Specific Type: Dive Coaster
In European mythology, there was a creature that ruled both land and air. The griffon transcended the continental boundaries, becoming a facet in the native cultures from England to France and beyond. These griffons emerged in the early centuries and soon became a facet of European mythology with their power and illustriousness. Since then, these creatures have pervasively persevered in modern society, finding their way into everything from books like Alice in Wonderland to games like World of Warcraft. The griffon, however, wanted a little more attention for himself than what the library and store shelves could provide.Busch Gardens Europe has long established a reputation of breeding ground for such beasts, with a long ancestry to its name. The first encounter with a fabled creature of this nature encroached upon the park in 1978 when local Loch Ness Monster sightings began in the Scottish countryside. Every decade since, the beasts have made Williamsburg a frequent stomping ground. Six years after Nessie invaded, the equally familiar fable of the Big Bad Wolf found a home over in the Germany hamlet of Busch Gardens. Eight years later, Drachen Fire moved in right next door, and it wasn't five years later that a third beast began haunting Germany when Alpengeist took unsuspecting skiers for the ride of their lives.
Just across the Alps, however, there sat a country that had managed to escape the terror of the mythological beasts for over three decades. A quiet French village sat just beyond the snow-capped Alpine horizon. Riders chugged along on the Le Mans Raceway and drifted along the river of the Le Scoot log chute. But then, one day, it all began to change. The cars of the Le Mans came to a screeching halt once and for all. A new foe was attacking. And thus, he rose from the ground up, claiming five acres for himself. And come next spring, brave adventure-seekers will get their first chance to conquer this new terror: Griffon. The Drachen Fire and its fervid fury had been slain back in 2002, but now, for the first time ever, this new terror promises the European continent a collection of five fearsome, forlorn, fabled foes. Since Busch Gardens Africa and its European-themed sister park became points on the Tampa Bay, Florida and Williamsburg, Virginia maps in 1959 and 1975, respectively, a pattern has existed between the two. When the 1977 season rolled around at the Tampa park, so did the Arrow Dynamics Corkscrew coaster Python. The very next season, the Williamsburg park added the aforementioned Loch Ness Monster, a far larger ride of the same breed. In the nineties, Tampa installed Montu, an inverted coaster, which was immediately followed by the construction of Alpengeist up north. Then, in 2005, Busch Gardens Africa added SheiKra, the first Dive Machine model from Bolliger and Mabillard in the United States. It ameliorated a concept of 1998 and 2000 that B&M had played around with in Great Britain and Taiwan.
The original Dive Machine concept was to take an enormously wide load of thrill-seekers in a single car to the apex of a near-vertical drop. Pausing at the top, riders would hang forward for a moment, then plunge and pull around into the brakes. But with SheiKra, the layout grew to a mess of turns, an extra vertical drop, an inversion, and even a tasty water splash finale. Now, Busch Gardens Europe is taking it a step further, with all of the goodies from the Florida version plus an extra inversion, an extra hill, and a custom-designed terrain layout. On top of that, the trains are getting an upgrade of two more riders per row and Bolliger and Mabillard are throwing the train's floor away completely.
© Busch Gardens Entertainment
If European adventurers are brave enough, they can head through the hamlets of England, Ireland, and into France before earning the right to challenge the mythical beast. But if they need some time to get up the nerve, they can conquer the other, older beasts first. But when the time comes, guests will cross a bridge leading from the architectural centerpiece of the French village and through the coaster's first, largest inversion. As they cross, they may be lucky enough not to blink as Griffon flies thirty screaming riders underneath and overhead in its talons. After passing through the queue building and completing the switchbacks, it comes time for riders to give themselves over to the beast. They do so by loading onto the train, thirty at a time, in three rows. But these aren't any ordinary rows - these are tiered, stadium-style carriages designed to allow for maximum visual potential. With over-the-shoulder restraints in place, the massive floor retracts to either side, and it's time to fly.
Clicking up the lift hill, riders slowly transcend the heights of the French architecture and buildings in ruins, trampled by the Griffon. The wide track passes underneath, angled at forty-five degrees towards the sky. At the pinnacle, riders find themselves high above the rolling hills, higher even than the once king of the continent, Alpengeist, at new, crowning heights. Riding on the wings of the Griffon, thrill-seekers dangle precariously over the sides of the track with nothing between their dangling feet and the ground but air. The car slowly rounds a near U-turn at over twenty stories, then the track ahead plunges from sight. Moving forward, the train begins inching over the edge. Then... Nothing. High in the air, the train hangs forward along with riders' legs for a second or two, giving thrill-seekers a more lasting taste of the heights whether they want it or not.
The brakes release and the wait is over as riders freefall at ninety degrees into a gradual pull-out pouring on the speed. The bridge passes by overhead at seventy-one miles an hour as the track curves up into the enormous Immelman. One hundred and eighty degrees later, passengers are upside down, looking straight down at pedestrians. Once the track begins curving to the left, the first Immelman wraps up quickly and the train dives most of the way back to the ground. The track ahead sweeps up to the left through a climbing ninety-degree curve through and around two of the enormous A-frame supports for the top curve, then the train encounters a short set of block brakes at the top with Alpengeist parallel on the right.
Griffon's second vertical drop may not be quite vertical like the first, nor is it as long, but not too many aboard will find themselves complaining as they plunge 130 feet down a hillside leading to the water of Busch Gardens's central Rhine River. The path crosses over the waters to the opposite side and then loops up into a second Immelman towards Loch Ness Monster's station. Pulling out with another left-hand twist, Griffon dives back to the ground for a quick hop curving forty-five leftward degrees. After the hop, riders find themselves the center of attention as they speed over the surface of a small pool with water effects blasting off to the sides. The track winds around to the left next for a carousel curve that climbs, dips, and then exits with a quick hop onto the brakes.
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