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Top Thrill Dragster

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Title: Top Thrill Dragster  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Cedar Point, Amusement Today, Rollback (roller coaster), Steel Dragon 2000, Launch track
Collection: Cedar Point, Roller Coasters in Ohio, Roller Coasters Introduced in 2003, Roller Coasters Operated by Cedar Fair
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Top Thrill Dragster

Top Thrill Dragster
Top Thrill Dragster launching
Cedar Point
Status Operating
Soft opening date May 1, 2003 (2003-05-01)
Opening date May 4, 2003 (2003-05-04)
Cost US$25,000,000
Replaced Chaos, Troika
General statistics
Type Steel – Launched
Manufacturer Intamin
Designer Werner Stengel
Model Accelerator Coaster
Lift/launch system Hydraulic Launch
Height 420 ft (130 m)
Drop 400 ft (120 m)
Length 2,800 ft (850 m)
Speed 120 mph (190 km/h)
Inversions 0
Duration 0:30
Max vertical angle 90°
Capacity 1,000 riders per hour
Acceleration 0 to 120 mph in 3.8 seconds
Height restriction 52–78 in (132–198 cm)
Trains Six trains, with five cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 2 rows (except for the first car), for a total of 18 riders per train.
Restraint Lap bar
Fast Lane Plus only available
Top Thrill Dragster at RCDB
Pictures of Top Thrill Dragster at RCDB

Top Thrill Dragster is a steel accelerator roller coaster built by Intamin at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, United States. It was the sixteenth roller coaster built at the park since the Blue Streak in 1964. When built in 2003, it was the first full circuit roller coaster to exceed 400 feet (120 m) in height, and was the tallest roller coaster in the world, before being surpassed by Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in May 2005.[1] Top Thrill Dragster, along with Kingda Ka, are the only strata coasters in existence.[2] It was the second hydraulically launched roller coaster built by Intamin, following Xcelerator at Knott's Berry Farm.[3] The tagline for Top Thrill Dragster is "Race for the Sky".[4]


  • History 1
  • Ride experience 2
    • Layout 2.1
    • Theme/trains 2.2
    • Rollbacks 2.3
  • World records 3
  • Operation 4
  • Accident 5
  • Awards 6
  • Records 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Planning for Top Thrill Dragster started around 2000 when Millennium Force opened. Footers started being poured during the winter of 2001/2002 then were covered up during the 2002 operating season. To construct the roller coaster, the park had to use a 480 feet (150 m) crane, only one of four in the United States. Vertical construction by Martin & Vleminckx[5] started in fall 2002, months before the announcement.[6] By October 2002, the roller coaster had reached 200 feet (61 m).[7] The ride was announced on January 9, 2003 and the structure, built by Intamin's subcontractor Stakotra,[8] was finished shortly after. It is tied with Millennium Force for being the two largest investments in Cedar Point history. The announcement revealed the park's goal to build "the tallest and fastest roller coaster on earth", reaching 420 feet (130 m) and accelerating up to 120 miles per hour (193 km/h) in 3.8 seconds.[6] On March 10, 2003, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company filed a trademark for the name Top Thrill Dragster.[9]

Top Thrill Dragster's media day was held on May 1, 2003[10] then it officially opened to the public on May 4.[11] It became the "tallest" and "fastest" roller coaster in the world overtaking both world records from Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land that was just built three years earlier. It lost the title of being the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster when Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure opened in May 2005. Intamin designed both Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster, and the two share a similar design and layout that differs primarily by the theme and the additional hill featured on Kingda Ka.[12]

The ride had constant downtime in its first couple seasons. Several problems such as the ride's hydraulic system and launch cable caused the ride to experience downtime. Top Thrill Dragster was also closed in 2003 for the annual event, CoasterMania.[13]

Ride experience


After leaving the station, the train enters the launch area. To the left of the launch area is a "Christmas tree" light, similar to those employed at the starting line of a drag strip. A brief message is played to the riders to: "keep arms down, head back, and hold on." Once the train is prepared to launch, a motor revving sound effect is played and its magnetic braking fins are lowered from the launch track. It then launches, accelerating to a speed of 120 mph (190 km/h) in 3.8 seconds. Shortly after reaching its maximum velocity, the train begins its ascent up a 90-degree incline, twisting 90 degrees counter-clockwise before climbing over the 420-foot (130 m) top hat. Upon descending, the track twists 270 degrees before leveling out, allowing the train to be stopped by the magnetic brakes.[4][11]


The roller coaster is based on the Top Fuel Drag Racing motor sport. A real Top Fuel dragster weighs approximately one ton, while each train on the coaster weighs 15 tons.[6] Its dragster themed trains once had decorative spoilers and engines, but these were removed soon after opening, allowing an extra row of seats to be added to each one. Also, when the ride opened, it had only four cars on each train, including the decals. By the middle of the 2003 season, the fifth cars were added to all trains, making them the five cars long that they are now. The fifth cars were added on shortly before the decals were removed.[11][14][15] The ride's theme song, "Ready to Go" by Republica, is played while in the station.[16][17]


Occasionally, a train is launched with not enough speed to clear the crest. This typically happens in cool, wet, or breezy weather, or when the wind is working against it. In these conditions, the launch often does not provide it with enough speed to climb over the hill, which causes it to stop short of the top, and roll back down the hill in reverse, hence the term "rollback". The launch track is equipped with retractable magnetic braking fins which are raised after the train is launched in order to slow one that did not crest the hill.[18]

