America's Third B&M Hypercoaster Detonates With Earth-Shaking Gusto.

Add glycerine to a measured blend of nitric and sulfuric acids and you've got an explosive witch's brew called nitro-glycerine, or, more simply, "nitro." Unless you're a demolitions expert, you'll want to stay as far from the stuff as possible.

Then there's Nitro with a capital N, and its formula is a bit more complicated: 4,110,200 pounds of steel, 14,630 bolts, 252 concrete footers, 2,420 gallons of paint, and a truckload of Bolliger & Mabillard magic. This, people, is something you want to get real close to.

Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, New Jersey) has been pumping some serious thrill ride iron the past few years, but with the debut of its latest scream machine, the park has become a truly Schwarzenegger-sized brute: 12 coasters (with 14 individual tracks), three of them B&M-designed, including Batman: The Ride, one of the world's first inverted coasters, Medusa, the world's first floorless coaster, and now Nitro, the tallest and fastest coaster B&M has created to date. Even more astounding, Nitro is the longest roller coaster any Six Flags park has ever debuted (again, at least as of this writing ;).

The big question: Is Nitro as "explosive" as its name suggests? Like the earth is round, folks.

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Once upon a time, 200-plus-footers were about as rare as tanning salons in the Sahara. Today, though they may not pepper the country like Starbucks franchises, we can rattle off the names of more than a dozen without breaking a sweat.

But B&M hypercoasters -- Speed coasters in their parlance -- can still be counted on just one three-fingered hand. 1999 was the year Bolliger & Mabillard broke through the "two-century" ceiling with Raging Bull, for Six Flags Great America, and Apollo's Chariot, for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. And those two stunners were more than just really, really big; they introduced B&M's extra-special minimalist trains. No sidewalls, no forward barriers, just raised, slightly reclined seats and a hip-hugging lap restraint.

So Nitro is more than just your "average" hypercoaster; it's an elite among elites. And though its L-shaped out-and-back layout borrows plenty from Apollo's Chariot, this monster has some new tricks up its sleeves.

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Even on an overcast, rainy day -- the park's media preview day, of course -- Nitro's cartoonish blue, yellow and magenta color scheme makes an indelible impression. What exactly does this garish palette have to do with the coaster's "theme?" Who knows and who cares? Thing is, it's an amusing contrast to the somber black and grey of Batman: The Ride, the 105-foot-tall coaster now mocked by Nitro's gargantuan lift hill.

The entrance to the queue gets us looking right at that 230-foot-tall hill, rising up and away in the distance, and what a sight for sore eyes it is. Nothing fancy-schmancy about the rest of the pre-board experience, just a generic switchback stroll to an elevated sheet-metal loading dock. But once we're up the stairs and onto the platform, waiting for the next train to arrive... our train... you won't be thinking about the dearth of visual niceties.

A random sampling of rider opinion that morning seemed to indicate a strong preference for the rear car. More airtime, more pull over the tops of the hills. If you ask me, the best seat in the house is front row, outer left. You'll know why soon.

Our posteriors snuggled into those molded bucket seats, clamshell lap bars locked down, we're off. The train pours right into a quick, swooping U-turn and rises up to engage the chain.

If you're not frozen with terrified anticipation, look back over your shoulder and enjoy a gorgeous view of the entire park to the rear. If a simple head swivel is all you can manage, then just look to the right. Signs on the way up indicate our progressive climb beyond the heights of several famous monuments: Egypt's Great Sphinx ; Niagara Falls; The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

But soon, your attention will be drawn by what's off to the left: Nitro's mile-long riot through the lakeside wilderness. And then we're at the pinnacle.

Up and over, the nose of the train drops. And drops. And drops some more. At 66 degrees, the angle of the first descent is far from completely vertical, but from this dizzying height, it sure feels like it could be. Raise your arms, extend your legs, and lean forward.

Nitro drops like a bomb. We run amok down into a steel gorge, a torrent of air blasting harder and harder against us, plummeting 215 feet like we were Acapulco cliff divers on our way to the mother of all belly-flops.

Bottoming out at a scorching velocity of almost 80 miles per hour, we storm right back up to the top of a 189-foot peak and it's at this mesmerizing moment you'll most appreciate the front left seat. Negative G's giving us an upward boost, the train turns and pitches way over to the port side. G'head and look to your left -- all that's between you and the cold, bare earth more than 18 stories below is a whole lotta nothing. And all that's keeping you from gettin' dumped into the void is that lap restraint. Nasty bidness, friends, and I like it.

But there's a mere heartbeat to relish this near-death experience. Nitro charges on, skimming the deck and attacking a 161-foot-tall camelback with full-throttle ferocity. We're airborne again as we soar through the sky and plunge back down.

And then, it's hammer time.

At the far end of Nitro's course, we encounter what B&M calls the Hammer Head, a rising, banking, sweeping 'n' diving maneuver that would make a fighter pilot proud. The train rockets up, arcs and whips to the right, and slams through a complete 180-degree, inclined twist at breakneck speed. Scrumptious! And if you like all those positive G's, you're in luck 'cuz this is just the appetizer.

Shrieking down the outer leg of the hammer head, we're prepped for some more air-time, rushing towards another major camelback. High and low we go, rump-flotation by the bushel, gearing up for yet another of Nitro's unique delights: the spiral.

Our cars careen through one more tip-ya-over turn and surge into the base of this steel vortex. 'Round and 'round, the whirlpool getting tighter and tighter, the track banking steeper and steeper, the support poles getting closer and closer, the positive G's pressin' down relentlessly... oh, Bay-Bee, that's the stuff!

And just before our rib cages implode, we zip outta the top of the spiral and cruise over the block brake.

Wouldn't be a proper out-and-backer without a climactic scramble over some rapid-fire bunny-hops and Nitro delivers in spades. We dart off the block brake stretch and bound over wave after undulating wave. And if you ain't smiling now, well, there's just no hope for ya. ;)

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Sure, the back row is terrific, and many of you will ultimately prefer it. That unimpeded front-seat view is half of what makes Nitro so gut-wrenching, far as I'm concerned. But no matter where you end up planting yer keister, you'll be making room for this one on your Top Ten list.

Great Adventure may come up a bit short in the woodie department, but its steel coaster collection is now among the best, and most comprehensive, you'll be able to find anywhere; the three Beemers alone make it world-class. And Nitro -- sorry, Medusa -- stands head and shoulders above them all.

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  • TRACK LENGTH: 5,394 feet
  • TOP SPEED: Nearly 80 Miles Per Hour
  • MAX. HEIGHT: 230 feet
  • MAX. DROP: 215 feet
  • RIDE DURATION: 4 minutes
  • CARS: Three trains composed of nine cars. Each car accommodates four passengers across.
  • MANUFACTURER: Bolliger & Mabillard, Monthey, Switzerland

Nitro logo artwork TM 2001 Six Flags Great Adventure. All rights reserved.





© Robert Coker.
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