When it comes to roller coasters, people tend to give a lot of attention to record breaking statistics. The fastest, the highest, the most inversions, you name it. Theme parks know this, so when promoting their new roller coasters they use these kinds of records as a marketing strategy to grab the attention of the general public (sometimes even in a very exaggerated way, in my opinion).
In this post I would like to highlight some of the more important record holders, namely the highest roller coaster in the world, the fastest and the one with the most inversions. For our fellow European readers, I will also highlight the respective record holders in Europe.
Worldwide: Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey, US
I remember, roughly ten years ago, watching a documentary on National Geographic about the construction of the highest (and at that time also fastest) roller coaster in the world: Kingda Ka. Funnily enough, I also remember swearing to myself that I would never ever go on a ride like that because I was quite anxious about roller coasters at that time. In 2012, when I was on a trip to New York with friends, I was so dedicated to ride it that I ended up taking the bus, all by myself, from Manhattan to New Jersey for a solo trip to the park. I even met some fellow Belgian roller coaster enthusiasts on the way to the park. Unbelievable if you think of it!
Anyway, as I said, the documentary was about the highest roller coaster in the world: Kingda Ka. It’s a roller coaster manufactured by Intamin and located in Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. It opened in 2005 and was the first “strata coaster” ever built (= a roller coaster that exceeds 400 feet or 122 meters in height). It takes you to an astonishing height of 456 feet (139 meters) on a giant top hat element, with speeds exceeding 120 miles per hour (200 km/h).
For me, personally, the day that I got to ride it turned out to be one of the best days of my life. Even though a lot of enthusiasts kind of dislike it because of its very short duration and the over the shoulder restraints, I think Kingda Ka will always remain an icon in the world of roller coasters.
Europe: Red Force and Shambhala, Portaventura, Tarragona, Spain
The highest roller coaster of Europe is Red Force, located in Ferrari Land in Tarragona near Salou in Spain. Red Force is kind of a mini version of Kingda Ka and since I’m going to talk about it further below in this post, I’m going to highlight the second highest roller coaster of Europe in this section: Shambhala at Portaventura.
Shambhala was manufactured by B&M and lifts you to a height of 250 feet (76 meters). Contrary to Kingda Ka and Red Force, you reach this height on a classic chain lift hill. In my opinion, Shambhala is one of the most beautiful looking roller coasters in the world, mainly thanks to its color scheme.
Another personal story here. When I was on a holiday In Spain during the summer of 2012, my cousin and I ended up driving 3 hours to visit Shambhala during its opening season. It was at that time the highest roller coaster in Europe and this attracted a lot of people to the park. Upon arriving at the park, we immediately bought passes which would allow us to skip the lines all day for all major attractions. A lot of people dislike these kinds of arrangements, but I think it can be justified, especially when you visit from another country (that’s another discussion though). Anyway, the waiting time for riding Shambhala was an astonishing 4 hours. Up until today, this is still the longest waiting time I have ever seen in real life. Thanks to the pass we bought, we had the opportunity to ride Shambhala seven times that day. It was my first B&M roller coaster. Nothing but good memories about that day!
Worldwide: Formula Rossa, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
The fastest roller coaster in the world is located in a very fitting place for this record, namely Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, an amusement park where everything revolves around speed. Formula Rossa launches riders to an astonishing speed of 149 miles per hour (240 km/h), beating the second fastest coaster worldwide (Kingda Ka) by 21 miles per hour 34 km/h. It was built by Intamin in 2010 and Ferrari World even makes riders of this coaster wear protective glasses!
Europe: Red Force, Ferrari Land, Tarragona, Spain
Well, Ferrari definitely live up to their name. Not only have they introduced the fastest roller coaster in the world, they also built an incredibly fast one in Europe: Red Force! As I already mentioned earlier in this article, this one is also the highest roller coaster in Europe and is basically a smaller version of Kingda Ka. It launches you to 112 miles per hour (or 180 km/h). The ride looks gorgeous, in my opinion, due to its color scheme and the giant Ferrari logo on the top hat.
The Most Inversions
World and Europe: The Smiler, Alton Towers, Alton, UK
Next to height and speed, people also give a lot of attention to the amount of inversions a roller coaster has. Absolute record holder in this discipline is The Smiler at Alton Towers in the UK. It was built by Gerstlauer in 2013 and has no less than 14 inversions: five corksrews, three dive loops, a heartline roll, a sidewinder, a sea serpent and a cobra roll. Definitely not one for those prone to motion sickness!
So there you have it, an overview of the highest, fastest and most thrilling coasters worldwide and in Europe. Theme parks and roller coaster manufacturers trying to beat each other’s records” will always remain to be a big thing. It makes me wonder where and when we will reach the limits of feasibilty and where these ‘coaster wars’ will eventually lead us. Interesting stuff to say the least!