I’ve already covered the (mostly) wonderful Gerstlauer Infinities on here, but what about the ride type that thrust this company into the thrill coaster market in the first place?
The Eurofighter originally came onto the scene in 2003, 5 years after the coaster debut of Gerstlauer Amusement Rides. The main innovation and selling point of the design was the vertical lift hill and subsequent beyond vertical drop that usually marked the start of the attraction, though this went on to appear in the most surprising of places in the layouts of certain future installations.
They began with a humble 97°, setting the world record for steepest coaster drop and holding onto it over the next 5 years. The S&S El Loco threatened and then smashed this in 2008 before continuing to gradually increase the angle of descent until Gerstlauer edged into the lead again in 2011 with an unnerving 121°. This has since stood the test of time, until perhaps a slightly controversial reported gain of 0.5° on a 2019 equivalent of their very same design.
It’s not just the drops that make these attractions highly marketable though, the style lends itself to tight, compact, high thrill coasters at what I assume to be competitive prices and the size and shape led to several designs that translated well into narrative driven semi-dark rides with intricate theming packages, making the product even more versatile.
As of today, there are 24 Eurofighters across the furthest reaches of the world. I’m clearly slacking here, having only ridden 10 of them myself up until now. However, aside from the 8 custom ones, the ride type can be catchily categorised into various model numbers based on the track length in metres (I can’t wait to ride that ‘500/8’) and each of these groups share the same layout. This then leaves, according to my calculations, only 3 remaining unique designs for me to get out there and try.
Here’s some impressions on the 10 so far.
This one looks rather aesthetically pleasing and has a particulaly large and ambitious inversion filled layout, perhaps inspired by that of a B&M looper. Unfortunately I found it quite far from physically pleasing in comparison. Huracan uses the less commonly seen 6 person cars with seats in a slight V-shape, I assume for extra visibility, and these negotiated the circuit somewhat poorly from the very first moment over the top of the lift. It was one to endure rather than enjoy on the day I arrived, though I believe it has received a bit of a spruce up more recently to improve things.
My impressions here can best be summed up by the fact that I didn’t even take a photo to mark the original occasion and then entirely skipped over this attraction on a revisit to the park for their new, vastly superior Gerstlauer. As the second ever attempt at the model, Typhoon takes a rather unorthodox approach with an oval criss-cross layout reminiscent of many fairground style coasters. The high up inversions are interesting, but the whole thing lacks a little finesse, something which may come up a lot more as we go on.
Here we have yet another unique design that this time contains a rather legendary airtime hill after the first drop, something which these models don’t tend to go for, or even suit particularly well for that matter. The tight application of the shoulder restraints in all dimensions hamper the effects of this moment somewhat, and the sensations that follow in the rest of the layout rarely leave me wanting more.
The obligatory controversial pick comes next in the list – it’s no secret that I’m no fan of Novgorod. Yes, this one has perhaps the strongest of all the aforementioned theming packages and dark ride sections, but for me there’s just no hiding the fact of how hideously uninspired the actual coaster layout is. The outdoor section, aside from another of those questionably enjoyable airtime hills is more than 50% comprised of this janky turnaround. Perhaps even more disappointing is the use of the vertical lift and drop in the second half which, after much theatrics, simply leads straight into the final brake run.
In spite of a lot of these earlier installations simply not riding that well, I’ve warmed to Rage quite a lot over the years. It’s far from the greatest attraction out there, even amongst my often lamented local scene, but it’s a hard hitting thrill package in the smallest of footprints and I respect the variety that it manages to dish out, from the slightly floaty vertical loop to the forceful turns.
Rage is, however, the most prolific of the cloned layouts – the ‘320’(+), with or without bonus helix. And that means that this mirrored version of the same design takes the situational edge for me simply by having an incredible ambience, one which is found throughout this entire park. Predator has a particularly ominous presence with the uninviting environment and ungenerous lighting package and, with a name like that, deservedly so.
Lap bars, it’s about time we had lap bars. This one has yet another impressive looking design and that wild first drop can be appreciated far better with some freedom of movement in the upper half of the body. Looks aren’t everything though and the remainder of the layout here is good, not great, rather unremarkable in the grand scheme of things. Will the curse of the Eurofighter continue all the way to the top?
What Mystery Mine lacks in build quality it more than makes up for in presentation. In true Dollywood fashion there’s a lot of joy to be found on this attraction and to me the climactic indoor vertical lift scene and subsequent set of elements is absolutely everything Novgorod isn’t. I secretly love this attraction and didn’t think I’d ever be saying that about one of these.
Something else I didn’t think I’d be saying is how good Saw: The Ride can be. I can see from experience how easy it is to catch it on an off day and I even once said ‘never again’ myself after a particularly rough experience but, as with Rage, familiarity has fared it well. Although the whole Saw theming shtick has got a bit tiring, I just can’t deny that as a piece of hardware this layout is up there with the best of this list. The outdoor section is fast paced and reckless, particularly when the mid course block section doesn’t do anything and flies out the other side with some vicious ejection.
The king for me though is the big one, the record breaker, even though it’s about as unfamiliar to me as it can be. We only managed a single lap on the ride during the most hectic (and amazing) of days and the one thing that really stood out to me is how different it feels to all the other Eurofighters.
There wasn’t a single thing offensive about this one, no jarring moments, no poor tracking, the restraints are somehow more comfortable and even the spacing between the seats themselves appeared to be more hospitable – a gripe I often have with this whole design is how much unnecessary shoulder rubbing there can be with your fellow rider.
The most important thing is that it was actually good fun, a disorientating blur of ridiculously huge, crazy inversions, much like you’d find on an Infinity coaster these days and it likely paved the way for their introduction just two years later. Takabisha was always a bit of a legend of the industry to me, though I was never sure quite whether it would live up to the name. I think it did.
Quick, let’s end it there before I’m forced to complain about the clone in a mall.