Ferrari Finesse - August 2017

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Funworld takes PortAventura World’s newest park for a spin

by Juliana Gilling

NRAA17_logoPiero Ferrari, son of the iconic brand’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, pressed a giant red Engine Start button, and Ferrari Land at PortAventura World Parks & Resort in Spain roared into life on April 6. The air filled with glitter, and Puccini’s Italian aria “Nessun Dorma” as two scarlet cars seemed to streak out from the entrance arch, morphing into “arms” that embraced park visitors.

The message was clear: Ferrari Land puts the luxury car experience within everyone’s reach. “Everyone dreams of having and driving a Ferrari, and that is what it’s like here,” says Ferrari test driver Marc Gené. 

While guests can escape the exclusive price tag, Ferrari Land cost more than i100 million and is “the most ambitious project in the history of PortAventura World,” according to Arturo Mas-Sardá, chairman of PortAventura World. Ferrari Land enriches the resort’s “world of unique experiences” and is “an amazing opportunity” to attract new international markets, says Sergio Feder, president of the PortAventura World Executive Committee. 

Ferrari Land is the first and only Ferrari theme park in Europe and PortAventura World’s third park, after PortAventura Park (1995) and the PortAventura Caribe Aquatic Park (2002). “Ferrari Land is the third park inside a bigger destination resort,” explains Fernando Aldecoa, general manager for PortAventura World: “We are the only European tourist destination with three parks, five themed hotels, a convention center, three golf courses, and a beach club.” 

PortAventura World’s team are confident Ferrari Land will add an extra million visitors in 2017, pushing resort visitor numbers up to a record 5 million. 

Driving Force

From PortAventura World’s perspective, a partnership with Ferrari made perfect sense: “We have a long-term strategy of growth based on an alliance with the best brands in the world, and Ferrari is one of the most valuable, cherished, and well-known,” says Aldecoa. “We are convinced this park will gather together families, and people of all ages who are passionate about the world of motorsports, especially Formula 1 (F1). We have the best of both worlds—the world of Ferrari and the theme park world of PortAventura.” 

For Ferrari—a supercar brand that never stands still—Ferrari Land’s debut is as much a part of its 70th anniversary celebrations in 2017 as the rollout of its new 812 Superfast car. The deal with PortAventura World makes smart business sense as Ferrari seeks to increase sales while preserving the brand’s integrity. 

In PortAventura World, Ferrari found a prestigious theme park partner it could count on to deliver a product of the highest quality, “built with the best hands,” that “represented truthfully the Ferrari world,” says Luca Fuso, Ferrari’s chief brand officer.

Fuso and Feder believe their companies’ shared European identity and culture was fundamental to the successful alliance. It also drove the park’s design. The project’s masterminds (which included PGAV Destinations) have created a thematic bridge between the Mediterranean-themed area of PortAventura and the Italian-influenced Ferrari Land. Guests can access Ferrari Land through the PortAventura Park and from the main entrance of PortAventura World.

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 Driving a racing simulator is just one of the several Ferrari-themed attractions at the new park. (Credit: PortAventura World)

Supercar Superpark 

Ferrari Land is an easily manageable park for families, offering 11 attractions within 70,000 square meters. The idea is to immerse visitors in the “true spirit of Ferrari, and Ferrari Land has been designed as a tribute to the genius of Enzo Ferrari,” says Aldecoa. 

“It’s a milestone project for PortAventura World and a unique undertaking from a technical point of view,” says Ferrari Land Project Manager Luis Valencia.

The Rosso Corsa red architecture, prancing horse, and checkered flags associated with the Ferrari brand certainly stand out beneath the blue Spanish skies. The sleek heart of the park is the Ferrari Experience section, styled like the silhouette of the LaFerrari hypercar. Under its hood are three offerings: two media-based attractions and a gallery. At the main entrance, guests can steer right toward “Flying Dreams” or left to “Racing Legends.” The separate queues filter into a shared preshow arena where fluid, Ferrari-inspired images unfurl across a giant screen. Projection mapping animates models of Ferrari F1 and GT cars, which are suspended on each side of the screen. 

