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Dragon Challenge

Dragon Challenge (formerly known as Dueling Dragons) is a pair of intertwined inverted roller coasters in the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area of Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. The ride is themed to two chasing dragons, one side being Chinese Fireball and the other Hungarian Horntail. It features a layout in which the two trains share adjacent lift hills but then traverse two unique courses. The ride was designed by Bolliger & Mabillard of Switzerland. The Chinese Fireball dragon reaches a top speed of 60 mph, and the Hungarian Horntail dragon reaches a top speed of 55 mph. Both versions feature five inversions. The total ride time is about two minutes and 25 seconds.

When Islands of Adventure opened on May 28, 1999, the ride was called Dueling Dragons and was located in The Lost Continent area with the two sides named Fire and Ice. During much of the ride's history, the trains were dispatched simultaneously, providing three near-miss encounters along the courses. However, after two injuries related to loose objects hitting people, the roller coasters are now dispatched separately. After a renovation period, the attraction reopened in mid-March 2010, and was officially renamed as Dragon Challenge with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter grand opening on June 18, 2010.

History

Entrance of the former Dueling Dragons coasters at Islands of Adventure

Dueling Dragons (1999 - 2010)

Dueling Dragons was one of Islands of Adventure's original attractions, opening with the theme park on May 28, 1999, in the park's The Lost Continent area. At the time, it was the only fully inverted dueling roller coaster in the world. The ride was themed to two dueling dragons, with one track named Ice and the other named Fire.[1]

During construction, Superior Rigging & Erection was responsible for erecting the supports and track of the two roller coasters.[2]

Dragon Challenge (2010 - present)

In May 2007, Universal announced plans to construct The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a new section devoted to the popular Harry Potter book and film series.[3][4][5] Dueling Dragons, as well as the adjacent Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, were shown to be included in the new section.[6] Universal later announced that the attraction would be renamed Dragon Challenge upon the re-opening of the attraction and that the two roller coasters would be renamed as Hungarian Horntail and Chinese Fireball.[7][8]

Construction on re-theming the queue began in the third quarter of 2009.[9] In the first quarter of 2010, the ride closed in order to refurbish the attraction to incorporate the Harry Potter theme.[10][11][12] In mid-March 2010, the roller coasters reopened to the public.[11][13][14] On June 18, 2010, with the opening of the entire The Wizarding World of Harry Potter section, the ride officially became Dragon Challenge.[8]

During the summer of 2011, there were two accidents (one serious) caused by what is believed to be loose objects hitting riders while riding the roller coaster. The most serious accident was when a man got struck with an object and had to get his eye removed due to the amount of damage. On the same day that the man got hit, Universal Studios announced that the coasters would not duel until an investigation was completed. For two months the coasters were dispatched separately and in mid-October 2011, Universal made the decision to remove the dueling aspect of the ride permanently without any explanation to what caused the injuries.[15][16] No injuries have been reported since.

Ride experience

Head-to-head on the former Dueling Dragons
The ride's distinctive interlocking corkscrew tracks

Queue

When first entering the queue, guests are taken past a number of banners for the Triwizard Tournament showing support for the four contestants. After passing the Weasleys' crashed flying Ford Anglia, they enter the Champions' Tent. From there guests pass a large pedestal with the Triwizard Cup glowing at the top, and several dark "tunnels" which lead to both coaster's stations. Just before entering the station guests must choose which coaster they want to ride: Chinese Fireball to the left or Hungarian Horntail to the right. Once in the station, on the ceiling, there is a projection of the dragons.[17]

The queue before the Harry Potter refurbishment was set as a ruined castle where the Fire and Ice dragons lived. The queue passed through dungeons and included human skeletons, torches, and cobwebs. Just like the present queue, to ride Fire, guests would go left while riders wanting to ride Ice would go right at the intersection point.[18]

Track layout

Ride layout

Chinese Fireball

Upon departing from the station, the train makes a slight left turn leading into the transfer track section before beginning to climb the 125-foot (38 m) lift hill. Once at the top and after going through a pre-drop, the train makes a sharp 115-foot (35 m) left-hand drop back to the ground. Then, the train goes back up, through an Immelmann followed by a slight downward right turn before entering an air-time hill (this was the first of three near-miss points with the Hungarian Horntail train when the roller coasters duelled). Next, the train drops back down turning left slightly leading into a second Immelmann. After a downward right helix and a short section of straight track, the train goes through the second former near-miss point with the other train, a vertical loop. After the loop and another section of straight track, the train makes a right turn leading into the third and final former near-miss element which is a corkscrew. Then, the train makes a left turn followed by a small drop leading into another section of straight track before entering the final element in the coaster layout, another corkscrew. The train then make a left turn into the final brake run. Following a left turn, the train returns to the station where the riders unload and the next riders load.[1][19]

