Coaster Kingdom

Trace Du Hourra (Parc Asterix)

Legend has it, in the days when cave-dwelling mankind became excited by the most trivial of things, upon the accidental discovery that man could walk, they became overwhelmed with euphoria and ran down roads screaming hurrah, in a mindless spree of jubilation.

It makes a refreshing change for you and me to be able to introduce a so-called bobsleigh by not having to blether on about quaint Alpine villages, covered in snow with a bobsleigh run carving its’ way through the rocky peaks.

Although the Mack bobsleigh is original enough, the boat has really been pushed out to make sure that Trace Du Hourra (Trail of Hurrah) is not a poor alternative to the criminally superb Tonnerre De Zeus, yet offering a completely incomparable experience in similarity.

Although the bobsleigh isn’t Mack’s biggest seller, theming seems to be a knee-jerk reaction by painting the track white and giving the station wooden trim. A few exceptions exist, but by theming this attraction on that celebrated day of merriment when it was realised that man could walk, Parc Asterix really pushed the boat out.

Original themes are Parc Asterixs’ speciality. Trace Du Hourra is only a stones throw from the superb Menhir Express and the stippled Oxygenarium and from the outset looks fantastic.

The curved underside of the dusty-brown track, trimmed in red, coils in and out of view, through trees, rock formations and over pools of water. The entrance is formed from a precariously stacked archway of rocks before the path leads you into the epicentre of the ride.

As you weave through the centre of the dramatically sweeping turns of the ride, you pass cascading waterfalls and rock-formed archways as every minute-or-so a train will majestically orbit dizzily around you before turning out of view.

As you look closer, the story of mankind’s first steps are told through drawings etched into the rock. Comical men leap for joy as they raise to their feet, something which may go over the heads of those unaware of the theming intricacies, but enough to give at least a general idea of the ride.

A large rock creation forms the station with carefully shaped pillars above holding the dramatic roof above riders. The queue goes into a darkened tunnel beneath the station, once again festively decorated in drawings. The queue goes outside once again, past the lift hill, subtly spiralling up to the station platform.

Like most of the rides at Parc Asterix, where you sit is up to you. Not being an airtime ride, it makes little difference, although it goes without saying the views are in the front, the speed in the back.

Each train is deep amber with jovial décor in a contrasting shade of pink, green or blue. The fresco-artwork is a joy, and although from a distance the trains might look like a string of sweet corn, from a respectable distance they look absolutely fantastic.

Each train is split into two-seater cars. Riders sit one behind each other, with a lap bar that hinges into place, held by hydraulics meaning it will fit snugly and stay there.

Loading is exceptionally swift, and once bars are checked, the train is tyre driven on coaster-like track around an initial turn into the lift hill.

The lift appears to be enormous, and as you rise, a great view of not only the ride, but of the park. Mechanically, the lift is fast and unnervingly silent. As you approach the top, the train levels out into a large plateau as the back finishes the ascent and the front begins its descent.

With grace, it sharply accelerates into a sweeping right-hand spiral, turning under the top of the lift with surprising speed. Without pausing, the train abruptly shifts to the left, and into another helix turning dramatically to the right and back under the lift.

As for a moment the track straightens, the train is funnelled in using tracks at the side, bringing it into an upward stance. The train doesn’t even slow and having been deprived of a few collected breaths of air, you smoothly accelerate into a sweeping left-hand turn.

The pace once again quickens as this double helix gets tighter and tighter. As you hurtle down this vortex, you dip down towards the ground, almost skimming water below, and as you do, the ride camera captures your excited face as once again, you climb subtlety into another set of mid-course brakes.

Untrimmed, you drop down into a slaloming figure eight through a rocky formation, arching dramatically above your head. A unexpectedly sharp tight turn at the far end sends you back towards these rocks before turning to the left and into a slithering turn, sending you bouncing back into the final brake-run, slowing smoothly, not stopping, before advancing around the final turn, past the maintenance shed hidden from view by a screen of bamboo, before entering the station and leaving on your right.

Trace Du Hourra completely and utterly trounces any form of competition, and entirely embarrasses the pitiful Intamin version of the ride. The queue is just fabulous, with lucid and novel theming it is a pleasure to stand in, and with great visuals of a notoriously un-photogenic ride, it entertains too.

Although the queue is a surprising delight, it is the ride that excels. From the top of the lift to the final brakes it is completely unyielding. Although running three trains is normal (it can run an amazing six), not one of the mid-course brake runs interrupts your hasty binge around the circuit.

Without intimidating younger family members, the ride smoothly yet forcefully throws you into each turn with incredible grace, something achieved as the train takes its natural path thanks to the lack of rigid track.

From the lift, the course is varied with a great selection of varied elements, such as the swooping turn into the first helix, the mid-course spiral and the finale, a knotted figure-eight.

I’m not alone in saying that Trace Du Hourra is the perfect family ride in every  way. With an un-exhausted concept of a ride it is more than the theming that makes it stand head and shoulders above the rest.

With the trains, visuals are great, and as the train swiftly chops and changes through the varying turns, it is great watching it snake around as it does.

With surprising speed, and equal grace, riding it is a joy.

5/5 Marcus Sheen