Enzo Ferrari waits to greet guests in his office next door, thanks to a clever Pepper’s Ghost illusion. The rather poignant encounter, in which the late motorsports maestro recalls the origins of his Ferrari factory in Maranello, elicits a round of applause from the audience.

Further on, vintage-style posters of Ferrari cars in glamorous locations line the walls, inviting visitors on the journey of a lifetime. Brogent Technologies’ i-Ride systems are the basis for the “Flying Dreams” experience. Guests are strapped into 6-DOF motion bases with suspended seats that swoop toward a panoramic dome screen. 

With feet dangling, wind and mist on their faces, they soar above GT Ferraris crusing perfect roads from London to China, Monument Valley to St. Petersburg. The “Flying Dreams” movie was filmed entirely with drones—mounted with a 5K resolution camera rig—at landmark locations around the world.

Creative studio Mousetrappe was responsible for creative direction on all media-based attractions inside the Ferrari Experience. It was “an incredible adventure,” says Mousetrappe’s founder and Scuderia Ferrari F1 fan, Daren Ulmer. Mousetrappe’s partners included Brogent Technologies, Simworx, MuseFX, Tau Films, Proof, and Jon Baker Productions (score for “Flying Dreams” by Bruce Broughton; “Racing Legends” queue and preshows by Tim Heintz). 

“Racing Legends” takes guests into a Ferrari hall of fame featuring such greats as Alberto Ascari, Niki Lauda, and Michael Schumacher. Then there’s an opportunity to experience racing on famous and futuristic circuits. The ride uses 10, eight-seat Stargazer motion bases from Simworx, themed as Ferrari F1 cars and equipped with special effects. The “cars” are arranged on three levels in front of a 23-meter-diameter projection screen.

The cool gallery space inside the Ferrari Experience is concealed behind black glass. Exhibits include a Ferrari 166 F2 and a startlingly green Ferrari 599 hybrid car, together with a touchscreen display that reveals more about Ferrari’s GT and F1 legacy. Photo opportunities with Ferrari cars are available for an extra fee.

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“Thrill Towers” offers two different ride experiences. (Credit: PortAventura World)

Full Throttle Fun

Outside, Intamin’s “Red Force”—the highest and fastest Intamin vertical Accelerator in Europe—puts on a muscular demonstration of power. Riders will reach 180 kph in five seconds on the 112-meter-high ride, which uses LSM technology for its high-speed launch. Spectators can watch trackside from a Ferrari-yellow grandstand. 

Nearby, guests whoosh up and down two piston-like “Thrill Towers” designed and manufactured by S&S. Each tower holds 12 passengers and stands 56 meters high, and up to 360 passengers per hour can experience maximum speeds of 64 kph. 

“Within the Combo Tower there are two different ride experiences,” says Gerald Ryan, executive director of sales at S&S. “The Combo Tower has a Space Shot mode that shoots you up vertically, while the Turbo Drop mode takes you to the top and shoots you down. There’s also the Combo Mode option, where you experience the Space Shot mode followed by the Turbo Drop.” 

“Thrill Towers” are the first TUV-certified towers in Europe that S&S has manufactured. S&S also supplied the rides’ custom piston-style marquee, with color matched to Ferrari’s branding. 

There are hands-on attractions throughout the park, such as “Maranello Grand Race,” a similar concept to Disney’s “Autopia.” Italian company C&S worked on the 570-meter circuit, where budding drivers can take to the tracks in 32 mini-Ferrari 488 Spider cars.

“Pole Position Challenge” incurs an extra charge (i19); the attraction comprises eight semi-professional simulators, similar to those used by F1 drivers during their training. Aldecoa was among the first to put his driving skills to the test on the low-slung simulators with wraparound screens: “It’s amazing—as close as you can get to the real thing.”

