The company that designed and manufactured Intimidator, the Carowinds ride that sits near the front of the park, can seem to do no wrong when it rolls out its signature hypercoasters. Like similar thrill machines that Swiss coaster mavens Bolliger & Mabillard have built for other parks, Intimidator is another super-smooth ride with delirious moments of floating airtime.
- Type of coaster: Steel hypercoaster
- Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 8
No inversions, but wild speed, height, and G-forces—particularly negative-G airtime
- Height: 232 feet
- First drop: 211 feet
- First drop angle: 74 degrees
- Other drops: 178 feet, 151 feet, 105 feet, 90 feet
- Top speed: 75 mph
- Track length: 5316 feet
- Height requirement: 54 inches
- Ride time: 3:33 minutes
Intimidator’s Controlled Mayhem
The anticipation begins before guests even enter the park. The imposing, 5316-foot, out and back, bright red Intimidator track stretches around the perimeter of the park and provides plenty of sneak peeks from the parking lot. Shrieking riders can be seen rising out of their seats for joyful moments of serious airtime as trains navigate the coaster's daunting, yet graceful hills.
Walking towards Intimidator’s station, guests make their way through an overpass where elated post-ride passengers are often awaiting their turn to disembark the coaster. As with other B&M hypercoasters, the front and sides of Intimidator’s trains have been stripped away leaving, essentially, seats bolted to a chassis—the better to expose riders to the ride’s controlled mayhem. Sticking with the design protocol, each car has two rows of two comfortable bucket seats. B&M’s nifty offset seating arrangement gives all riders the approximation of a front-row view by slightly elevating and placing the two seats in each car’s back row towards the outer edges of the train.
An unobtrusive lap bar, which is the ride’s only safety restraint, complements the coaster’s open-air experience.
No Racing Helmet Required
The front of each train bears a mockup of Dale Earnhardt’s black Monte Carlo. Nicknamed “the Intimidator,” the late NASCAR superstar serves as the inspiration and theme for the coaster. After ride ops complete their safety check, “Gentlemen! Start your engines,” blares over the PA , and the train leaves the station to make its way up a 23-story lift hill at a fairly robust clip.
Then, it‘s an intimidating 211-foot drop at a 74-degree angle as Intimidator reaches its top NASCAR-worthy speed of 75 mph. While Earnhardt may have known a thing or two about barely-in-control, high-speed races, it’s unlikely he ever felt anything like the soaring airtime his namesake delivers as Intimidator blasts up and crests its second hill. Keep in mind that at 178 feet, the ride’s second hill is significantly taller than the first drop of most coasters.
Intimidator is Heavenly Smooth
But, it’s the third hill that provides Intimidator’s airtime sweet spot. The 151-foot doozy sends riders into a free-floating free-for-all that doesn’t allow their tushes to get reacquainted with the ride’s bucket seats until the train is well on its way down the other side. This, my coaster-loving friends, is airtime nirvana.
The plunge ends in a turnaround that sends Intimidator heading back towards the station, but not before another couple of airtime-infused leaps and dips alongside Carowind’s parking lot. The coaster then speeds into a late-course trim brake to briefly slow its hell-bent (but always heavenly smooth) race to the finish. Two more airtime-crazy peaks and valleys follow, before Intimidator finishes its victory lap.
Since its debut, Intimidator has been upstaged by Fury 325. Carowinds’ “giga coaster” climbs a staggering 325 feet and hits 95 mph, making it one of the world’s tallest coasters as well as one of the fastest. It is also manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard. (Carowinds has a slew of other great roller coasters. In fact, it is one of the theme parks with the most number of roller coasters in the world.) Fury 325 gets great accolades and may leave other rides in the dust, but Intimidator remains a standout coaster at Carowinds—and one of the best coasters anywhere, for that matter.
It leaves riders adrenaline-stoked and a bit dazed. But not so dazed that they wouldn’t want to get back in line for another go-around on the airtime-loving ride.