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The End of the Record Breaking Roller Coaster Era

Have We Seen the Last of the True Record Breaking Roller Coasters?
The recent announcement that Ferrari Experience’s F1 Coaster will be capable of 150 mph had me thinking. While this would be a record setting roller coaster, officials from the park said that they might actually operate it at lower speeds. This begs the question: Are we reaching the limits of roller coaster thrills? As part of a series of posts over the next week, dubbed “Record Breaking Roller Coasters Week”, I want to examine the record breaking coaster era and its possible demise. The human body can only take so many g-forces before a ride becomes uncomfortable or dangerous. Are we near that ceiling? Ferrari Experience’s reining in of the F1 Coaster could point to the end of an era.

The Roller Coasters with the Most Loops
The past four decades have produced a steady increase in technological advances and thrilling breakthroughs. In the 70’s it was the corkscrew and then the vertical loop. Then in the 80’s there was a race for the roller coaster Vortex at Kings Islandwith themost loops and a few new loops appeared. In my travels, I’ve been able to ride three former record holders for most loops: Corkscrew at Cedar Point (3), Carolina Cyclone at Carowinds (4), Viper at Darien Lake (5), and Vortex at Kings Island (6). The most loops title faded in importance as a ceiling was hit at seven loops for years. Bolliger & Mabillard’s Dragon Khan claimed the crown with eight loops for a while and finally in 2002 Intamin likely ended the race for good with Colossus. The Thorpe Park coaster and its clone in China share the record for most loops at ten. But really, the looping record race took a back seat to the height and speed chase in the 90’s.

The Tallest & Fastest Roller Coasters
Cedar Point’s Magnum XL-200 set off what has been affectionately known as the Coaster Arms Race for the tallest roller coaster in the World. As height became the most prestigious record to hold, speed came with it until the invention of LSMs (Linear Synchronous Motors). They helped Superman The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Tower of Terror at Dreamland tie for a new 100mph speed record. Other launch technologies emerged and finally in 2005 our current speed and height record champ, Six Flags Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka, set the bar at 128 mph and 456′ for speed and height respectively. Ring Racer opened briefly this year and will re-open next year likely breaking Kingda Ka’s record only to be surpassed by the F1 Coaster.

The Steepest Roller Coasters: The Final Frontier?
World's Steepest Coaster - Mumbo Jumbo at Flamingoland (UK)For a while it looked like steepness might be the final frontier. Touting an unimaginably steep drop was cool for a few years. Busch Gardens Tampa brought the first B&M dive machine, SheiKra, to our shores and with it a 90-degree drop. While the concept was neat, I was underwhelmed by the actual drop. Today, 90-degree drops are so 4 years ago. Dollywood’s Mystery Mine, Hersheypark’s Fahrenheit,  and several other coasters in other countries have surpassed that level of steepness. Then, last year’s Steel Hawg and this year’s Mumbo Jumbo in Flamingoland went even a step further with 111 and 112-degree drops. Can these drops really be pushed much further?

What’s Next?
So what will the next record setting trend be? Aside from loops, height, and speed, the only other technological advancement to speak of would be that of the 4th dimension roller coasters. There are only a few in the World, but a ride like Magic Mountain’s X2 is worthy of the label of ground-breaking thrill ride. On the other hand, it doesn’t attain an easily marketable title. It’s an insane ride and offers some unprecedented rider positions, but X2 doesn’t really lend itself to any superlatives like tallest, fastest, or longest.

I’m more of a fan of roller coasters that don’t boast the staggering stats or most superlatives, but do deliver the goods. And by that I mean airtime, speed, surprises, and just a great overall package. So, if the record-breakers are dying off, I wouldn’t be too upset.

What’s Your Take?
Are we near the end of the record-breaking era or do you think technology will push the envelope even further? Leave a comment below. Image 1 courtesy of CoasterImage. Image 2 courtesy of the Sun.