“Pit Stop Record” is proving to be prime selfie territory. Two teams of guests compete to see who can be the fastest to change the wheels on two full-sized Ferrari F1 cars. “I took two minutes,” says Aldecoa. “I’m told it’s normally 3-4 seconds, but I’ll keep on trying.”

Younger visitors are catered to with the “Junior Championship,” a Zamperla Speedway ride with eight miniature F1 cars running behind the re-created façade of Ferrari’s original factory. Children can also play on their own version of the winners’ podium. A spectacular and spacious Ferrari shop offers souvenirs for all tastes and budgets, including those that are keyring-sized. 

Pricing Test Drive

The park’s admission strategy is an intriguing experiment. Visitors must purchase a PortAventura Park ticket to buy a ticket to Ferrari Land. A two-park/one-day adult ticket costs i60 (guests can still buy tickets to the PortAventura Park separately; normal adult price is i47).

Essentially, PortAventura World is charging admission for an extra themed land, and other theme park operators are paying close attention to what they can learn from the example. Throughout the season, Ferrari Land will open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In high season, it will open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

“The launch price of i60 for two parks/one day has gone down incredibly well. Presales are very positive, and we sold out completely for Easter. The hotels were 100 percent full. We really feel this is going to be a record year,” says Mark Robinson, chief commercial officer at PortAventura World.

On the Brandwagon

PortAventura World’s links with brands such as Ferrari, Sesame Street, and Cirque du Soleil (which is returning to the resort this summer with “Varekai”) will help the business “become the best destination resort in Europe—and, at the same time, profitable,” says Aldecoa. After the hype, PortAventura World’s investments have to prove themselves and keep the tank fueled up for yearly developments. “This is key for our reputation in our guests’ eyes. We want to continue increasing the entertainment offering across our parks and developing the hospitality business,” says Aldecoa. PortAventura World’s 30-year licensing agreement with Ferrari includes the opportunity to develop a Hotel Ferrari. 

The prospect of exclusive events at Ferrari Land, coupled with PortAventura World Parks & Resort’s existing facilities, is already generating increased interest from the business and events market. Ferrari Land will also help the park extend the season: “From 2018 onward, we expect to be able to open Ferrari Land for more than 300 days,” Aldecoa says. 

“There will be a good return on our investment, for sure, and we are looking forward to expanding Ferrari Land and PortAventura in the coming years,” adds Robinson.   

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Ferrari Land delivers a distinctive Italian theme to match its namesake’s native country. (Credit: PortAventura World)

Magic of Italy

Most of Ferrari Land’s attractions are outdoors, which adds to the continental atmosphere. While the park’s big, signature machines have garnered a lot of attention, PortAventura World’s team has paid equal attention to the softer elements of the park. Visitors can wander through an Italian street and piazzas, past Enzo Ferrari’s home, and landmarks like the Colosseum and the Campanile di San Marco. They can dine in style like a Ferrari test driver at Ristorante Cavallino, a traditional Italian trattoria decorated with Ferrari memorabilia. The Pit Lane fast-food outlet serves pizzas, and families can treat themselves to a gelato as they watch the high-energy open-air shows and street entertainment. 

On a balmy summer’s evening, “Ferrari Land really gives you the feeling of being in Italy,” says Robinson. 

Ferrari Land embodies speed, technology, innovation, and passion, but it also relies on attention to detail and authenticity. “We have been completely immersed in the project,” Valencia says. “Ferrari has been working with us every step of the way, making sure we have it right.”

For Piero Ferrari, it’s important the new land captures the Ferrari spirit: “We want people to have fun in the park but we also want them to experience the history behind Ferrari: the men and women working hard, with heart. Ferrari people are dreamers but [also] doers.”

As his father, Enzo Ferrari, once said, “My engines have a soul.” PortAventura World and Ferrari must be hoping that same magic has slipped into Ferrari Land.