There’s something about the sight of the prancing black stallion set against that giallo yellow that cries out to the descerning car lover like no other brand. I’m standing at the entrance to Europe’s newest theme park and all around me Car lovers are showing signs of palpitations. Theyre rubbing their sweaty palms and revving up with the anticipation of a ride to remember. I’m talking oil heat steam the fumes of gas and the roar of the engines. This and more is what Ferrari Land is all about!
Celebrating its seventieth year, the Ferrari brand has made a bold move in the eastern corner of Spain adding its name to a third theme park at the already hugely popular Portaventura in Salou. Two years in the making, the park boasts the tallest and fastest ride in Europe.
I’m at the opening event and I’ve a mission to get my picture taken with Piero Ferrari, son of the legendary founder Enzo who started his garage in Maranello seven decades ago. Wearing a pale gray pinstrip suit and elusive god-father style sunglasses I’m all too aware of the importance of his presence. I’m on the verge of stalking the man as he surveys the park for the first time. He’s surrounded by ‘his people’ but I won’t let that deter me from meeting this iconic man. It involves following him first and foremost a trip into the Flying Dreams ride which follows the trail of a Ferrari hugging cliff top corners along the Monte Carlo coast, crossing Westminster bridge in the rain and flying over st Petersburg. I miss my slot as pierro slips ahead in front of me but I’m not giving up. This man is one of the most famous in the car world so I persevere and track him down once more.
My efforts are rewarded as we approach another ride. I’m thinking if I get in line with his entourage I’ll step off at the same time as Piero and get the job done. However not until I go on the ride. It’s one of those moments when the attendants take your bag and tell you to take off your sunglasses off. I’m thinking how fast can this be as the red bar clicks down over my head with a thud.
I turn to my travelling companion and figure this might be a ‘should have gone to spec savers moment’.
The ride jerks and we’re off accompanied by the roar of a Ferrari formula 1 car and g force of a rocket. We reach 180km in five seconds and before I realise it we’re high in the Catalan skyline. It’s too late to think if my security bar is on correctly or if I’ve anything in my pockets. The cacophony of belly roars and screams around me exhilarating. Is this what it feels like to drive a formula 1 car?
Apparently so, as a few minutes later I catch up with Marc Gene, ambassador and test driver for Ferrari. He’s open to a photo and questions. He says that the force is the Closest anyone can feel to experiencing what it’s like to drive a formula one racing car. When I ask how the testing is done these days he tells me they are carried out in a simulator. This is great news for visitors to the park who can book their own simulator experience in the Pole Position ride.
Not the easiest vehicle to get in or out of but it certainly gives the ride authenticity and a sense of what it’s really like to ride a car. Booking ahead is essential to get a slot in the simulator.
I’m heady after all that excitement but haven’t got my elusive photo with Pierro. I settle in for an ice cream, Italian gelato of course, in the beautiful surrounding of the coliseum and St Marc’s, even the formidable statue of David is there looking down at me in all his masculine beauty.
Is this park just for the boys! Heck no Younger visitors can enjoy the excitement of driving the replica Maranello track and in miniature reproduction F1 cars. Teams can compete to provide the fastest wheel change of a true scale F1 car at the Pitstop which will bring out more than the kid in Ferrari lovers.
I’m on the search for pierro again and take a route via the thrill towers. The exhilarating options of the free fall and bounce back tower beckon but in the corner of my eye I spot pierro. I’m determined that he’s not getting away from me again and as I siddel up to him he affably agrees to a photo!
I have my moment and shake the hand of the man who is now Ferrari. It’s quite a thrill but I’ve had a few along the way. If you’re flying into Barcelona el prat or taking the speedier option of Reus airport this summer then put ferrariland on your list of must dos this summer! But maybe go to spec savers first!