Tonnerre De Zeus (Parc Asterix)
If anyone could get away with making a lot of noise, it was
Zeus. Zeus, however, did not go cruising down the westside of Staines playing
drum ‘n bass, for he was the god of thunder and wanted everyone to know this.
And they did.
As if a living testament to Zeus himself, like small
rockets, trains thunder over the heaving mountain of wood to the left of the
park, the first beeline for many, as it is often classed as the finest coaster
in the park. It doesn’t have much competition though. On the opposite side of
the lake that the park is built around, Gouderix, and whilst it looks relatively
pretty for a Vekoma ‘masterpiece’ it rides much like a spin cycle in a
washing machine full of bricks.
As you pass through the quaint Greek themed area, past and
under Vol D’Icare, with the lake on your right hand side, the coaster ebbs
it’s way into view. In front, the temple-like station and to your right, Zeus
himself carved in aging bronze, standing proud clutching a fist-full of
thunderbolts, eyes more piercing than Paul McKenna.
The rest of the ride is unfortunately around the back, out
of view. This is, obviously sacrilege, especially from the point of view of an
intrepid and over enthusiastic web-addict and photographer such as myself. This
could be construed as a rather lame excuse for the lack of photos here I guess,
but if the queue is really long the silver lining for that cloud at least would
be access via the queue-line to the less accessible areas of the ride.
You enter under the scantily clad Zeus over the name of the
ride that is cleverly paved into the ground. If you have a few spare pictures
kicking about after the reasons above, point that lens up under Zeus’ legs for
some unforgettable Kodak moments.
The queue weaves around the back of the helix, the
handrails made to look like the undulating track-work. This final helix, and the
dip ensuing it, gives a good impression of what the ride will be like. You can
also look in amazement as the brake-run shifts about three inches and the
trains’ wheels lift up when the ride comes to an end.
If you can peel your eyes away from this fascinating
phenomenon, sneak a peek at the reactions of riders’ faces when they arrive
back from their most unorthodox thunderstorm of dips and twists. You’ll be
hard pushed to find an unimpressed face among them. It isn’t only enthusiasts
that love wooden coasters, everyone does, ultimately so do the parks as they are
the ones taking your money.
After meandering around the various climatic endings of
this ride, you then ascend a staircase, shrouded in bubblegum and graffiti,
before you are in the open station. Here, it is pretty much a free for all. Keep
your back along the wall to the left and you will end up in the back seat. Hard
After around eight rides, which fly by bearing in mind the
two trains in operation, you sit down in the consistently impressive PTC cars,
seat divider between you and your comrade, single ratcheting lap bars and enough
padding to keep even the most lazy couch-potato happy.
The staff aren’t too aggressive with regards to pushing
down lapbars, so-long as you don’t take liberties, and before long, the train
is dispatched, turning smoothly to the right before smoothly engaging on the
The lift-hill is really nice and fast, and riders on both
sides of the train really get fantastic views of the fun and jollities that lie
in wait. To the left, a knot of helixes and turns, to the right, more turns and
At the top, no rest for the wicked as you quickly turn to
the right. You catch a glance of the skull shaped tunnel before you are
literally yanked into oblivion as the back car is pulled down the 100ft drop,
plunging through the impossibly tight tunnel at the bottom and bursting into
daylight again the other side.
A rather awe-inspired train is next thrown up a large hill
before being hurled around a right hand bend before plunging back down to terra
firma, climbing, heading towards the lift-hill before pushing you through one of
the most enduring elements on the ride as you go through a clockwise helix, not
once, but twice.
As you spiral upwards, your arms will soon give way and you
will relinquish to the lateral forces and be pushed into the well padded car, or
indeed the rider next to you.
After what seems an eternity you are hurled into another
airtime filled drop, a bunny hop, and then probably the most surprising drop on
the ride, the photo drop, and whilst your heads scrape the sky above as you are
thrown from your car, if it’s fast enough, the camera will capture your mouth
speaking expletives that even Bernard Manning would be insulted by.
That isn’t an exaggeration either. This is probably one
of the finest drops on the ride and as you are left speechless by this most
delightful drop, you are rocketed into another turn for yet more bunny-hops and
Beware, those of you who have your arms up, put them down,
quickly. At the end of this assault of forces, you are ripped off to the left
hand side. Experimented on Megafobia, perfected here, the track sharply jolts to
the left, pushing you waaaay over to the right. It is really very, very violent.
You turn further to the left, before a quick final slalom
through the ride. A final dip over the queue line before you jump up into
another long and tight helix before hitting the brick wall, sorry, brake run.
And that is it. The most forceful, powerful, dynamic,
intense and action-packed ride I have ever ridden. If there was any coaster that
left you with no words in your vocabulary other than ‘phew’, then this is
From the first flick over the top into the first drop,
it’s going to be a good ride. This is no Pepsi Max Big One though where it
loses it after the first drop, as the best is yet to come. The photo drop is
gorgeous, the double helix is just incredible, and it still finishes with a
punch more powerful than Frank Bruno in a huff.
Although many coasters concentrate on airtime and dips or
turns and laterals, this seems to satisfy all tastes. If the ride seems too
smooth, worry not, that jolt will more than sort you out. And if like many rides
you know what will come next, Tonnerre De Zeus will blow you away. Each turn is
unexpected, each drop is hidden. Even after five rides you will probably still
forget to brace yourself at the right times.
So, is Tonnerre De Zeus perfection personified? In the
morning, probably, in the evening, most certainly. Is Tonnerre De Zeus the
finest coaster in the world? The survey says yes… If the reactions of riders
before you weren’t proof enough, Tonnerre De Zeus came top of an independent
poll that rates coasters regardless of how many have ridden them.
5/5 Marcus Sheen