Day two of our trip began with a pleasant ninety minute drive to Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. Our first target was a family entertainment center in the Yas Mall with a small coaster, which we eventually found after about twenty minutes of walking in different directions.
Yolo Works (#2198) is one of two known installations of the Drifter from IE Park, an oval-shaped ride with a twelve seat car that can rotate slowly as it is shunted around the track by a pair of tyre drive mechanisms. Those who've travelled to China might recognise the basicconcept, and might hope that a European company would engineer an improved design. Jingbei's version of the ride however was a lot better than this model, which, to be blunt, had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The car had heavy over-the-shoulder restraints, and every time it crossed the motors it shuddered badly enough to shake fillings loose. The motion wasn't fun in any way, and none of us were sorry when we came to a stop. Megan described the experience as pointless and stupid and just plain awful, and that's really all there is to say.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
12th March 2016
In its first season Ferrari World Abu Dhabi was a half day park at best, with quite a few trip reports including mine lamenting the dearth of attractions. Worse yet, quite a few of the rides that were present were not very good, notably a poor quality flume and a shot tower that experienced more than its share of technical problems. Today the facility remains somewhat sparse, but a major upgrade is in progress that will add seven new rides, including three roller coasters. The first of these opened shortly before our trip, and as early reviews were overwhelmingly positive I decided it was worth reworking our itinerary so as to fit in a visit.
Rather than start off with the new ride we decided to begin our visit with Formula Rossa, a launched coaster that has held the title of the world's fastest since it premiered six years ago with an incredible top speed of 149mph. It's worth noting that no coasters built in the intervening years have reached 100mph, and the only one to get close was a commercial disaster that operated for just four days before closing permanently. The small handful of enthusiasts who made it there described a fantastic launch followed by trim brakes and a dull ride whose layout was memorable for featuring almost six hundred metres of perfectly straight and level track.
Some of the more vocal members of the enthusiast community have used the same "d-word" to describe Formula Rossa, pointing out (correctly) that there are a number of magnetic brake fins on the first hill that bleed quite a bit from the overall top speed. However, the layout from that point onwards traverses a series of ground level helices and floating airtime hills that are still taken at a faster speed than any other existing coaster. The sensations post-launch can be thought of as similar to those experienced on Millennium Force after its first drop; this is a coaster that is about speed more than anything else, and while the layout could certainly do more it's unfair to judge it for being exactly what it tries to be.
We enjoyed four laps over the course of the day, including three in the front seat and one in the back. An enthusiast friend at the park with us suggested that the front seat wasn't particularly comfortable, and he wasn't completely wrong about that as the wind did begin to sting at top speeds. That said, the very minor discomfort was more than compensated for by the view and high speed blur that was lacking at the other end of the train. It's worth calling out that the back seat also suffered from some fairly severe vibration that I don't remember being an issue on my last visit.
In the first twelve years of this millennium Intamin Amusement Rides sold a total of twenty-three roller coasters to parks in the United States, including a number of highly regarded rides and recordbreakers. The run of success came to an abrupt end due to a combination of factors, including a series of high profile accidents, indefensible remarks from the company, and a record-breaking water ride that was removed due to reliability issues after less than five years. Intamin is still producing several coasters every year, but the majority these days are going to Asia; the last American installation was Skyrush, a prototype wing coaster design that opened in 2012 to polarised reviews; lots of people loved it, but just as many people hated it due to major issues with rider comfort.
Flying Aces (#2199) represents an evolution of the technology first seen on Skyrush. The twenty-eight seat trains feature improved restraints (solving the major complaint with the original model) and a themed lead car with a propeller and gauges designed to resemble the cockpit of a vintage biplane. An enormous amount of effort has been put into theming the queue, starting with the entrance that resembles an an aircraft barn and continuing with a crashed biplane in an artificial tree and the "91st Squadron Barracks" that could have been lifted directly from a World War One museum.
