"Gentlemen... Start your engines!"
Those are the last four words riders of Kings Dominion's newest roller coaster, Intimidator 305, will hear before they are taken on one of the most intense, incredible, extreme rides on the planet. [Editor's note from Robert: As an IndyCar fan, I hate that NASCAR's stolen our most famous phrase.] The Intamin AG creation was previewed Thursday by the Doswell, Virginia theme park for dignitaries and coaster aficionados alike. It is definitely the most anticipated new roller coaster opening in 2010, and quite possibly the best coaster to take its first spin around the track in years.
Kerry and Taylor Earnhardt and representatives from Dale Earnhardt Incorporated along with Cedar Fair CEO Dick Kinzel and Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling were all on hand to open the coaster, the park's 14th.
Even Duff Goldman and Food Network's "Ace of Cakes" staff drove down from their Charm City Cakes store in Baltimore, MD to commemorate the opening of the ride with their own interpretation of one of the East Coast's tallest and fastest roller coasters.
The name Intimidator 305 - similar to Carowinds' Intimidator, which took its first official rides last week – may fool visitors into thinking that the two rides are very similar. After all, Kings Dominion's monster new machine has theming elements nearly identical to Carowinds' marvelous B&M hypercoaster. From the famous black Monte Carlo in the entrance plaza, to the plaques commemorating Dale Earnhardt's Hall of Fame career, to the NASCAR replica front end on the coaster trains, if you weren't looking at the coaster tracks themselves, one might assume the two are pretty much the same.
The style, an Intamin giga-coaster, might convince others that this coaster is just a slightly smaller copy of the famed Millennium Force at Cedar Point. Millennium Force, one of the world's highest rated roller coasters, features the same incredibly fast and efficient cable lift system, 300-foot first drop, sweeping turns and massive airtime hills as Intimidator 305. So what about this new coaster is going to make coaster fans sit up and take notice?
Basically, you need to experience this coaster to believe it. As you leave the station, the cable lift system speeds you up the 305-foot lift hill. Before you even have time to catch your breath, you're dropping 300 feet down at 85 degrees. Once the train negotiates the paralyzing first drop, it enters a sweeping, somewhat benign-looking right turn. Those familiar with Superman: Ride of Steel at nearby Six Flags America might think this 270-degree banked turn would be pretty similar to Superman's two helix elements, which are exciting but not earth-shattering. At 94 MPH, though, this turn is incredibly intense. Unless you happen to be an experienced fighter pilot, plan to experience a near-blackout/greyout sensation just before the train lifts up into the second 150-foot tall airtime hill. Let this be a warning to all who take on this ride, because this turn WILL be one of the most intense positive G experiences on a coaster you will find without somehow coaxing Six Flags Magic Mountain personnel to turn off the mid-course brakes on Goliath.
After a great shot of air over the second hill, the train enters a not-nearly-as-intense left turn, a couple of quick crossovers, and another sweeping right turn before entering another huge airtime hill. This third big hill features magnetic trim fins, which slow the train just a bit, making passengers in the front few rows feel like the train is going to fly off the track.
Another quick shot of air follows the third big hill, and then the train goes through a couple of quick turns with a crossover in between and a strange over-banked left turn before entering the final brake run.
Intimidator 305 features Intamin's 2nd generation trains, with over-the-shoulder restraints similar to Six Flags Great Adventure's Kingda Ka and Cedar Point's Maverick. Larger riders that have been unable to ride older Intamin trains featuring T-bars and seat belts should be accommodated by the significantly improved restraint system on this coaster. However, the restraints and high-sided trains do not offer the same freedom or open-air feeling found on a B&M hyper. Some guests may also be frustrated by the shoulder pads that can be rough on riders' neck and shoulders as the train races around the 5,100 feet of track and insanely wicked crossovers. Guests with earrings would be wise to remove them, lest they be removed for them by Intimidator 305.
This coaster is not for the casual theme park goer, and that goes for the average-run-of-the-mill NASCAR fan as well. This is somewhat unfortunate, given the proximity of this ride to Richmond International Raceway, and a large local contingent of motorsports enthusiasts. Rather, Intimidator 305 is a coaster that will be known for speed and intensity- perhaps more intensity than even the most seasoned coaster fan is accustomed to experiencing. As well, the high speed, head-jarring crossovers will catch many first-time riders by surprise. Hands-up may only be a mantra for repeat riders, and enthusiasts might find their ride experience enhanced by actually holding on to the hand bars!
Intimidator 305 represents a $25 million investment by Kings Dominion, the largest in the park's 35-year history, but for whatever reason, all that money could not buy a nearby restroom. Given the long lines that come with a new roller coaster, be forewarned - it is a lengthy walk from Intimidator 305 to the Congo and the nearest facilities. Still, if the biggest complaints about Intimidator 305 are that it might be too intense for some people and that there is an overly long walk to the nearest restroom, that says a lot about what kind of coaster it really is. Here's the bottom line: this is a potential top-5 roller coaster just waiting for people to ride it!
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