On very rare occasions a combination of the weight distribution of the train, the force of the launch, and the wind can stall a train on the top of the tower. When this happens, a mechanic takes the elevator to the top and pushes the train down the hill.[19] This has only happened three times with passengers on board, June 24, 2005,[20] October 25, 2008,[21] and May 25, 2009.[22]

World records

Side view of Top Thrill Dragster

When Top Thrill Dragster debuted, it set four new records:

  • World's tallest complete circuit roller coaster
  • World's tallest roller coaster
  • World's tallest roller coaster drop
  • World's fastest roller coaster

It was the fourth roller coaster to break the 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) speed barrier. It was preceded by Tower of Terror II at Dreamworld, Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Dodonpa at Fuji-Q Highland. The previous record holder for overall height was Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain, standing at 415 feet (126 m). Its record was broken in 2005 when Kingda Ka opened at Six Flags Great Adventure, standing 456 feet (139 m) tall. The previous record holder for speed was Dodonpa, at 107 miles per hour (172 km/h). This record was broken by Top Thrill Dragster, which reaches speeds up to 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), which was later broken by Kingda Ka which reached a top speed of 128 miles per hour (206 km/h). In November 2010, Formula Rossa at Ferrari World broke the record for fastest roller coaster, with a top speed of 149.1 miles per hour (240.0 km/h).[1]

As of 2015, Top Thrill Dragster has the second tallest lift, the third fastest speed, and the second-highest drop among steel roller coasters in the world.[23][24][25]


Top Thrill Dragster is negatively affected by unfavourable weather conditions as both a high altitude and high velocity ride. "Rain, high winds, and/or lightning" may result in the closing of the ride depending on the severity. It will close in high winds and any kind of precipitation.[26]

There is no minimum age requirement, but passengers must meet the miniumum height requirement of 52 inches and a maximum of 78 inches to ride.[27] Some persons over a certain weight/waist size will not be permitted to ride if the seat and lapbar harness cannot accommodate them.[26] Passengers on Dragster may not bring any loose articles onto the train and will be required to wear shirts and footwear. Headphones must be removed before boarding.[26]

Passengers are advised that they must not ride Dragster if they have "a history of recent surgery, heart trouble/high blood pressure, neck trouble, back trouble, or any other condition that may be aggravated by riding, or who are pregnant".[28]


On July 14, 2004 at around 8:20 PM, four people were struck by flying debris while riding the coaster. Reports indicated that its metal cable frayed as the train was being launched. Shards of metal sheared off of it and struck the riders as the train launched. The riders were left with abrasions mainly on their arms and one rider had cuts on his face. The injured ones were treated at the park's first aid station, and two of them later sought further medical attention on their own.[13]


Train on the brake run
Golden Ticket Awards: Top steel Roller Coasters
Year 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Ranking 11[29] 7[30] 7[31] 10[32] 9[33] 9[34] 10[35] 10[36] 9[37] 13[38] 12[39] 19[40] 13[41]


Preceded by
Steel Dragon 2000
World's Tallest Complete Circuit Roller Coaster
May 4, 2003 – May 21, 2005
Succeeded by
Kingda Ka
Preceded by
Superman: The Escape
World's Tallest Roller Coaster
May 4, 2003 – May 21, 2005
Succeeded by
Kingda Ka
Preceded by
Superman: The Escape and Tower of Terror
World's Tallest Roller Coaster Drop
May 4, 2003 – May 21, 2005
Succeeded by
Kingda Ka
Preceded by
World's Fastest Roller Coaster
May 4, 2003 – May 21, 2005
Succeeded by
Kingda Ka


  1. ^ a b "Top Thrill Dragster records". Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Kingda Ka vs. Top Thrill Dragster". November 16, 2006. Retrieved June 8, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Hydraulic launched roller coasters at RCDB". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Top Thrill Dragster POV". 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Intamin". Martin & Vleminckx. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "Top Thrill Dragster TV announcement". 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster 200 foot support". 2002. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ Stakotra
  9. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster Trademark". Legal Force. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ "PointBuzz history". PointBuzz. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Marden, Duane. "Top Thrill Dragster  (Cedar Point)".  
  12. ^ "Kingda Ka vs. Top Thrill Dragster". July 18, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b "July 14, 2004 incident".  
  14. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster old trains". 2003. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster images at RCDB". Roller Coaster Database. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster Station/Theme Music". 2009. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster Station/Theme Music 2". 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster rollback review". Thrill Network. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster elevator". 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster Stuck at Top". Xtreme Coastin. June 24, 2005. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster stuck October 31, 2008". October 31, 2008. Archived from the original on October 31, 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Top Thrill Dragster stuck May 25, 2009". May 25, 2009. Archived from the original on May 25, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  23. ^ Marden, Duane. "Record Holders  (Statistic: Height, Type: Steel)".  
  24. ^ Marden, Duane. "Record Holders  (Statistic: Speed, Type: Steel)".  
  25. ^ Marden, Duane. "Record Holders  (Statistic: Drop, Type: Steel)".  
  26. ^ a b c "Ride policies and Procedures". 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Rider Height Requirements". Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Guests with Special Needs". Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  30. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  31. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  32. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  33. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  34. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  35. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  36. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  37. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  38. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF).  
  39. ^ Roller Coasters"steel"2013 Top 50 (PDF).  
  40. ^ Roller Coasters"steel"2014 Top 50 (PDF).  
  41. ^ Roller Coasters"steel"2015 Top 50 (PDF).  

External links

  • Official pageTop Thrill -
  • Roller Coaster Philosophy review of Top Thrill Dragster
  • Video of how Top Thrill Dragster works
  • Construction photos video
  • Top Thrill Dragster Photo Gallery at The Point Online
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