A Ferrari that does 0-60mph in two seconds using the catapult from an aircraft carrier. Riding the world's fastest roller coaster
The Formula Rossa roller coaster: and an aerial shot of the Ferrari World building, the world's largest indoor theme park
The Formula Rossa, at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, is the world’s fastest rollercoaster. It does 0-60mph in less than two seconds, uses the type of hydraulic winch that flings jets off aircraft carriers, and hurtles round the track at 150mph. All of which is fine, and very impressive, apart from one thing. I’m sitting in it. And I’m beginning to see red.
Everything here is red. The rollercoaster is red, the outside of this outlandish building — a giant space-age scarab next to the Abu Dhabi F1 circuit, and the size of seven football pitches — is red. The staff are dressed in red, the maps, showing the 20 rides (including three other coasters), are red. There’s even red on the ticket I wish I hadn’t bought. And it’s the colour of most of the 30 real Ferraris on display, sparkling like polished stones on rakishly angled plinths.
This is not me. I’m not the guy who does rollercoasters. I haven’t been on one since an ill-fated fling at Alton Towers many years ago left me trembly-lipped and traumatised. But when my (former) friends back on the Travel desk heard that I was going to be close to the world’s fastest rollercoaster, they seemed unusually enthusiastic that I should experience it. And so now there’s a squidgy foam-clad bar across my waist and people are looking at me sympathetically. I’ve surrendered my house keys. They say it’s so they don’t fly off on a bend and poke someone’s eye out in Cairo.
The seat rockets forward. My ribcage pushes backwards, emptying my lungs like a deflated whoopee cushion The seat surges — rockets — forward. My ribcage pushes backwards, emptying my lungs like a deflated whoopee cushion, and in five seconds — with no helmet or shoulder harness, sitting upright without an enclosing canopy — I’m travelling at more than twice the legal speed limit on the M1. And my face is rippling. At the end of the launch track, before my brain and body know what hit them, the carriages careen upwards: 170ft above the desert floor.
The backwards G-forces are joined by downward ones until there really is no whoopee left in me. I’m about to die in a stupid Ferrari-coloured shooting star across the blue Emirati sky. My stomach punches into my mouth like a surfacing rescue pod from a submarine, and I begin to swear.
I curse the first nauseating turn, which arcs just 5ft above the ground, I yell over the next long hump, the next dip, the next full-tilt curve, and on and on. At last there is another colour here as I turn the air blue. It is unrelenting — my language and the ride. There is no loop-the-loop, no watery flume, no made-you-jump ghost-train tunnel. It’s pure adrenaline, pure speed. And then, less than two minutes after it started, the carriages decelerate back to the starting position.
The end of the ride; and the beginning of the stupid grin. Photo My Bathroom Wall
I shake hands with young Amal sitting next to me — once stranger, now blood brother. And then, for the next few days, I wonder if the stupid grin on my face will ever go away.