Hungarian Horntail

Upon departing from the station, the train makes a slight right turn leading into the transfer track section before beginning to climb the 125-foot (38 m) lift hill. Once at the top and after going through a pre-drop, the train makes a sharp 95-foot (29 m) right-hand drop back to the ground. Then, the train goes through a 270 degree right overbanked turn before entering a Zero-gravity roll which was the first of three former near-miss points with the Chinese Fireball train. Then, the train makes a slight right turn heading straight into a wall before entering a Cobra roll. After a straight section of track, the train enters the second former near-miss point with the other train, a vertical loop. The train then makes a right turn into the final former near-miss point, a corkscrew. Next, the train makes a right turn followed by a left turn leading into the final brake run. Following a right turn, the train returns to the station where the riders unload and the next riders load.[1][20]

Track

The steel track is approximately 3,200 feet (980 m) in length and the height of the lift is approximately 125 feet (38 m) for both roller coasters. The first drop for Chinese Fireball is 115 feet (35 m) while Hungarian Horntail 95 feet (29 m). Chinese Fireball's track is red and Hungarian Horntail's is blue. Both coaster's supports are white.[1][21]

Trains

Dragon Challenge operates with several steel and fiberglass trains. Each train has eight cars with four seats for a total of 32 riders per train. All the Hungarian Horntail trains resemble a blue ice dragon while all the Chinese Fireball trains resemble a red fire dragon.[22][23]

When the coaster cars duelled, in order to make the trains meet at each of the three near-miss points along the layout, the trains would be weighed once they were loaded at the station to adjust the dispatch times.[24] For example, if the Chinese Fireball train weighed more than the Hungarian Horntail train, the Fireball would be dispatched after the Horntail.

Reception

Inverted seating of the Chinese Fireball track

Dragon Challenge has generally been well received, with most riders preferring the Chinese Fireball track.

In the annual Amusement Today Golden Ticket Awards for the Top Steel Roller Coasters, Dragon Challenge ranked in the top 50 every year between 2000 and 2012. It peaked at position 11 in 2002.

Golden Ticket Awards: Top steel Roller Coasters
Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Ranking [25] 13[26] 12[27] 11[28] 14[29] 16[30] 15[31] 18[32] 23[33] 14[34] 17[35] 31[36] 28[37] 35[38] [39]

In Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll, the two tracks are ranked separately. In every year that the steel roller coaster poll has been held, Chinese Fireball has ranked higher than the Hungarian Horntail. In 1999, Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail peaked at positions 9 and 18, respectively.[40]

Mitch Hawker's Best Roller Coaster Poll: Best Steel-Tracked Roller Coaster[40]
Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Chinese Fireball
9
style="background: #ececec; color: grey; vertical-align: middle; font-size: smaller; text-align: center; " class="table-na" | [nb 1]
10
11
18
15
19
17
19
31
32
40
style="background: #ececec; color: grey; vertical-align: middle; font-size: smaller; text-align: center; " class="table-na" | [nb 1]
52
57
Hungarian Horntail
18
style="background: #ececec; color: grey; vertical-align: middle; font-size: smaller; text-align: center; " class="table-na" | [nb 1]
25
26
29
30
26
23
26
37
40
46
style="background: #ececec; color: grey; vertical-align: middle; font-size: smaller; text-align: center; " class="table-na" | [nb 1]
60
71

These poll results are supported by a review by Jeremy Thompson of Roller Coaster Philosophy. Thompson ranks the Chinese Fireball a B- and the Hungarian Horntail a C+; only The Incredible Hulk and Jurassic Park River Adventure are ranked higher. Thompson also made comparisons between the ride in its generic-themed state versus the Harry Potter theme added in 2010 stating the "roller coaster has also lost a certain poetic quality that made the original so pleasurable". The loss of the dueling function also contributed to the lower ranking.[41]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d No Steel Roller Coaster Poll was held in 2000 or 2011.

See also

References

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External links


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