France 05/23 – Parc Astérix
Oops. You may well know by now about the ridiculous levels of journeys to which I’ve stooped throughout Europe in the last few years. The plan here was to head into France, pick up a certain Intamin, then head into Spain and pick up another certain Intamin. Madrid and back in 3 days, the fresh (and unused) Reunidos passes we’d just picked up, the phrase ‘Intamin it to win it’, one of those silly looking maps, it was all going to write itself.
Then Batman la Fuga: Attack on Arkham Asylum didn’t open in time of course, necessitating a late swerve. Not having much luck with this so far.
Day 1 forged on as previously planned though.
Day 1 – Parc Astérix
I think coming here last year for deux Zeus was the right call, it allowed the ride enough time in the spotlight for us. This time there was only a single thing on the agenda yet again, and it most certainly took all of our attention.
And here he is, #1 Toutatis, protector of the tribe.
As a fan of pleasant surprises, I knew very little about this attraction going in. It’s been kicking around in our heads for many years that something big was going to Parc Astérix, I was there behind a camera when the ride designer explained the thinking behind the trim and we saw the spike in person last year of course. Other than that, who knows what’s going to happen here. The surprise was more than pleasant.
We begin with a little drop out of the station. I wanted this to be a Helix moment, but it wasn’t. Much more of a tease.
Within the trench, the first launch hits and immediately things get wacky. Overly banked turns, that awesome beyond sideways hangtime thing and what one would suspect are some RMC-inspired wonky hills. They all make for an endearing start.
Out of that the train audibly grates itself sideways around the, of course, under-banked piece of switch track with quite a welcome sideways lurch. An out of control entry into an out of control launch sequence. Bam.
I’ve been thinking these humpy launches are a bit gimmicky so far, but god damn have they finally nailed it on this swinger. It’s fun and zippy forwards, with a bit of float up into the failed attempt at cresting the top hat. The return run delivers some wild ejection not once, but twice. Across the hump and then hopping back out of the trench straight this time, launching further in between each. Particularly when seated further forward, this sequence is insane.
The reverse spike is alright, nothing ground breaking this time, but seemed to nearly always have a nice little interaction moment of people on the ground, in the queue for one of those stupid flat rides again, looking up and waving. Other examples of this track piece, around the world, lack this.
I’m oh so sold on the swing launch itself now as we pass it for the final time, it’s by far the best example I’ve experienced to date (hmm, which ones haven’t I experienced at the moment?). That little bit of a Taron trench feeling for extra visuals and sense of speed, combined with the mid launch out of seat moments fully justify what could otherwise be seen as faffy and suboptimal.
Talking of faffy and suboptimal, the trim. I love it. There’s some decent ejector up into the top hat and then a weird sustained moment of pause, of contemplation, just as promised. It maintains momentum of course, but if you let yourself flop a bit you’ll find yourself folding down towards the seat below in a rather satisfying manner. Good thing the cars aren’t articulating at that point. It’s at the perfect point in the layout to still do something interesting with it and not just be plain annoying. B&M.
All of this wonderful stuff has already happened, and yet the layout only starts proper now. It’s no slouch after that trim, the rest hits one after another at a very decent pace. The base of the big drop has a weird kink of a left turn that was popping air as the day went on. The stall feels like it has a slight over-correction which flips you upside-down, and then a little sideways after. This is great, because dare I say the element has otherwise become a little stale now that everyone’s doing it.
On the exit of this there’s a tree branch that they’ve just unceremoniously chunked off and it still sticks out like a lethal looking near miss.
There’s airtime in another corner.
There’s a stonkingly awesome ejector hill on the return leg, proper top-tier wild, it can’t be understated.
A twisty one after that.
The sideways hill is potentially the most lacking moment of the whole thing. There’s too many of these in layouts now and they quite often don’t do anything. To this ones credit, it did seem to get better as the day went on, with a slight outwards pull towards the extremes of the train.
I haven’t yet mentioned the positives on this thing, you really start to notice it as you drop out of that and corner through the queue. Most sections between all the elements have a good force to them, giving you that greater contrast I always admire. That’s a plus for sure.
This final inversion is great, taken with speed and whip. It ain’t no mosasaurus but it’s different, with what felt like a bit of right to left tug and the horns of those blokes judging you.
Final overbank turn was also a weaker moment earlier in the day but grew to stick in some more positives before the hilarious and silly miniature hops into the brake run. It’s always good to end on a laugh.
Anyway, wow. This thing took me on a journey throughout the day. I loved it from the off, but only like I love a lot of other things at this point. It was clear from the first few moments alone that Toutatis is everything Pantheon isn’t. The first bit is better. The launch is better. The last bit is better. Once that was established, it became a case of how far could it climb throughout the day?
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Oh, they have other rides here too, you know. But they didn’t really matter, that wasn’t what this visit was about.
Got a courtesy lap in on Pégase Express, becoming interested to learn that they’ve ripped out the bag holder system that they weren’t even using opening year. It’s such a solid family coaster, with a fantastic length to it and I love the forwards-backwards two train interaction moment.
Gave Zeus a flying visit, becoming interested to learn that it’s already a fair bit more violent than last year. Not to its detriment just yet for me, it was still a cracking ride, but if Gravity reckon Timberliners are less hard-wearing on the track then those old trains must be vicious.
Park operations still kick ass and it’s always been a very pleasant place to be, I’ve just only ever had a weird relationship with it for some reason.
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Back to where it’s at though, at the end of each Toutatis lap it just felt that little bit more special. Some rides you find new things every time to appreciate, in particular I find this to be an Intamin trait. By the 3rd lap I was loving all of it. It was clear to me then that I preferred it to Velocicoaster, much more of an all killer no filler coaster.
By the 5th lap I was buzzing, thinking it’s probably just had Kondaa. The launch sequence alone just packs a punch of pacing that a -0.7G lift hill can’t.
By the 7th I was reeling. Is it better than Taiga? Then we closed the night with an 8th and I tore my rotator cuff. I think it is.
It feels like there’s going to be an ever present elephant in the room since my visit to the Point, and this marks the first time I’ve encountered it. The process of actively placing things above Steel Vengeance, because it is just too big of a legend to ignore, rather than just having casually slotted it in below other things. Putting this above Taiga did just that, and it was a huge leap, but having had my usual time to reflect on it now, I believe it’s merited.
Toutatis ticks all the boxes of my usual top ten material, just like those that came before. It’s an outstanding version of its type. It did things to me I haven’t experienced before in those backwards launches. It hurt me to hands up by the end of the day.
Most importantly it was a welcome reminder to me that I’m not on some downhill slope of this hobby just yet, having wondered about becoming so jaded for not being blown away by such big names last year. Have faith, I can still feel that spark, there’s always a special set of circumstances and a special ride out there. It just needs to be my bag, and this one is just that.