What a mouthful of a name. OCT Thrust SSC1000 is derived from both the jet car (ThrustSSC) that holds the world land speed record and the operating company of the park in which it resides (who knows about the 1000). OCT run a number of theme and amusement properties throughout China, the most well known of which are the Happy Valley parks and this particular S&S compressed air launch coaster lives within Wuhan’s contribution to the chain. This is the most recent installation of the ride type at any OCT property, with the opening of the next at Window of the World Changsha still TBA, and the layout is a mirrored clone of Bullet Coaster from their Shenzhen park – we’ll come to the reasoning later as to why the original won’t be receiving as much of the spotlight here today.
The ride is also one of only 7 rollercoasters operating throughout the world with such a launch system. Compressed air launches found fame (notoriety) back in 2001 with the opening of both Hypersonic XLC at Kings Dominion and Dodonpa at Fuji-Q Highland. The former was plagued with reliability issues and had a rather short lifespan for a rollercoaster, sadly I never had the chance to try this one with only 6 years in operation, though the latter has managed to successfully retain the world record for fastest acceleration on a coaster and will celebrate its 20th birthday later this year.
It took a whole ten years before the concept was revived and purchased again by Happy Valley themselves but, more importantly, it was also vastly improved upon.
These originals relied on the unprecedented intensity of their launch systems to provide the main thrill, the selling point of the ride and the layouts were much simpler in design. You may well know by now that I’m not a huge fan of this idea, the sensations of a launch alone have never been enough for a coaster to enter my personal big leagues.
I believe these specific S&S creations are solely to blame for my current mentality as the Chinese installations introduced a more varied and interesting sequence of elements into the mix. Not only is the launch sequence the most terrifying and violent on the planet, we now have an amazing coaster to complement it, to make good use of all that potential energy.
When I first experienced acceleration like this it was unlike anything else that had come before and by the end of the ride I was physically exhausted. I had to sit down on a bench and recover for a while, as opposed the usual run straight back round for a reride. This rarely happens to me at all now, if ever, especially for those exceptional rides which I deem ‘worth’ any physical duress these days. Subsequent launches have invariably felt inferior too (including the king). In other words, I’m broken.
On to the actual ride then. OCT Thrust begins with the train, which now by the way also has 3x the seating capacity, making the power of the launch seem even more ridiculous with all that extra weight, pulling forward onto an unassuming launch track underneath a TV screen you might well find anywhere else in the park that usually shows off some generic Happy Valley promo shots of the ride (poorly edited amongst others from the chain).
The train negotiates back and forth a couple of times as the catch car comes into place while unnerving mechanical noises are made. After a tense pause, riders are then mercilessly blasted into the first top hat at an incomprehensible pace. The stats are yet to be officially verified to my knowledge but due to the technology we can assume they most likely sit somewhere between Dodonpa’s world record and the equivalent fastest accelerating hydraulic or LSM launches of the theme park world, so ~80Mph in significantly under 2 seconds.
The launch may as well be instantaneous, as it certainly feels that way, but now the fun begins. Thanks to some open seating design and lap bar restraints, the powerful airtime on the first element can be fully enjoyed as the ride plunges over 220ft into a tunnel below some pathway – a great moment for riders and spectators alike.
Keen eyed readers may have spotted the trim brakes on that first drop but do bear in mind that I would be the first to report on and complain about any negative impact they had on the ride experience – there was none. The exit of the tunnel leads into a banked upwards turn culminating in a second strong airtime moment as the train dives towards ground level again.
As though taking inspiration from more conventional hyper coasters, this track is designed for airtime moment after airtime moment, the third of which comes with a twist at the top providing some satisfying lateral forces in addition to the now expected out of the seat sensation.
The fourth and final hill breaks the mould yet again by being banked completely to the right at 90° to the ground. This gives the unusual feeling of the body being kicked sideways against the will of gravity in an attempt to leave the train and is a feature that has later been included in and popularised by several RMC creations, amongst other coasters.
The last element in the sequence is a tight and twisted double turnaround, this time intense in the positive G department and culminating in a rather brutal snap (possibly unintentional, but I call it character) into the brake run. It feels a little soon but I believe the whole point in this style of ride is to leave you a little dazed and breathless, which it achieves all too well with that ridiculous launch and subsequently ending almost as quickly as it began. The important thing is that all the moments in between are of the highest quality.
Why has the ride (and the sky) changed colour? Well I didn’t have a picture of this final section of track for OCT Thrust and so I’ll cheat and say that this is a good point to segue into the key differences with the original installation of this layout – Bullet Coaster.
Strangely enough I want to like the original more. After all it came first, I rode this one first and I’m not exactly an advocate of cloned layouts around here. The Shenzhen installation looks far more attractive too, being set in a Shangri-La themed area with that much prettier colour scheme. Unfortunately this version of the ride fell victim to something which makes this whole ranking clones business a bit more of a nonsense than it already is – a revisit. A reassessment.
Let’s just say this second visit wasn’t a good day in the grand scheme of theme park trips and the ride itself felt like it was vastly underperforming. I wasn’t getting the same kick, the same buzz I had since become used to getting from the ride type in general and I was upset by this revelation. The only reasonable way in which I can display this emotion is by no longer giving it the specific credit it undoubtedly deserves in a numbered list.
So it may be less easy on the eye but OCT Thrust hasn’t yet been given the opportunity to let me down (almost, but covid). It currently remains my favourite S&S air launch coaster and takes the honour of being the key representative for the layout, with Bullet Coaster sadly relegated to sitting outside my top 25.
Every single moment of the ride delivered with spectacular efficiency during my time spent with it. I love the sequence of elements and the way they all hit the mark, never faltering for one second. The hallmark of coaster design at its finest.
Just to confuse things further, this same logic doesn’t apply to my score cards. The opportunity for an objectively better card (in both theming and opening year) trumps any personal feelings. Have to be sensible about these highly important matters.