Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Ohio has long been hailed as one of the most exhilarating roller coasters in the world. We here at Theme Park Tourist have been following its reimagining and construction closely, and we have been keeping you up to date on major news and rumors regarding the coaster’s evolution.
Of course, the rumor on everyone’s mind is that Top Thrill Dragster “2.0” will include some type of spike, likely to be part of a swing launch system. While this rumor is looking more and more probable, it begs the question, should the reimagined coaster go this route or stick to its original course?
The Spike Theory
The idea that Top Thrill Dragster will be getting a spike element is becoming less speculation with every construction update we get. While many have speculated that Cedar Point could choose to add a spike that reached past the tallest roller coaster record, this seems unlikely both due to costs and mechanics.
However, following the appearance of footers located directly behind the current station for Top Thrill Dragster, it does appear that there will indeed be a spike. Director of Communications at Cedar Point, Tony Clark specified in a recent interview that his new reimagining would be something no one has done yet and this lends to the theory that this coaster will break some record.
While it is unlikely that it will reach a height of 500 feet, the spike could become the world’s tallest reverse launch or spike element. Additionally, Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg currently holds the record for the fastest multi-launch coaster at 73 miles per hour. It is possible that the new Top Thrill Dragster could break this record as well.
Swing Launch: Yay or Nay?
Coasters that utilize a swing launch have been around for nearly 3 decades; however, the spike element as a part of a full circuit coaster is becoming more and more popular. We have new coasters like Ice Breaker at Sea World and Pantheon that both utilize the element in different ways. Given the probable track layout for Top Thrill Dragster “2.0,” we will likely see a launch system that is a combination of these two popular coasters. The more likely scenario would be for the trains to launch forward, fall back and up the spike in reverse, and then speed forward to where it clears the top hat element. A launch backward would mean that the coaster would likely need to go back, forward, back, and forward a second time in order to clear the hill. In the second scenario, it would take more time to clear the hill. While the swing launch would be beneficial for building the momentum and speed needed to propel the trains over the top hat, it is going to decrease capacity. While they could use longer trains than we have previously seen with Top Thrill Dragster, it doesn’t seem likely that this new launch system will improve capacity, therefore leading to longer wait times for this coaster.
It has also been speculated that the reimagined coaster will be utilizing an LSM launch system rather than the less dependable hydraulic launch system that it used in the past. It is known that LSM launch systems are not quite as robust as hydraulic launches. This would make the swing launch system beneficial because the trains could build up momentum and speed through the multiple passes and launches to clear the top hat. However, it should also be noted that an LSM launch has successfully been used in a coaster nearly identical to Top Thrill Dragster. Red Force at Ferrariland reaches speeds of 112 miles per hour to clear its 367 ft tall top hat element with an LMS launch system. Therefore, it is possible that the new Dragster would not need the swing launch to clear the top hat.
Should Top Thrill Dragster Do Away With Its Signature Intense Single Launch?
It is quite unlikely that Cedar Point will reutilize the same hydraulic launch system. Hydraulic launches are known for their power and intensity; however, they are extremely unreliable. LSM launches are more reliable, although they offer less intensity than their hydraulic counterparts. Many guests may be disappointed to lose the intensity of Top Thrills Dragster’s hydraulic launch from 0-120 miles per hour.
While we have already talked about capacity shifts that could come with changing the launch mechanisms of this well-known coaster, this change would also lengthen the ride and provide multiple ride elements rather than one singular launch and top hat. Top Thrill Dragster previously completed its ride in 17 seconds. Any multi-launch system would greatly increase the ride time and the addition of a spike or other elements would add intensity in other ways such as the G-forces associated with a reverse spike.
Additionally, the ride would be a completely new experience and therefore could be marketed as such. This might be done to distance this new version from the incident that occurred in 2019 where a woman was severely injured. In fact, have already seen Cedar Point refer to this new reimagining as a different coaster. This isn’t simply Top Thrill Dragster getting a massive refurbishment, it is being marketed as a completely new coaster.
Reimagining Top Thrill Dragster with a swing launch and vertical spike holds great promise. While we could see decreased capacity, the addition of these new elements would add additional elements and time to the ride experience and provide benefits when paired with LSM launch technology.
While any major transformation comes with challenges and considerations, it seems that Cedar Point knows exactly what they are doing and will continue to surprise us with a new, likely record-breaking, coaster. We cannot wait for the park to release more details and teasers this summer, and of course, we will keep you updated on all the progress and announcements.