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Faster, higher, further - and now interactive, too. Welcome to the world’s most exciting roller coasters! And you’ll be amazed to see how young the engineers are.

By Anke Henrich

The fastest: “Formula Rossa”, Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

You will want to ensure the safety bar is firmly secured on this one. The world’s fastest steel roller coaster accelerates from zero to 100 km/h (62 miles) in just 2.9 seconds and reaches a scarcely credible top speed of 240 km/h (149.1 mph). This is achieved in just 4.9 seconds thanks to 32,600 horse power. The daring riders are asked to wear goggles to protect their eyes against swirling desert sand. The steel monster reaches a maximum height of 52 meters (171 feet) and speeds up and down a track measuring 2,200 meters – a distance that the world’s fastest roller coaster covers in just one and a half minutes. Maximum g-force: 4.8 g!

It is no coincidence that the red cars look like Formula 1 racing cars: The record-breaking roller coaster is part of Ferrari World, a theme park owned by the multiple World Championship-winning Italian Formula 1 team, modeled on the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza, Italy. Manufacturer: Intamin, a Swiss-Liechtenstein corporation that has built more than 90 roller coasters around the world. One of them is Kingda Ka, at the Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in New Jersey, USA. Holding the record of the world’s tallest roller coaster at 139 m, it includes a 127 m vertical drop with a 270° spin. Certainly not a ride for the faint-hearted!

The most interactive: Ducati Panigale V4

Sitting there holding your breath is boring. Munich-based company Maurer Rides will soon offer a motorcycle race on a roller coaster. At the Mirabilandia theme park near Ravenna, Italy, passengers will sit on two-seater Panigale V4 roller coaster motorcycles, styled like the Ducati. Each unit on the roller coaster has its own electric drive producing 1050 Nm of torque. Using the throttle, the riders can accelerate themselves, with the torque transmitted to the steering rack on the rail without slippage via a gear wheel. This drive system on the bikes is also used for deceleration. During braking, energy is fed into the power rail, and block brakes are no longer required. A 270° turn, tight switchbacks and a steep 22-meter descent test the expertise and reaction speeds of the motorcycle riders. 100 percent traction enables propulsion of more than 1g at all times. Safety first: A control system puts the brakes on overconfident riders.

The youngest engineers

Good bait catches fine fish, roller coasters catch young technology enthusiasts. This is the idea behind the German Federal Chamber of Engineers’ “Achterbahn - schwungvoll konstruiert!” competition for high school students. In this challenging event, the boys and girls are asked to design a roller coaster – including the track and load-bearing construction – and submit a model. The model must not exceed a base area of 30 x 60 cm and a height of 40 cm, and must be affixed to a base. The track must be fully functional, and it will be put to the test using a ball, the diameter of which dictates the cross-section of the track. This cross-section must not exceed a semi-circle. The pupils can freely choose the construction materials, but must use only the “simplest” materials that can be used without industrial machinery. The national winner will receive a prize of 500 euros – enough to pay for a lot of roller coaster rides!  


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