Never smile at a crocodile? Who says? After a long delay, the highly anticipated Iron Gwazi is the latest RMC (Rocky Mountain Construction) transformation to welcome riders.
Originally scheduled to open in 2020, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay put Iron Gwazi on hold due to the pandemic. For a bit of background, the original Gwazi was a dual-tracked wooden coaster - the only wooden coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay - which became increasingly rough, causing the Tiger side to be closed in 2012 and the Lion side to be SBNO since 2015. RMC was contracted to transfigure Gwazi into a hybrid, using some of the original structure. For the new version, Busch Gardens has chosen a crocodile theme.
Standing 206 feet tall and featuring RMC's innovative Ibox track, Iron Gwazi operates with two trains seating 24 riders. It's a sight to behold. The restraints consist of a seat belt and lap bar which extends over the legs, much like the lap bars used on RMC's Outlaw Run and Goliath.
The ride begins with a left turn out of the loading station and ascent of the 206-foot chain lift hill. The view from the lift hill is spectacular. (As an aside, the fact that the coaster is 206 feet tall and drops 206 feet is somewhat unusual, as the length of the drop on most coasters of equivalent size is less than the length of the lift hill.) Upon reaching the summit, the train plunges 206 feet at a 91% angle. And what a breathtaking drop it is! After a couple of high speed (76 mph) turns and short drops comes what for me is unquestionably the highlight of the ride: the barrel roll drop. This is so good and so much fun that were I not properly restrained I’d be jumping for joy. Throw in an overbanked turn, zero-g stall and some airtime hills and you have yourself quite a ride. The best airtime hills come late in the ride.
Iron Gwazi is exquisitely smooth and therefore easily re-rideable. (I got in seven rides before deciding to move on.) While it doesn't have the aggressive ejector airtime of, say, Steel Vengeance, I did notice some ejector airtime near the end of the ride. Ejector airtime, however, is not what this ride is about. It's about enjoyment, pacing and thrill elements executed flawlessly. I rode in the front, back and middle of the train but can't decide which I like best. The airtime struck me as somewhat better in the back, but the steepness of the initial drop is much more evident in the front.
From any position, Iron Gwazi is a winner. I would like to thank the people in guest relations at Busch Gardens for making it possible for me to ride this during its previews. Iron Gwazi opens officially to the public on March 11.
Footnote: I recorded the video with a chest-mounted GoPro. Unlike many parks, BGT is cool with guests bringing recording equipment on rides as long as it's hands-free. No special permission is required.
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