The cable lift mechanism operates at an incredible eight metres per second, making it the fastest of its type by some margin, hauling the train to the sixty-three metre apex in just twelve seconds. From there a twisted drop goes slightly below ground level into a trench and a non-inverting loop that for the moment at least is the tallest of its kind; a taller version is under construction at Hefei Wanda Cultural Tourism City in China. Most of the remaining course is made up of moderately intense airtime hills and tight turns, though there's a well hidden heart line roll right before the final brakes that is negotiated with no jarring whatsoever.
The layout lacks the sheer aggression of its stateside cousin, but it more than makes up for that with improved rider comfort and a somewhat longer course. We completed a total of three laps at various stages of the day. Of the seats I tried my favourite was the front left edge, thanks to a "foot-chopper" effect involving the building roof. Front center was almost as good, though I was less taken with the back right edge which had a bit of a rattle to it.
That being said, it would be remiss of me not to record that the operations today were pretty awful. The ride apparently has two trains, but only one was in use, with a dispatch interval averaging around eight minutes. The boarding platform wasn't visible from the queue thanks to automatic doors, so I'm not able to say conclusively what was causing the delay, but on each occasion it was several minutes after when we heard the train park before the doors opened for boarding. Worse yet, the park has chosen to prioritise a Fast Pass queue without limits, and on one occasion we saw all but five of the seats being filled with Fast Pass users. The posted waiting time of fifteen minutes wasn't even close to being accurate, making me quite glad that were not visiting on a busy day.
After a lunch break we headed for the two tracks of Fiorano GT Challenge. My old trip report described this ride as good but not outstanding, though in hindsight I think I may have been overly generous in my praise. Two parallel tracks with three car trains spend over a minute following each other around layouts that are for the most part made of up long flat sections punctuated by gently angled turns. There is no pacing; every fifteen seconds or so a brake segment slows the trains slightly, only for them to be accelerated back to their original speed by another launch. The designers were clearly trying to simulate a car race, but it's kind of tough to do that with a top speed of around sixty kilometres per hour. Worse yet, the tracking has gotten quite uneven in the last few years, and while I wouldn't describe it as rough I'd be a very unhappy Ferrari owner if my car handled that badly at slow speeds!
Aside from the coasters we tried out a pair of dark rides. My old report mentions Speed of Magic but doesn't describe it; in general terms, the ride tells the story of a child who can't beat a video game, and to make him feel better his father tosses him the keys to his new Ferrari. A character from the video game reaches out of the controller, swipes the keys, and tells our hero to come catch him. The chase is performed from tracked vehicles that move between physical scenery and projections, but a sizeable number of the projectors were out of focus today, and the resulting induced headache left me unimpressed with the overall experience.
I was slightly more taken with Viaggio in Italia, a local version of the "Soaring" ride featuring assorted scenes from around Italy interspersed with following a Ferrari around winding roads. The presentation was certainly better than someversions I've come across, though the visual effect was somewhat spoiled by the entire scene crossfading into a Ferrari logo some ten seconds before the seats lowered back to ground level.
12th March 2016
We dropped our rental car off at the designated area of Abu Dhabi International Airport and went looking for a check-in desk. The computer screens told us that our flight would be leaving from terminal two, but much our chagrin we couldn't find it on any of the maps; the signage referred only to terminals one and three. We ended up asking a security guard, who was surprised by our question but was managed to tell us that we'd need to take a taxi.
Fifteen minutes later we were unloading luggage when we were accosted by another security guard who without preamble told us that we were at the wrong terminal, drawing the obvious conclusion from the sight of three caucasian faces sticking out like a sore thumb from among thousands of people from the subcontinent. When we told him we were travelling to Sylhet his immediate response was confusion, asking us where that was. Our response of Bangladesh drew a raised eyebrow and a questioning look. We decided against admitting that we were travelling for theme parks; it seemed unlikely that he'd understand.