Three years' work: but Rome wasn't built in a day

Ferrari World shows off its progress and salutes its Italian heritage as years of construction come down to the final details.

What started as a doodle on a napkin is quickly taking shape under Ferrari World's 200,000-square-metre red roof, as developers behind the world's largest indoor theme park enter full gallop to meet the planned opening date of October 28. The first look inside the Yas Island park's cavernous fairgrounds yesterday showed a work-in-progress coming to life. As base paint was applied to a miniature alpine backdrop winding around a Venetian lagoon, Claus Frimand, general manager of Ferrari World, gestured at the Italian riviera built to scale around him.

"Now we're bringing in the colour," he said. "Right now there's a lot of concrete. You'll see here the rock work is all grey. The next thing that's going to happen here is we'll get paint on the mountains - the greens, the browns, the white on the alps." Once complete, the 86,000 sq m space will house more than 20 attractions and shows. The roof, which bears the world's largest Ferrari logo at 65m by 48.5m, reaches 50m.

Many of the sights within the enclosed space were not yet ready for viewing. Sheets were draped over several scale Ferraris painted in vintage finishings such as rosso corsa (red) and celeste met (metallic light green). Even with most of the attractions still literally under wraps, Ferrari World yesterday invited the Italian ambassador, Paolo Dionisi, to tour the site's Bell'Italia feature to mark his homeland's national day.

The attraction, a scale reproduction of the Italian coastline, can be navigated by foot or in a replica 1957 Ferrari 250 California Spyder guided by a track. Replicas of Portofino Village, the Amalfi Coast and famous sites such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa are to be hemmed in by mountains fashioned from the same texture of rocks in the Italian Alps. The models were built by artisans in Italy, according to Troy Lindquist, the director of marketing and sales for Ferrari World.

"There is Venice. You can see there," Mr Dionisi said, stepping along a 570-metre cobbled stone walkway with his two young daughters in tow. "This is the Roman Forum, the Colosseum. This is where I'm from." For his part, Mr Frimand was more interested in the reactions from the ambassador's children, nine and six years old. "When you see their eyes and when they're sitting in their own little Ferrari, where they can imagine in a couple months they'll be driving through Italy, that's where all the excitement is," Mr Frimand said.

That is not to say an older crowd of thrill-seekers will not be well-served, with a 62-metre "drop tower" sprouting from the centre of the park just behind Bell'Italia and emerging out of the roof, pointed out Paul Flynn, the park's rides and attractions manager. "This is the highest point at Yas Island," he said. "We've got the ability to shoot people up and drop them down and to just hang people up there. It's definitely a good view of the island."

Riders strapped into the buckets would experience the same G forces that high-performance race drivers endure on the track. Screams from the drop tower will serenade patrons taking a serene cruise through Bell'Italia. The park will also boast two rollercoasters. The F1-themed Formula Rossa, touted as the world's fastest, will reach speeds of up to 240kph. The duelling GT Experience coaster will simulate a drag race between two Ferrari F430 Spyders.

Gearheads more interested in the mechanics of Ferrari engines will be able to board a flume ride transporting them along a canal through a Ferrari V12 engine. "Basically, you're sucked into the grille and you feel like you're shrunk to the size of an air molecule," said Andy Keeling, the park manager. "You're taken on a journey in a boat that takes you through the combusting chambers, with the pistons firing and going up and down, then you go through the gearbox. Eventually, you're shot out of the exhaust pipe."

The headway made so far and in just three years is a long way from the early building designs from Benoy Architects, Mr Frimand said. "The architect from Benoy started doing some sketches on a napkin, and he was inspired by the curve of a Ferrari GT car, that look from the side where you can actually see the classic, soft lines of a Ferrari car." With nearly five months to go before the grand opening of Ferrari World, ride vendors and their teams will need to put finishing touches on their attractions.

At Bell'Italia, for instance, a model Roman Colosseum rested on cinderblocks off the elevated walkway and must be installed. Still to be added are theatre lighting effects as well as the planting of some 40,000 small trees and shrubs. Mr Frimand said 4,000 people are working every day to see the project through. "All the heavy equipment is already there. The tracks are installed, and now the different ride vendors are here with their teams to finalise their attractions," he said.

"It's all mainly down to the details."