Top Thrill Dragster Highlights
- Name: Top Thrill Dragster
- Location: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio (on Lake Erie, near Cleveland)
- Scheduled Debut: May, 2003
- Height: 420 feet
- Drop: 400 feet
- Speed: 120 mph
- Angle of Ascent and Descent: 90 degrees (as in straight up and down, as in you can't get any steeper!)
- Type of Coaster: Steel Hydraulic Launch, able to go from 0 to 120 mph in about 4 seconds
Well, they've done it again.
In 1978, the Point earned the "Guinness Book of World Records" distinction of having the tallest roller coaster with the 125-foot, 60-mph Gemini. (Hah! Wimpy by today's standards.) In 1989, they ignited the modern-day coaster wars and broke the 200-foot threshold with the 205-foot, 72 mph hypercoaster, Magnum XL-200. Only three years ago, the park marked the new era with the 310-foot, 93-mph Millennium Force "giga-coaster." Now, the park has developed a new coaster prefix, the "strata-coaster" to describe its 2003 entry into the record books, Top Thrill Dragster.
While Magnum and Millennium Force are more or less conventional coasters, save their incredible height and speeds, Top Thrill Dragster is a new breed of thrill machine. Most coasters use a lift hill chain to start the ride; at the top of the hill, gravity takes over and the momentum propels the trains through the ride and back to the station. Dragster will use a hydraulic launch system to rocket its trains out of the loading platform. Recently, coasters like Flight of Fear at Paramount's Kings Dominion and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney-MGM Studios have used magnetic propulsion. While the concept is the same, the Point's new coaster will use a relatively new hydraulic launch system.
Instead of immediately going up a hill, the drag-racing themed trains will roar down a straightaway and reach an unprecedented speed of 120 mph in about 4 seconds. From there, they will ascend 90 degrees up a 420-foot hill, and then zoom straight down 400 feet of spiraling track at 90 degrees, again reaching an adrenaline-pumping 120 mph before they return to the station. With no agonizing "click-clack-click" up a lift hill, the whole experience will be over in a matter of seconds, but what an intense few seconds that should be!
When is a coaster NOT a coaster?
With Dragster's height of 420 feet and a top speed of 120 mph, Cedar Point will safely be able to reclaim the tallest/fastest titles for any roller coaster on the planet--for now. Parks love the bragging rights, and manufacturers are only too happy to build ever-taller and -faster thrill machines, so it's likely these unheard-of records will fall sooner, rather than later.
But Cedar Point is clinging to some dubious distinctions for its Dragster coaster. The park claims that it will be the first to ever break the 400-foot mark on a roller coaster. That's just not true--sort of. Back in 1997, Six Flags Magic Mountain debuted the 415-foot Superman: The Escape coaster. Cedar Point contends that since the California record-breaker doesn't complete a full circuit, it is not a true coaster.
"We consider (Superman) a thrill ride," says Bryan Edwards, spokesman for the Point. Like the Dragster coaster, the Magic Mountain ride uses a launch system to zoom out of the loading station. It races 90 degrees up a 415-foot hill, slows to a stop, and then plummets backwards, retracing the L-shaped track back to the station. Edwards and others claim Superman should more accurately be called a reverse freefall ride. "There is absolutely no debate that this is a coaster," Edwards says about Dragster. Regardless, Cedar Point will top the Six Flags ride by 5 feet.
Also, the Ohio park is saying that Dragster will bring its total to 16 coasters--no problem there--and will thereby offer more coasters than any other park. Woops. Six Flags Magic Mountain is introducing the floorless coaster, Scream, this season and says that will bring ITS arsenal to 16 coasters. Once again, Superman seems to be the bone of contention in the tally.
Here's my take on it: I don't really care what anyone calls the rides. Coaster and park fans should give thanks to both Cedar Point and Six Flags (and other parks) for their incredible scream machines--whatever they are classified. If bragging rights help to motivate parks to build new, record-shattering, heart-pounding, life-flashing-before-your-eyes rides, let 'em duke it out.
Next pageTop Thrill Dragster Photos