Coaster Kingdom

Detonator (Thorpe Park)

One step forward, two back. Whilst the millennium saw Thorpe Park the opening of Tidal Wave, it too saw the destruction of Tropical Travels and the complete annihilation of Wicked Witches.

In one of the most dramatic events in recent history at a British theme park, thousands of visitors were evacuated from Thorpe Park as a fire dramatically ripped through the centre of the park closing two rides indefinitely.

Unperturbed, the park hastily installed an Enterprise, a ride that was to be marketed as new come 2001 (now Zodiac), and by 2001, Zodiac was joined (eventually) by Vortex and by Detonator.

Whilst these three probably are relief rides, come 2002, one 10-looper coaster will fail to offer a full day out for thrill-seekers, and so the three spin rides will offer a nice substitute for them so that they have no need to go on Chief Rangers’ carousel to conclude their day at the park.

Detonator is presumed to be a momentary addition to the park. The ride has apparently only got temporary planning permission and represents the total height to which the park can build (100ft). This means that it could be replaced by a similar ride, removed or even just moved (and re-themed?) within the park.

The skyline is dramatically changing at Thorpe Park. Gone are the days where Loggers Leap towered over everything, here are the days where the horizon is marked by the imposing Tidal Wave and skeletal tower of Detonator.

Once in the park, Detonator may perhaps look second best to Tidal Wave, but it is further away from the entrance and should be given more than just a fleeting look.

The ride is from Fabbri, perhaps one of the worst manufacturers of spin rides ever. Their creativity is limited to copying existing ideas and putting in motors where gravity can do the work. A tower ride is something that all spin ride manufacturers seem to be attempting, albeit to varying success.

The Fabbri one is one of only a few that takes you up slowly only to drop you. The Huss one does, but it also has a shot sequence, the Maurer one does nothing more than an elevator and the S&S Space Shot is all bounce – oh, there’s a launch too, nearly forgot.

The capacity may at first seem to be a bit of an issue – at twelve seats, a capacity nearing 1000 is hardly anything to brag about, even admit to. Strangely, queues seem rather modest and the loading is swift.

The tower is a deep brown towards the bottom, graduating into a brilliant red 100ft up. Around the base, non-descript shrubbery is surrounded by a barrier made from barrels of explosive and cannons. Masonry on the surrounding building is shattered by cannon balls, singed by the gunpowder.

The queue takes place around the back of the ride and offers no surprises as it weaves back and forth. The ride is entertainment enough to pass the time, and soon you climb the metre-or-so up to the platform.

There is a ring of seats around the tower, each well spaced out giving riders a ton of arm room, a rarity, even on Bolliger and Mabillard coasters. You pull down the ruby-red over-head restraint and fasten the seatbelt.

Whilst all this is happening, a catch car will hook on above and once all riders are comfortable (relatively speaking), the ascent will begin.

Like the Intamin drop ride, the pace quickens as the platform gets smaller. The ascent is a brief one – the tower is only short, but the view is still great, either of the top of Pirates 4D and the land behind, Tidal Wave or Ranger County. The pace slows to a crawl before you stop.

The seconds feel like minutes as you pause 100ft up, not knowing when you’re going to drop…

And then you drop - with a crack of pneumatics, you are thrust downwards, shoulders hitting the restraints, legs flailing into the air as you stop breathing.

You hardly touch the seat as you hurtle in a frenzy of forces towards the suddenly approaching platform. As you begin to make out the detail on peoples faces below and start to wonder whether you are going to stop, in no time you are brought to a halt, pulling over 5Gs, feeling your stomach fall back into position as you are pushed down into your seat.

The ride is an enormous surprise. It is often said that height has nothing to do with the forces you feel on a freefall. This is the best example of this to date.

The pneumatic shove from the catch car is unique – you really reap the benefits, and although the initial drop isn’t as smooth, the force at which you are thrust is just superb and will have you in all sorts of trouble.

The stop at the end is also a surprise – the amount of Gs you pull is actually noticeable, and unnaturally strong, not something you normally notice on this sort of ride. It is still smooth, and I’d say more to do with the ‘shove from above’ than the magnets at the bottom (as crafted by Intamin, no less).

As an addition, the ride is perfectly fitting. Although rather sparse on decoration and theming, the fact that it packs a short and thrilling punch is something that is long overdue for the park.

The thrill is short lived, but Detonator is the perfect accompaniment to the parks other rides.

4/5 Marcus Sheen