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Fast & furious roller coasters: 6 coolest race car themed rides
After watching the Daytona 500, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at race car themed roller coasters. Although there have been many over the years, for me, these six really stand out. They emphasize speed as they include some of the fastest roller coasters in the World. And, the coasters that I feel deliver the best race car-like experience, also offer intense acceleration and cheek flapping g-forces.
Intimidator at Carowinds (Charlotte, North Carolina - United States)
Built in the heart of NASCAR country, Intimidator at Carowinds, bears the nickname of legendary race car driver Dale Earnhardt. Pictured above, the coaster's trains are designed to look like his black #3 Chevy Monte Carlo. The attraction also includes a full-sized replica of his car as well as a tribute area that details his enormously successful career. While the ride itself is one of the best of its type and it is well-themed, it doesn't do the best job of delivering a NASCAR feel with a hilly course and only one banked turn that reminded me of a turn in a race.
Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia - United States)
Like Intimidator at Carowinds, Kings Dominion's Intimidator 305 has a Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR themed experience. Intimidator 305 starts with an un-race like 305 foot tall lift hill, but the heavily banked turn that follows the first drop and top speeds in the 90 mph range incorporate the racing feel better than the aforementioned Intimidator. Also, the train's restraints are padded belts that are somewhat similar to what race car drivers use. Still, a roller coaster with a lift hill isn't the best for simulating a race car.
Speed - The Ride at NASCAR Café (Las Vegas, Nevada - United States)
Speed - The Ride, is a launched shuttle roller coaster at the NASCAR Speed Café in Las Vegas. The ride begins with an exciting 0 to 70 mph launch in 2 seconds thanks to a magnetic propulsion system. After the launch, riders speed through a vertical loop and eventually climb a 224 foot tall pike. Then the train slows and reverses its path. The launch is race-like, but the loop and backwards traveling doesn't simulate any races that I know of.
Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point - (Sandusky, Ohio - United States)
For years, Cedar Point had a track record of topping everyone in terms of the biggest and fastest roller coasters in the World. In 2003, they continued their trend with Top Thrill Dragster. It not only set a new speed record with a 0 to 120 mph launch in 4 seconds, it also set a height record with an unheard of 42-story tall top hat tower. The ride's cars are themed like dragsters and the ride begins with the same "Christmas tree" lights used in official drag races. I've ridden a very similar and slightly faster coaster in Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure. The launch alone is one of the most memorable experiences I've had on a roller coaster. The sheer power of these hydraulic launches is quite remarkable.
Ring°Racer at Nürburgring (Nurburg, Rhineland-Palatinate - Germany)
Located at the famous Nürburgring motorsport complex and race track, Ring°Racer might have the best location of any race car-themed roller coaster. The coaster uses a compressed air launch system that delivers a quicker accelaration, and likely a more intense launch, than Top Thrill Dragster. Unfortunately, Ring°Racer has been closed due to defects in its launch system. Hopefully, Nürburgring and the ride's manufacturer S&S can reopen it this year. It was designed to feature a blistering 0 to 134.8 mph launch in only 2.5 seconds.
Formula Rossa at Ferrari World (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
When Formula Rossa opened last November at the new Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi it became the World's fastest roller coaster. Designed by Intamin AG, the launch coaster rockets riders from 0 to 149.1 mph in 4 seconds generating an intense 4.8g's. With trains resembling red Ferrari Formula One race cars and guests wearing safety glasses just like the real drivers, Formula Rossa looks like the coolest race car themed roller coaster.
[Image credits: Flickr users - daveyinn, woofiegrrl, & mjohn2101]