Build, race and wreck the Lego Ferrari of your dreams

Kids who dream of becoming Formula 1 race car drivers and their parents who grew up playing with Matchbox cars will have a blast building their own Lego Ferraris and tackling a series of race tracks at a new Legoland California attraction.

The new Lego Ferrari Build and Race attraction that debuted this month at the Carlsbad theme park lets kids build, test and race the distinctive Rosso red sports cars.

The Lego Ferrari attraction is truly interactive from start to finish — something all theme parks strive for, but few deliver. Lego Ferrari Build and Race fits perfectly into the Legoland ethos emphasizing hands-on play that turns kids into ninjas, pirates, firefighters and now race car drivers.

The Build and Race attraction lobby is ringed by a Ferrari motorsports timeline with vintage photos and videos along with Lego brick race trophies, steering wheels and racing helmets. Lego pit crew chief Dina — named in honor of automaker Enzo Ferrari’s son Dino who died at a young age — serves as host of the attraction while tossing out Ferrari facts and historic information.

The highlight of the lobby is a life-size Ferrari F40 made out of 936,824 Lego bricks. God bless the model builder who drew the task of keeping count of all the Lego bricks that went into the car’s 1,800 hours of construction.

The driver’s door of the Lego F40 swings open with a real-world contoured racing seat inside — but visitors can’t climb into the car, no matter how tantalizing the temptation. The initial plan was to let visitors get behind the Lego steering wheel — but the brick-built Ferrari interior proved far too cramped for kids, never mind grown adults.

The Lego F40 still makes a fun photo op prop with working headlights and turn blinkers that most visitors will find hard to resist.

The first stop after the lobby tour is the car-building garage where kids and parents get to construct their own Lego Ferrari in a variety of styles — from sleek sports cars to open cockpit F1 cars. Size-wise, the 8-inch-long Lego Ferraris fall somewhere between the Matchbox cars every child grows up with and the tiny Autopia-style autos kids get to drive at Legoland’s Driving Academy.

Every car builder has three choices: Start from scratch and build a car themselves with a river of Lego blocks, add onto a prebuilt chassis with four wheels already in place, or grab a fully-built F40 and head off to the races.

There were plenty of kids during a VIP media preview who opted for the do-it-yourself approach — this is Legoland after all, where every day is filled with Lego building opportunities. The Lego Ferrari Build and Race attraction has the satisfying conclusion of being able to race your very own car creation on a series of five race courses.

Matchbox cars are an apt comparison for the new Build and Race attraction. The five Legoland hands-on race tracks feature many of the over-the-top components that will be familiar to Matchbox car race track builders.

The highlight of the attraction: the twin Wheel of Death tracks that challenge car builders to jump their Lego creations through a life-size racing tire. The results are often catastrophic and hilarious. Directing the Lego F40s through a Wheel of Death is much harder than it looks. Horrendous crashes are commonplace with Lego blocks flying in all directions just like a real Formula 1 wreck.

That, of course, is the inherent fun of Lego Ferrari Build and Race. If your car explodes into a thousand pieces, Legoland has a river of red, black, gray and white bricks waiting nearby at a series of pit stops where you can rebuild the Lego race car of your dreams.

During the VIP preview, determined kids tried dozens of times to make their cars soar through the Wheel of Death before eventually tackling the challenge with arms raised in a celebratory victory V.

Unsuccessful drivers confounded by the tires or aerodynamics of their cars — most often parents rather than their kids — needed to look no further than the driver in the rearview mirror to find the reason their race car couldn’t thread the needle and successfully navigate the Wheel of Death. Practice makes perfect. Kids understand that. By and large, parents at the VIP preview lacked the patience and determination of their offspring.

The five Build and Race tracks are gravity-fed contraptions not unlike the Rube Goldberg-like Matchbox track sets that kids have jury rigged in their living rooms for generations.

There are two tracks for beginners — one that passes under a massive Ferrari engine with a satisfying revving roar and an undulating Duplo version for the littlest tots.

Competitive types will be drawn to the Speed Track where six Lego Ferraris race side by side. Times are measured to the 1,000th of second with a winner crowned after every race. It takes longer for the kids and parents to gather their cars at the finish line and run back to the starting line then it does to complete a race on the ramped track. Winning times usually clock in around the one-second mark.

The final Racing Zone is inspired by Ferrari’s Pista Di Fiorano research and development test track in Italy. Drivers digitally scan their Lego Ferraris and transform their brick-built creations into video game race cars. The six scanning stations gauge the weight, drag and downforce of the Lego Ferraris and let racers customize their digital cars with race numbers, racing stickers and color schemes.

You’ll need to decide on engine and tire types based on the track conditions — which could be sunny or rainy. Pay close attention because the weather at the virtual Pista Di Fiorano changes every 30 seconds.

After the last-minute adjustments, it’s time to race your digital doppelganger on a video game track the size of a two-car garage. You’ll have two controllers — one for a speed boost and the other for lane changes. The tin can-sized “buttons” are not really buttons. You don’t press them. They are motion sensors.

Novice drivers who press their hands on the speed button for the entire two-lap race will be disappointed by their utter lack of oomph. The trick is to swipe over the booster button on the straightaways and conserve your limited amount of RPMs for key passing moments when the Lane Switch button comes into use.

Real-world Lego spectators, race cars and pit stop buildings line the digital race track that features a number of hairpin turns and elevation changes.

Even though it’s “your” car, you can’t take it home with you. Legoland model citizens — Lego-speak for employees — are on hand at the exit to retrieve your Lego Ferrari and ferry it back to the starting line of the attraction. There’s a display wall near the exit for the most creative Lego race cars built throughout the day.

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A young Legoland California visitor checks out the Lego Ferrari F40 at the new Lego Ferrari Build and Race attraction. young Legoland California visitor checks out the Lego Ferrari F40 at the new Lego Ferrari Build and Race attraction. Brady MacDonald/Orange County Register/TNS
Kids and parents both will have a blast at Legoland California attraction

By Brady MacDonald

The Orange County Register