Specific Type: Speed Racer
The Whizzer at Six Flags Great America is one of two identical Schwarzkopf roller coasters built by the Marriott Corporation in 1976, who owned the park at that time before Six Flags. With one coaster being built at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois and the other at California’s Great America in Santa Clara, California, they were the last Speed Racer model coasters built by Anton Schwarzkopf. While the model atCalifornia’s Great America was taken down in 1988, theWhizzer at Six Flags Great America continues operation to this day as one of only two Speed Racers still in existence, and the only remaining custom spiral-lift Schwarzkopf coaster left in the world.
When the ride first opened, it was originally called Willard’s Whizzer in honor of Willard Marriott, founder of the Marriott Corporation that owned the park at the time. The ride is located behind the Hometown Square section of the park, running through a heavily wooded area as it speeds along its twisted, ground-hugging course.
In its early days, both of the Willard’s Whizzer roller coasters experienced problems with the braking system, which sometimes caused the trains to collide in the station. The Whizzer at Six Flags Great America experienced only two collisions, but occurring less than a month apart and injuring 31 riders, they were certainly cause for concern. Meanwhile, in its first four operating seasons, its sister Whizzer at California’s Great America experienced at least 11 collisions, resulting in one fatal incident on March 29, 1980 in which a 14-year-old boy was killed and 8 other riders were injured. As a result of the incidents, seatbelts were added to the trains (whereas previously the ride had no restraint systems), the braking system was modified, and the number of operating trains was reduced from five to three.
Though the ride is still in operation at the park, there was one point where that nearly wasn’t the case. Back in August of 2002, the park announced publicly that the Whizzer would be removed at the end of the season to make way for a big new attraction in 2003, giving guests just enough time to get in their last rides before the coasters departure. Shortly thereafter, the park reversed its decision due to a massive outcry from coaster enthusiasts and park guests alike, and the parks seven-inversion Arrow coaster, the Shockwave, was removed instead to make way for the B&M Flying coaster, Superman: Ultimate Flight.
As riders board the attraction, the load up tandem/toboggan-style into the four car, three bench trains and fasten a seatbelt as their only restraint. Engaging with the electrified center rail of the lift, a small electric motor beneath each car powers the train up the spiral-lift hill to a height of 70 feet. Leaving the lift hill, the train glides down a shallow 64-foot drop, slowly gaining speed before banking heavily to the right and spiraling up a 200-degree helix. As the train reaches the end of the helix, the track rises up and straightens out for the rides second hill. Ascending the top of the second hill, the train then rolls slowly along a flat section of track, slowly increasing its banking, speed, and grade as it descends leftward down a 220-degree diving turn. Now flying past the trees back towards the structure of its second hill, the train breaks quickly to the right into a ground-hugging 270-degree helix through the trees around a small hill.
Out of the helix, the track again straightens out and makes a shallow rise into the rides third hill, where the train hits the MCBR. After passing through the brakes, the track banks to the right, and the train dips and rises through a 200-degree, lift-hill-hugging turn. The train then drops and banks to the left, diving down over a pond to the ground before pulling up and out into the rides fourth hill. Topping the fourth hill, the train negotiates a tight right-hand turn before dipping and rising into the rides finale—a 585-degree helix that rolls the train leftward through thick forest that ends with a rise out of the woods into the final break run, bringing an end to the 3,100-foot long journey.
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