Everyone has a favorite roller coaster. That’s the nature of the beast. And every theme park operator wants to construct roller coasters that will become people’s favorites. That’s just smart business.
When engineers design new roller coasters, they have to aim for the top. Otherwise, they won’t grab enough attention to justify the huge expense of a state-of-the-art attraction. The quickest way to garner headlines is by building a record-setting roller coaster, something that sets a new standard for height or speed. And you’ll want to ride anything that does. So, which roller coasters are currently world record holders? Read on…
The Beast – Kings Island
Few roller coasters maintain their records for more than a few years. Competition is so fierce that coaster engineers accept that any records that they gain are temporary in nature. The Beast at Kings Island is the huge exception to this rule.
Built in 1979, it immediately became the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster on the planet. Those records are long gone, as you’d expect from a ride that’s almost 40 years old. The shock is that The Beast STILL holds a record that it set back in 1979. To this day, it remains the longest wooden roller coaster in the world.
The tracks are 7,359 feet long, which is 1.4 miles worth of track. Due to its length, the ride is more than four minutes in duration, an absolutely stunning time for a roller coaster. The Beast is all about endurance and has stood the test of time. Those ride designers back in 1979 deserve a LOT of credit for what they did.
Steel Dragon 2000 -- Nagashima Spa Land
Half of the record holders that we’ll discuss today aren’t from North America. Steel Dragon 2000 is the first one, and it shows just how temporary records can be. My beloved Millennium Force was once the longest roller coaster in the world at 6,595 feet. That record lasted…less than three months. Then, Nagashima Spa Land debuted on August 1, 2000.
This steel coaster is MUCH longer, with a length of 8,133 feet. As a matter of fact, it’s held the record for longest roller coaster in the world since its arrival in 2000. Like The Beast, the length also translates to a four-minute ride. So, if you’re ever in Japan, the park in Mie Prefecture on the island of Honshu has a steel roller coaster that seems to last forever.
Wildfire -- Kolmården Wildlife Park
One of the oddest current roller coaster records is tallest wooden coaster. The current record-holder, Wildfire, wasn’t the champion until 2016. A different attraction, Colossos at Heide Park in Germany, was the previous top dog in the category, but it unexpectedly closed down in July of that year.
Since then, Kolmården Wildlife Park in Sweden has hosted the tallest wooden coaster. That ride is Wildfire, and it is 18 stories tall. At its highest point, Wildfire stretches 183.8 feet in the air, with a drop of 161 feet. As a demonstration of how fast titleholders can change, Wildfire was also not the champion at one point in 2017. It too closed unexpectedly due to “environmental concerns.” The Swedish government ultimately reinstated Wildfire’s operational license.
In case you were wondering, while Wildfire was down, the tallest wooden roller coaster in the world was T Express at Everland in South Korea, which is basically the same height as Wildfire at 183.8 feet, but it loses on some technicality I don’t claim to understand.
Kingda Ka – Six Flags Great Adventure
Steel roller coasters are supposed to have physical limits. They can only go so fast, stand so high, or drop so much.
The developers of Kingda Ka challenged all of those assertions in designing their record-shattering roller coaster. This ride is 456 feet high. That’s 45 stories! Look at that number and then compare it to the tallest wooden roller coaster. It’s more than double!
What can Kingda Ka do with all that height? Well, it can drop people 418 feet at a 90-degree angle. It’s like an elevator suddenly falling 42 stories in the blink of an eye. Not coincidentally, Kingda Ka accelerates to 128 miles per hour during its 28-second journey toward oblivion. Several of the record-setting rides are about the journey. Kingda Ka is about the rush, a short but oh so sweet velocity explosion.
Lightning Rod – Dollywood
While The Beast and Steel Dragon 2000 have held their records for years and years, the title of fastest roller coaster in the world, well, it’s the biggest. The coasters that hold this title are the alphas in the industry. Theme park tourists love velocity, and they celebrate any ride that delivers an adrenaline surge. The fastest coasters in the world are obviously the best at it, and that’s why ride engineers spend so much time working to squeeze another few miles an hour out of a coaster.
The current champion in the wooden roller coaster category is Lightning Rod at Dollywood. This one goes so fast that the park has trouble keeping it running. With a velocity of 73 miles per hour, it goes more than the speed limit, and that may be more than a wooden coaster is supposed to do. The magnetic launch system that Lightning Rod employs to generate that speed wasn’t ready in March of 2016 when scheduled. It finally opened in June of 2016 but only lasted a week before going back down for an extended period, not opening for good again until September. That was a full six months of additional maintenance required to make the ride safe for guests.
I say all of this simply as proof of how much engineering must push the known boundaries of physics to boost the velocity of roller coasters.
Formula Rossa – Ferrari World
Look, when you design a ride for Ferrari World, it had better go fast. Ferraris have a reputation as one of the finest car manufacturers of all-time. Their theme park has lofty expectations, and it was built with the Ferrari brand in mind. Its design is actually a record-setter. Ferrari World is the largest space frame structure ever constructed.
The main attraction at Ferrari World is also a record-holder. In fact, it claims the most important of all roller coaster world records. Formula Rossa is THE fastest coaster on the planet, and the distance between first and second place is dramatic. This attraction is the only one that goes more than 128 miles per hour. Its top speed is an almost incomprehensible 150 miles per hour, more than double the speed limit and 22 miles per hour faster than any other coaster in existence.
Formula Rossa goes so fast that the hydraulic launch system shoots coaster carts out of the game so quickly that riders face 1.7 Gs worth of force. During the ride, you’ll experience a maximum of 4.8 Gs, more than you’d feel while Top Fuel Drag Racing or re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere in a space shuttle. The closest comparison to that sort of G-force is luge racing, but you’ll be much safer on a roller coaster.
When you feel the need for speed, Formula Rossa is the best choice in the world. It holds the most important title out of all current record holders. It is the faster roller coaster in existence.