I Just Rode on the Fastest Roller Coaster in the World. Twice.
“I spent about four hours or so there and rode most of the rides and found the entrance fee worthwhile — but then again, I am somewhat of a coaster junkie.”
Those words from a friend were part of the reason why I changed my mind and decided to ride Formula Rossa, which is billed as the fastest roller coaster in the world with an acceleration of 240 kilometers per hour in fewer than five seconds.
I am not a roller coaster aficionado — I still believe that the Cyclone in Coney Island is the best roller coaster in the world overall — but I was already in Abu Dhabi. I initially balked at the entrance fee of 250 United Arab Emirates dirhams — which is slightly greater than $68.00, but it does include most of the attractions within Ferrari World on Yas Island where the roller coaster is located; and parking is free of charge as well — but I was convinced to try it.
After driving up to the parking deck from the E12 highway — there were plenty of parking spaces from which to choose, which was a good sign that the wait for the roller coaster was not going to be long — I parked the car and entered the complex, which is attached to the thankfully air-conditioned Yas Mall. There is a place within the mall where you can exchange currency. It charges a commission of two United Arab Emirates dirhams — approximately 54 cents — but there are places elsewhere in Abu Dhabi which give a slightly better exchange rate without charging a commission. The difference in cost was not worth running around town…
…and besides, Ferrari World accepts the following currencies: United Arab Emirates Dirhams, Bahrain Dinars, British Pounds, Qatar Riyals, Euros, Saudi Riyals, United States Dollars, Omani Riyals and Kuwaiti Dinars.
There was no line for tickets — another good sign that the wait for the roller coaster would not be too long, as I have heard that wait times could reach upwards of four hours for the ride which barely lasts longer than a minute.
“The wait for the roller coaster is between 20 and 30 minutes” said the ticket agent as I handed my money over to her. While I was not exactly jumping up and down for joy, that was an acceptable wait for me. Keep in mind that once you enter Ferrari World, there are no in-and-out privileges. Once you exit, that is it. Also, you cannot carry anything onto the roller coaster; but you can leave it with an attendant — which is what I had to do with my camera bag — who will place it in a numbered plastic bin and give you a rubber band with the number attached to it which you can wear on your wrist or arm.
The cars — there are only two attached cars with eight seats in each car, carrying a total of 16 passengers at a time — seemed as initially unimpressive as the track. Watching the cars seemingly meander effortlessly around the track caused me to briefly wonder if I wasted my money.
I will soon find out, I thought to myself as I waited in the queue.
It was now my turn, as I was automatically assigned to the last row in the last car. I grabbed a pair of plastic goggles, which are required to be worn for the ride. Forget legroom. Get used to being cramped if you have long legs. It is worse than a seat in the economy class cabin aboard an airplane.
I fastened my seat belt and lowered the lap bar, which was automatically locked. Shortly after that, the cars slowly moved forward and stopped…
…and then came the sudden lurch forward. Half of my body parts were still in the station by the time the coaster reached the first steep incline approximately seven seconds later.
Zooming and whipping; whipping and zooming; banking and abruptly jerking side to side, hair flying every which way: I have to admit that watching the coaster deceptively does not accurately illustrate what it is like being a passenger on the coaster itself. It was an adrenaline rush; and I enjoyed listening to the other passengers scream and make unintentionally gurgling noises with their lips caused by Category Four hurricane-force winds.
The ride was rather rough sitting in the back; so this intrepid reporter — who realized that he can ride as many times as he liked — decided to go and ride again.
This time: the front car. This time: it’s for real.
Let’s do it.
Tough guy that I am (?), I entered the queue — it was slightly longer this time — and when I finally reached the station again and realized I was going to be assigned to the same seat, I asked if I could sit in the front seat this time.
I did not realize that there was a separate entrance for that first row in the first car; but I had no problem with the agent accommodating my request…
…and there I was, awaiting my ride in the front seat, goggles on — where there is nothing in front to obstruct the view. Yes, that’s right — I get to see every steep angled bank and watch the tracks race under me unencumbered.
Admittedly, that did give me some trepidation given the rough ride of the first time around — but now it was time to go again.
I sat in the front seat and watch the water mist rise from the “hood” of the faux Ferrari that this roller coaster is supposed to emulate. I looked ahead at the steep first incline looming in the short distance anticipating my arrival as the car slowly moved forward into position…
…and then it lurched forward again, with the “4.8Gs” pressing against my face — but this time, it was different. The wind was deafening as it almost blew my ears off; but this time, the ride was incredibly exhilarating. The coaster gobbled up the track; and I found myself wanting to go faster. All trepidation melted away as I watched every turn; felt every bank while seeing the world around me in sharp angled viewpoints; and murmured to the wind to bring more on. Other passengers screamed. I took it all in and was disappointed when the ride came to an end.
Riding in the front is a different experience than riding in the back: you get far more of a view as there is nothing impeding upon your sight; and yet the ride is significantly smoother yet more exciting.
There is an outdoor observation deck from which you can watch the roller coaster complete most of its journey along the entire length of the track. There is not an area on the observation deck where smoking is not allowed; so if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke, you might want to keep this in mind.
The following photographs document in chronological order a typical ride on the fastest roller coaster in the world. I shot the pictures from the observation deck.
Whether or not the ride was worth $68.00 is a subjective call. If you are fascinated with roller coasters, Formula Rossa is a must to experience. I could have done without the experience and not have regretted it; but I am glad that I went ahead and did it anyway. Keep in mind that the $68.00 is good for the entire day; so you can ride Formula Rossa as many times as you like with the only impediments being the length of the queue and closing time, which is at 8:00 in the evening seven days per week. Ferrari World opens seven days per week at 11:00 in the morning. You cannot purchase a ticket solely to ride on Formula Rossa. The $68.00 also includes a voucher worth five United Arab Emirates dirhams towards the purchase of merchandise, if you are so inclined to purchase something.
You can order tickets via the Internet; but you will not save money. You might save time waiting in line to purchase your tickets if you arrive on a busy day.
I have heard reviews from others saying that the ride offered by this roller coaster is not the most thrilling or intense in the world. My experience suggests that this is indeed true; for if you want a hair-raising experience which will keep your heart pounding, your blood rushing and your lungs short of breath, just drive on Ring Road in Cairo.
I intend to give more details on that mess in a future article…
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.