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Apollo's Chariot

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Apollo's Chariot Specs
Operating Since:
March 27, 1999
Bollinger & Mabillard
B&M Steel Hypercoaster
4882 ft
170 ft
Largest Drop:
210 ft
Angle of Descent:
65 degrees
73 mph
3 trains
9 cars per train
4 riders per car
(4 across seating)
Ride Duration:
Ride Capacity:
1750 riders per hour

In 1999 coaster manufacturers Bolliger & Mabillard opened their very first example of the steel hypercoaster style coaster which began gaining popularity with other manufacturers as well as with coaster riders. With a 210 ft first drop, Apollo's Chariot features a sprawling out-and-back layout through a secluded wooded area near the edge of the park, with a total of 9 hills, each with an incredible airtime pop and speedy decent. The turnaround at the far end includes a fast climbing and diving helix with highly banked turns and entry, taking full advantage of the flipping effect when riding the end seats of the 4 across cars.

The B&M trains themselves have also been redesigned for this new style coaster, to great effect. Since the ride has no inversions, gone are the confining over-the-shoulder harnesses, replaced with simple, comfortable bucket seats with a high back to support your head. A single solid "T" shaped lap bar as the only restraint. The trains have no sides, the seats rising on posts from a simple flat floor. A slight tilt backward to the seats raises your feet subtly off the floor when riding. The very open construction of the trains leads to a real feeling of flying especially during the airtime crests and steep zero-G plummets. In addition, the sharply banked turns of the ride, including the sharp left twist and dive at the high point of the far hill leading to the turnaround helix, becomes quite thrilling with an intense feeling that you might fall sideways out of your seat at any moment.

Overall, these new style trains achieve much the same feeling as B&M's "floorless" style coasters without the complexity of the drop-away flooring in the station. The removal of the shoulder harnesses leads to a much more comfortable, unrestrained, and thrilling ride in the opinion of many coaster enthusiasts (including Dexter). The freedom of riding with arms held high and legs outstretched offers a very satisfying coaster experience.

After boarding the train and being secured by the lapbar, the ride begins with a long ascent up the lifthill. At the top, the ride leaves the lift crest and gently picks up speed onto a short, level section of track, giving the rider barely a moment to ponder their first view of the massive length of track now laid before them through the hills and gullies of the wood and lake. It is extremely breathtaking... but not as much so at the immediate 210 foot drop toward the water.

The sensation is that of flying. As the train plunges down, riders seem only loosely connected to the seat and train as it propels you forward. The speed and shape of the drop provide an extended low-G experience that feels like falling throughout most of the length of the drop. At the bottom of that first hill, a short, level section of track across the water gives the rider a chance to enjoy the pure speed of the ride for a short period. Rising up and over the parabolic second hill, loosing seemingly little speed, the second drop brings the trains through a short "tent" made of a striped canopy built on a small island over water.

At the crest of the following hill, Apollo's Chariot pitches you sharply to the left, throwing riders sideways and down a steep curving incline into the high speed helix comprising the turnaround. The highly banked turn at the bottom accentuates the G-forces as the train barrels upward through the helix, then thrusts the riders to the right and back down another sharp drop that begins the journey back to the station.

Apollo's Chariot has been promoted as having a greater number of drops (9) than any other steel coaster, and a greater total drop distance as well (895 feet!). Not settling to pad the record books, the B&M design ensures that each drop is a steep, fast plummet, rather than including small shallow inclines and calling them "drops".

The trip back to the station is filled with several more drops, another short straightaway over the water, parallel to the first, and many more moments of pure airtime. As the trains get closer to the end of the circuit, a problem appears. At the helix, the track crossed under the second hill, leaving the trains running parallel, but on the wrong side of the lift hill to approach the station. To remedy that, the next dive takes a steeply banked turn to the right, under the outbound track, followed by a quick flip left to straighten out and return to the parallel course. This sharp left and right banking of the wide trains is a feature truly unique to B&M and is part of what gives their rides a distinctive character... even on a new ride style traditionally known for its long straight "out-and-back" tracks. B&M took the basic layout, incorporated their unique sensibility, and made it uniquely theirs.

After that sweeping, flying plummet and swivel to get the trains back on the right side of the tracks (Dexter likes to call that maneuver the "Jackie Gleason" move), riders face the tiny bunny hop that they witnessed from the station while waiting to board. What is unseen from the station is that the bottom of the second bunny hop is set in another gully, and provides one last, fast, steep drop before bringing the trains back up and into the brake run. The slow glide through the flat 180 degree turn back onto the loading platform is a good time to contemplate the next ride. Time to get back in line!

Drops are drops, and for a ride to provide such exhilarating speed as Apollo's Chariot does is quite an achievement. Beyond that, however, it is the shape and pacing of the drops that give a ride the synergy to make it a favorite, rather than an also-ran. Apollo's Chariot has that in abundance. From the first drop to the crest of each and every element in turn... riding unencumbered in the air with arms and legs out and the wind in your face... this ride gives some the most amazing airtime to be had in the coaster world. It feels as if you are flying down into that first plunge and through every hill that follows. After riding it several times, front seat and back, Dexter's enthusiasm never waned a bit, and he could not help but to squeal with extreme delight through the entire trip. Such pumped exhilaration that lasts into the station is what makes these things worth standing in line to ride. On the trip to Virginia to test this ride out, Dexter and friends ended up riding nothing else in the park that day. Not Alpengeist nor the Lock Ness Monster... just and entire day spent on riding Apollo's Chariot over and over. There is no higher praise that can be given for a new ride.

Needless to say, after riding Apollo's Chariot for the first time in 2000, this coaster was immediately entered on Dexter's short list of "favorite coasters".

All pages, images and info © Copyright 1997 - 2009 David W Creighton.
All rights reserved.