Takabisha captivates the World with steepest roller coaster drop

For weeks now Fuji Q Highlands’ new roller coaster, Takabisha, has made international headlines. The steel Gerstlauer roller coaster has pushed the steepness envelope by setting a World record setting 121-degree drop. As I documented in my article, Five ways roller coasters have changed since you were a kid, roller coasters with beyond 90-degree drops are nothing new. Hersheypark’s Fahrenheit boasts a 97-degree drop and Steel Hawg at Indiana Beach made history when it opened in 2008 with an 111-degree drop. Steel Hawg was dethroned by the UK’s Mumbo Jumbo at Flamingoland which edged it out with a 112-degree drop.

There have also been a number of other roller coasters with these super steep drops, but the trend had seemed to go pretty much unnoticed to the media. Roller coaster fans like myself find them interesting, but the steepness record holder never got the kind of attention that the World’s fastest roller coaster (Formula Rossa) or the World’s tallest roller coaster (Kingda Ka) has received.

This is why I am so surprised by the enormous media attention that Takabisha, a roller coaster in Japan, has received here in the U.S. Many of my non-roller coaster loving friends and family have mentioned the ride to me, I’ve been contacted by the media to speak about it, it’s been featured on morning radio shows, on a late night talk show, and it’s been covered by national and international media outlets.

Of course this attention is a very good thing for Fuji-Q Highland. I would imagine that this international coverage is why a theme park would spend a reported $37 million to build a record breaking roller coaster. I have to wonder if there’s an amusement park, if not several, that are ordering a Takabisha clone or a similar roller coaster from Gerstlauer. A roller coaster that could surpass Takabisha with a 122-degree drop wouldn’t have to be as large or as costly while still providing some real buzz and interest on a large scale.

Like the race to build the tallest roller coasters in the 1990’s, could the battle for the steepest roller coaster be the new roller coaster arms race? Don’t be shocked if a theme park announces plans to build a new roller coaster with a record setting drop in 2012 or 2013. Takabisha has captivated the World and any theme park would love that kind of notoriety.

Here’s an on-ride video of Takabisha. The drop is at about 1:50 as the ride starts with a launch and an indoor section.

Iraq War veteran dies from roller coaster accident at Darien Lake

Buffalo-area theme park Darien Lake was the site of a tragedy on Friday when a man, former Iraq war vet Sgt. James Hackemer, died after falling from a roller coaster. Hackemer was a double leg amputee after losing his legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq three years ago.

The accident happened on the twenty story tall roller coaster called Ride of Steel. It has large hills, banked curves, and speeds in excess of 70 mph. The roller coaster’s trains use a lap bar restraints (pictured here).

Hackemer’s nephew Ashton Luffred, who rode with him, shared his account of the horrible accident in a New York Post article. According to Luffred, Hackemer asked guest services which rides were safe for him to ride and he was told that he could ride all of them. Hackemer was ejected on one of the smaller camel back-shaped hills on the trip back to the station.

In statements to the press and on Darien Lake’s home page, the park says that they are investigating the accident with the local authorities and safety experts. The Ride of Steel roller coaster will remained closed until the investigation is complete while the rest of the park will be open.

[Photo Credit – Flickr User OliverN5]

Extreme thrills on America’s most intense roller coasters

Based on my experiences and the general opinions and buzz from other roller coaster enthusiasts, here’s a list of what I consider to be America’s most intense roller coasters.

The Voyage at Holiday World
Holiday World’s The Voyage is one of the largest and fastest wooden roller coasters in the World. The out and back terrain coaster provides an intense 2 minute and 45 second marathon of thrills. After leaving the station, The Voyage delivers an onslaught of large hills, five underground tunnels, three ridiculously banked 90-degree turns, and a record-setting 24 seconds of air time as riders are lifted out of their seats throughout the adventure. Each time I got off of The Voyage I was physically exhausted, but also excited to get back in line and take the trip again. The Voyage is a rare wooden roller coaster in that it’s intense and a tad rough, but still fun and completely re-rideable.

X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain’s X2 has an insane riding position. It places riders on either side of the track instead of on top or below it. In turn, exposing riders and giving them virtually no place to hide. Not only is the seating position off-putting and intimidating, but the seats rotate riders 360-degrees forward and backward. If that wasn’t enough, the ride’s opening dive sends you plummeting head first towards the ground. X2 was so intense that it made the middle-aged mom that I rode with see her life pass before her eyes.

Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure and Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point
Six Flags Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka and Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster are two very similar roller coasters that boast staggering stats. At over 40 stories tall, they’re literally skyscrapers earning them the rare distinction of strata coasters. While the climb to that lofty altitude and subsequent plunge are both very memorable moments, the rides’ launches are a 10 out of 10 on the intensity scale. Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster accelerate their passengers from 0 to speeds of 128 mph and 120 mph respectively in about four seconds. Overall, I wouldn’t call them the best all-around roller coasters, but the feeling of that sheer power and acceleration is something that has to be experienced. As my cheeks flapped in the wind I wondered, “How much faster can this thing go?”

Clearly there are other intense roller coasters, but for me these are the most extreme. Which roller coasters would you consider the most intense? [Photo Credit: Flickr user – Intamin 10]

Cedar Point opens WindSeeker in the year of the tower ride

Cedar Point opened their new tower ride WindSeeker last week. The 301 foot tall ride spins riders in two-person swings at speeds of 25 to 30 mph. At 30 stories above the park, guests are treated to a great view of Lake Erie, the beach, and Cedar Point’s massive collection of roller coasters and theme park rides.

Here’s a video covering the Cedar Point’s WindSeeker as it opens. At about 4 minutes into the video you can see the ride operate with its impressive lighting system. It looks pretty incredible at night.

Like Hollywood’s summer of sequels a number of theme parks are all inexplicably opening tower rides this year. There are WindSeeker clones that will be popping up at sister Cedar Fair parks Kings Island (near Cincinatti), Knotts Berry Farm (near Los Angeles), and Canada’s Wonderland (near Toronto). Add to that Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Mach Tower and Six Flags’ SkyScreamers at Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (near San Francisco) and you’ve got quite an unusual trend.

Six Flags America closes Skull Mountain

Six Flags America, located in Bowie, Maryland, has announced that they will be closing Skull Mountain. The unique water flume ride with roller coaster-like elements has been in operation since 1997 when it was originally opened as Typhoon Sea Coaster. The first-of-its-kind ride has underwent changes since it opened, but I remember one unique feature being its turning mechanism that spun the boats. At one point in the ride, the boats were turned around and then the riders traveled backwards.

To give the unique ride a proper send off, Six Flags America is having a two-day pirate festival on July 9th and 10th. Also, starting next week, one of Skull Mountain’s boats will be placed in the midway allowing guests the ability to take photos. The park is also holding a last rider auction and a boat from Skull Mountain will be donated to the National Roller Coaster Museum. Make sure you get another ride in before July 10th. Hopefully, the park has a new attraction in the works to take the place of this fun ride. Read the full press release here. [Photo Credit – Flickr user Milst1]