Europe’s first RMC coaster was a particularly exciting addition that seemingly came out of nowhere. Who would have thought that a zoo in rural Sweden would be the first to fork out for one? We had already been hearing stories from over the Atlantic about how this manufacturer were changing the game in rollercoaster design and after some early teething problems I was finally able to check it out for myself.
While often specialising in hybrid creations, several of RMC’s ground up installations so far, including Wildfire, have been classified as wooden coasters by virtue of having their distinctive and highly manoeuvrable rails laid directly on top of layers of wood. Most of the support structure was also crafted out of timbers in this case with the exception of the striking lift hill section with it’s contrasting steel.
The ride begins with a relatively sharp ascent up this and with a little kick at the top, the train runs round a 270° flat turnaround. The landscape around Kolmården is breathtaking, particularly within the coaster scene and this well planned moment gives you a little extra time to appreciate that.
While distracted, the train has guests ducking directly under the top of the lift hill before being thrust into this wonderfully steep and sustained first drop that just falls out from under your feet. The sensation of being pinned out of your seat for several seconds is always a welcome one.
The pull out adjusts into a turn which then lifts you up and into one of the most magical elements in the coaster world. Wildfire’s stall creates a highly unnatural feeling of floating upside down, neither in or out of your seat for what seems like an age. Enough time for me to throw my hands out and exclaim ‘what is this?’ every time, at a minimum.
The next part puts the ‘wild’ into the name as you whip round into an outwardly banked sideways airtime hill, get dragged through a shed full smoke (I guess the ‘fire’ from the name) and hit a speed hump with some decent ferociousness.
As the train traverses around the back of some rockwork the second inversion flips you over it and down into the remainder of the layout which was sadly a little underwhelming. A sequence of attempted airtime hills and turns amongst the landscape that didn’t quite deliver, punctuated by a graceful zero-G roll which I simply adored. The speed gradually gets sapped away, with the pacing issue becoming really noticeable just before the brake run.
A very strong start that fizzles out to a weaker end, that was my overall impression of Wildfire and I didn’t really know where I stood on the RMC situation. Having heard a lot of superlatives (even from the park, claiming it to be the world’s greatest wooden rollercoaster before it had even opened) we immediately said of course well no, it’s not the best thing ever.
It was really, really good, a unique experience and at the time a contender for my personal top ten, but if this is meant to be one of the stronger examples from the manufacturer, perhaps they aren’t the world beaters they’re being made out to be.
Unorthodox elements like the sideways hill are very few and far between throughout most coaster designs but I had already experienced something similar on an S&S launch coaster earlier in the year so I wasn’t quite as taken with this as I might have otherwise been. As this was the most unusual feature of the ride other than the stall, I didn’t feel that I got a true sense of what separated RMCs from the crowd at this early stage.
The other thing that bugged me about the greatest wooden rollercoaster claim, particularly when the ride began topping wooden coaster polls is that to me Wildfire didn’t provide any physical indication that you were riding a wooden rollercoaster. It had none of the shake, rattle and roll, none of the character that the material usually provides and therefore making that statement, only for it to fall flat, gave the ride a bit of a cold and clinical vibe to me.
For some reason while evaluating the experience in my mind during the day I decided to declare that this ride had made me appreciate Kärnan a lot more (and that’s always a good thing). I have since coined this Wildfire syndrome – a character trait of a coaster that indirectly improves your feelings on another, especially one that’s entirely unrelated.
4 years later, knowing what I know now, I can pinpoint exactly why I didn’t fall head over heels for Wildfire (other than physically of course). I know they are capable of making wood feel like wood as the legendary Lightning Rod did specifically provide the sensations I would associate with the material and was even enhanced by that fact.
Most significantly though was the airtime during the layout, other than the first drop, this Swedish monster just doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of hard hitting impact as every other RMC I have tried since. The spark that the manufacturer brings to the game for me is the way they blend all the weird and wonderful elements and inversions with some of the most powerful and intense airtime in the business – creating the real and complete package that my dreams are often made of.
Wildfire just doesn’t behave in the same manner and is therefore the weakest example of its type for me, while still being amazing as a standalone coaster.