Joy Ride at Ferrari Theme Park
by Preeti Verma Lal
From the sky, it looks like a red amoebic blob. Get closer and the blob metamorphoses into a red eagle sprawled on the stark brown desert canvas. Get little closer and you would notice the black horse, the world’s largest Scuderai Ferrari prancing horse emblem. Squint harder and only then does the truth dawn – the colossal red blob is actually the roof of Ferrari’s Theme Park, Ferrari’s first and the world’s largest indoor theme park housed in Abu Dhabi ’s Yas Island . Perhaps ‘largest’ is a gross understatement – at 65 x 45 metres, the Ferrari logo is colossal enough to house seven basketball courts and the 2.15 million square feet roof which replicates the classic double-curve body shell of a Ferrari GT car is about the length of seven Statues of Liberty if they were laid head to toe. And if you tried turning the Ferrari Theme Park upright, it would be the world’s tallest manmade structure at 300 floors!
Even before I could take the elevator to step into 86,000 square metres of indoor space, I got caught in the semantics of superlatives. Everything in this oh!so Ferrari Park seemed largest, tallest, biggest… Even fastest. Like the Formula Rossa roller coaster that soars 52 metres into the sky and touches the speed of 240 kmph in less than five seconds. The world’s fastest roller coaster flies through chicanes and could pound a feeble heart with its 20,800 horse power. Phew! As if this wasn’t enough for a massive adrenaline rush, there’s the Ferrari F430 Spider for the Fiorano GT Challenge, a coaster laden with hairpin bends and twisted parallel tracks. Or, the G-Force that shoots one through the roof to the highest point in the island. And no, this is neither tardy nor boxy like an elevator; it is a crystal-glazed funnel that seems to hold the weight of the roof on its million metal nodes.
I looked at the funnel and baulked. I was ready for a ride, but I was spoilt for choices. Should I veer the steering wheel of the state-of-the-art simulators? Journey into the heart of 12-cylinder Ferrari 599 engine and rush on to the flume ride through giant pistons, inner chambers, maze of passageways and tight squeezes? Or see the making of a Ferrari in Made in Maranello factory tour? I was ready to queue up for the V12 Ride, when the sound of the muscular Ferrari engine distracted me. Did someone rev up the red Ferrari that was perched precariously on a vertical track? I looked around. The muscular engines roared harder tearing through the chaos of the Paddock and the Pit Wall. The coasters were silent and the concept cars in the Carousel were sitting languorously on their concrete tracks.
“Buon Giorno”. The noise was interrupted by a guttural Italian greeting. I had wandered into Bell Italia, a miniature Italy where historic landscapes, famous landmarks and racing venues have been created painstakingly. I hopped into a beige 1958 Ferrari 250 California car that rattled on the automated iron tracks for a leisurely drive through picturesque Portofino and Amalfi coast, the Monza racetrack flanked by rugged brown Alps and 40,000 hand-planted miniature trees. The buildings in Bell Italia are 1:20 scale replica of the original. Everything looks tiny, everything looks Italian, everything so fairy-tale-ish that you wonder whether elves live under slanted roofs, mischievous gerbils burrow the mountains and where Ferraris go lazy with a speed of 5.45 kmph!
Honestly, I saw no elves with pixie hats. But I had no regrets, for the dapper Enzo Ferrari was waiting at Cinema Maranello. I had heard stories of the mule-shoer in the Italian army, who knew not much of arithmetic but loved to grind the gears and scatter the gravel in ‘the race’; of the man who adopted the prancing horse emblem in 1923 and in 1947 started making cars bearing his name. Enzo was dapper, he rarely granted interviews, but everyday at the Ferrari Theme Park , his story would unfold in the film Coppa di Sicilia on a screen that is nearly double the size of an ordinary cinema.
It took nearly three years to build the Ferrari Theme Park.But in less than three hours I was running out of superlatives to describe the Park that gobbled 100,000 cubic metres of concrete and 12,370 tonnes of steel (the Eiffel Tower only needed 7,000 tonnes). At the end of it, superlatives were not my distress – I had sore feet, my knees were wobbly and too much adrenaline whipped my hunger. I walked into Ristornate Cavalino, named after the first restaurant that was opened next to the Ferrari factory. It was here that Enzo dined and it was here that I ordered my favourite pizza. I am not sure whether Enzo worried about the quality of food in the trattoria; I did not, because I knew Michelin star experienced chefs would roll the dough and rustle the pizza for me.
At the Ferrari Theme Park , I ran out of superlatives, pumped enough adrenaline to last a lifetime, looked for elves in Bell Italia and steered the 30 Ferraris that are displayed through the park, Wait, it ain’t over yet; I have not seen the museum yet. But that can wait, I need to finish the pizza first!
Business Standard, 2010