By Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times staff writer
11:15 AM EDT, June 25, 2013
The long-anticipated RingRacer at Germany's Nurburgring racetrack is set to join the ranks of the fastest roller coasters in the world when it reopens this summer after a four-year delay.
Back in 2009, the $15-million compressed-air-launch coaster was billed as the fastest coaster in the world with a top speed of 135 mph. Built by Utah-based S&S Worldwide, RingRacer was designed to launch with a force of 5.6 Gs and travel along a 4,000-foot-long track running between the grandstands and the racecourse. Reaching maximum acceleration in 2.5 seconds, the coaster would accelerate twice as fast as the Formula One single-seater cars that race at the renowned Grand Prix track 75 miles northwest of Frankfurt.
RingRacer never achieved the record-setting pace. With Formula One champion Michael Schumacher on board in July 2009, RingRacer operated at approximately 80 mph during its maiden run because the braking system was "not quite working well enough," according to Autosport magazine.
Within weeks of the debut, a problem with the launch system forced the closure of the new coaster. A few months later, an explosion while testing the pneumatic launch injured seven people and damaged a nearby building, according to the General-Anzeiger newspaper. Since then the idled 125-foot-tall coaster has stood as a constant reminder of the failed attempt at the record books.
Over the ensuing years, the few photos of riders aboard RingRacer have whet the appetite of coaster enthusiasts around the world.
Provided they secure the proper operating permit, Nurburgring officials hope to reopen RingRacer on July 7 during a Formula One race at the German track. According to track officials, the initial launch speed of RingRacer will be approximately 105 mph with the possibility of higher speeds at a later date.
But even at that speed, RingRacer will remain behind the coasters it was designed to top: Kingda Ka (128 mph) at New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure, Top Thrill Dragster (120 mph) at Ohio's Cedar Point and Doponpa (107 mph) at Japan's Fuji-Q Highland.
The real problem, of course, is that records are meant to be broken. Since RingRacer's brief but fleeting debut, the star-crossed coaster has been bested by the 149 mph Formula Rosa at Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates. Which means, as any race fan knows, RingRacer will never finish any better than second place.
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