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You can say many things about 2006, but you can’t say that it was boring.

2006 was the year that saw many new rides open. And many that didn’t. It also saw several parks close, British fairs enter something of a renaissance and more courtroom action than an episode of Judge John Deed.

The season started with a resolute sense of expectation that we’ve come to expect. This year, the period of anticipation was long and drawn out; while we have come to expect the majority of rides to open with parks in March or April, rides like Black Mamba teased us well into the summer season, while rides like Vertigo and Vliegende Hollander will, like last year, feature in our season preview due to year-long delays in opening.

New for 2006

Black Mamba

The last time somebody built a modestly sized B&M inverted coaster with just a handful of inversions, digging it down into the ground to keep the locals happy, nobody really batted an eyelid – not until it opened, anyway.

Since Nemesis opened, many coasters have tried to imitate what makes it such a unique coaster; rides like Montu at Busch Gardens Africa have the coaster and pathways below playing with each other like a kitten with a ball of wool, while the coaster makes use of the terrain, diving in and through trenches and tunnels.

Black Mamba had a lot to live up to

The element of surprise wasn’t a luxury that Phantasialand were afforded. They were building a coaster that for all intents and purposes mimicked Nemesis. All of a sudden, all eyes were on Phantasialand.

It had the unassuming stats, but it also was an extraordinary terrain coaster, using the layout itself to dictate the terrain, as opposed to the coaster following its native topography.

As soon as the first artists’ impressions appeared, eyebrows were raised.

The ground disappeared as a maze of tunnels and trenches were dug.

Then the track appeared, warping into all manner of strange shapes such as the virtually indistinguishable ‘baby immelman’.

Then, no sooner had it appeared, the track then began to disappear beneath tunnels and under a village of buildings.

Black Mamba had the potential to be amazing. But, at the same time, the haze of anticipation was stifling – it had so much to live up to.

Like Nemesis, Black Mamba interacts with surrounding scenery 

Eventually the ride opened, and somehow managed to live up to the sky-high expectations. It had a certain amount of familiarity to it that we’ve come to expect from B&M, but by the second half evolves into something quite different.

Having dispensed with the showy inversions, Black Mamba shows its true colours (other than black, that is) with a serpentine, subterranean series of tight turns and helices.

Despite the obvious similarities with Nemesis, and despite the effortless ability to live up to expectations, however high, Black Mamba clearly holds its own. The second half of the ride is unique, the theming is intricately (and ridiculously) detailed, while the ride continues Phantasialand’s heritage of quality rides partnered with rich theming.

Speed: No Limits

There was a chronic lack of excitement for Speed, perhaps because most people couldn’t get a word in edgeways with people hysterically salivating over Stealth at Thorpe Park.

But Speed was clearly one of the best-received coasters of 2006, at least in the UK.

Gerstlauer finished off what B&M started by building Vild-Svinet at BonBon-Land, a vertical drop coaster which threw an inversion into the mix, something that it took B&M a further two years to do.

Gerstlauer also managed to somehow add another 10-degrees onto the drop angle, 97-degrees, a statistic even B&M’s newest vertical drop coasters haven’t yet managed with a comparably paltry 90-degrees.

Not enough people were talking about Speed before it opened

So Oakwood got quite the bargain; a ride that did more than the prestige manufacturer’s offering, for about a fifth of the price. My mother always told me that you get what you pay for – so was it actually any good?

Well, everyone seems to think so. As well as the clear novelty of a vertical lift hill and a (beyond) vertical drop, Speed offers many moments of madness including a tight helix, a camelback hill, a tightly banked turn and an inline twist off the mid-course brake run.

Parks seem to be favouring one trick coasters nowadays over ones with a bit of substance to them. While one trick rides are easily marketable, there’s no reason why the novelty of a vertical drop ride and a coaster with a decent layout should be mutually exclusive; Stealth has the novelty to it, while Black Mamba has the substance – Speed, though, has both.


Almost as if it was the second coming of Christ, Stealth certainly got tongues wagging – excessively so. But it did the trick, even when it was broken down.

The season started off with speculation as to what the name could be. So many suggestions were made, some great (Johnnie Rocket), some lousy (Humdinger). In the end, the marketing department couldn’t come up with anything, so the rode was christened what it was known as all the time; Stealth.

As one of my non-enthusiast friends noted, it defies the usual definition of Stealth by virtue of the fact screaming people aren’t quiet and the 205ft hill isn’t inconspicuous.

Whatever enthusiasts say about it, the public love Stealth

Stealth’s alright I suppose – it goes fast and it goes high, and it captured the imagination of the public. But it’s a lazy, lazy coaster. Say what you want about the Big One, but at least they tried.

Rides like Stealth set an unnerving precedence – why bother doing any more than the bare minimum when even the bare minimum is enough? 

With a launch, a hill and a brake run, it’s a struggle to comprehend a ride more basic than Stealth, yet, the crowds came, they queued... and then they made use of other available attractions when it broke down.

To be honest, it’s a difficult case to argue, but it’s one that I’ll argue nevertheless; blow peoples’ socks off, sure, but make sure they are left with a good ride once the element of surprise ebbs away.

Stealth lived up to every expectation – the public loved it, the enthusiasts were divided, and for much of the season, it was closed due to technical difficulties.

Like many other rocket coasters, there were reports of bits falling off, smoke coming from the launch and then weeks of downtime – towards the end of the season, Stealth seemed to find its feet, but coming four years after the prototype, Xcelerator, the total amount of downtime was frankly shameful. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine


Issue 24: Dec 2006

Issue 24
Coaster Kingdom looks back at the highs and lows of 2006

Open Mic - Damien Bennett
Chessington's Fall from Grace to Disgrace
Damien Bennett looks at how Chessington has taken a turn for the worse

In The Picture
In The Picture
Click to enlarge image