Talk about cornering like it's on rails — Louise Goldsbury spends a death-defying day at an Abu Dhabi oasis devoted to all things Ferrari.
IN THE queue for the world's fastest roller-coaster, I have too much time to ponder why the attendants are handing out safety goggles. Is it possible that my eyeballs could explode from back of my skull? Might a bird collide with my face? Can humans be blinded by flying through the air at 240km/h? There is one way to find out.
Formula Rossa, at Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World, hits 100km/h in the first two seconds. Then the speed doubles and riders get a temporary facelift. The overwhelming G-force (4.8) is said to replicate the experiences of formula one drivers.
When the previous group returns to the starting line, they look disturbingly startled. I step into the front car and sink into my seat in pole position. The harness is pressed against my legs, which have turned to jelly. An engine roars as smoke spews from the tyres. Suddenly, with a screech (probably mine), we take off.
Like a jet fighter, the red coaster blasts out straight and then shoots upwards. The acceleration is so powerful I can't breathe or scream. My head is pinned back and my hands are locked on the steel bar in a death grip. This is the most intense five seconds of my life.
It's almost a relief to reach the first corner and be flung sidewards, then whipped back upright. The twists and turns continue until a flag comes down at the finish line, when it is too late for my brain to work out what just happened. All the more reason to do it again.
Ferrari World, the largest attraction of its kind, opened in November. Surrounded by desert, the indoor theme park houses more than 20 thrill-seeking rides.
Aside from the Formula Rossa, the crowd-puller is G-Force, a tower that launches its passengers 62 metres into the sky, then plummets them to earth, leaving their stomachs behind.
V12 is not quite as extreme and a lot more fun. This flume ride journeys into the heart of a super-size Ferrari 599 engine, complete with giant pistons and churning cylinders. For a closer taste of the race sensation, there are several kinds of simulators, similar to those used in training by professional drivers.
Some rides are educational, taking visitors through the history of 1950s rallies and the creation of the Ferrari company. The Paddock goes behind the scenes at a grand prix. Revheads will also love the displays of Ferraris, from 1947 vintage models to the latest racing machines.
A section of the park is devoted to children. The merry-go-round features Ferrari concept cars and kids can play in a waterless car wash.
A driving school teaches aspiring Schumachers how to handle a scaled-down 430 GT Spider. Junior drivers learn to use a roundabout and to handle hairpin turns.
To avoid the crowds, visit on a Friday morning, when many locals are at prayer. For this reason, do not be alarmed by the prayer room on-site - but keep it in mind before attempting the Formula Rossa.
The writer was a guest of Creative Holidays.
Etihad flies twice daily from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, priced from $1868. (02) 8024 7200, etihadairways.com.
Creative Holidays can tailor a trip from Abu Dhabi airport to Ferrari World for travellers on a stopover. 13 12 22, www.creativeholidays.com.