whilst this is an experience in driving, it is a virtual reality ride. That said, my heart was racing after the ride, and 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). But when I was asked for my driving licence, I realised I had left it in Ireland – it wasn’t much good to me there. 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 at Ferrari World. 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…
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 a petrol head like me.
(Husband of The Travel Expert) 🙂