Quimera. That's the Spanish word for Chimera, a mythical beast that was part lion, part goat, and part snake. It's also the name of probably the most intense, badass coaster ever to allow human riders.
At first glance, even a die-hard Schwarzkopf fan like myself would imagine that they'd know what to expect from this ride. Not only is the layout similar to other Schwarzkopf loopers, especially the Mindbender at West Edmonton Mall, there is one major, massive, substantial difference: single-train operation.
You see, these rides were designed to run the German fair circuit, which require lots of tickets sold to pay for the massive cost of dismantling, moving, and reassembling the ride. In order to sell lots of tickets, you need to run lots of trains. Quimera was originally designed to run FIVE trains all at once... which it did when it was called "Dreier Looping" (Triple-loop) on the fair circuit, and when it moved to Malaysia, that number was reduced to three. Flamingoland in the UK then bought it and also operated it with three trains. La Feria at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City then purchased it and operated it under the names "Montaña Infinitum" and later "Montaña Triple Loop."
La Feria, at least by 2014 when I first met this ride, only ran one train on the track. In 2014, that was maddening, since it takes forever to load the trains. Instead of the usual quick-loading accordion restraints like are found on other Schwarzkopf loopers, Quimera has a weird, Formula One-style set of seat belts that are very difficult to put on and adjust. The ride operators spend a great deal of time helping the riders figure out how to get into them and this makes dispatch times excruciatingly long. On my visit in 2014, that was enough for me to say, "good ride, but once and done. I'm not waiting another two hours to do it again." And that's where that story would've ended.
Flash forward to April of 2017. American Coaster Enthusiasts do a South of the Border trip and La Feria is on the schedule. The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the park is that when Montaña Triple Loop became Quimera, it also got a fantastic new paint job. It looks amazing.
The other thing I noticed was that the train was hauling all kinds of ass. No, I mean seriously hauling ass. Here's the thing: see all those white platforms along that staircase on the back of the ride? Those are sections of tracks with tires that regulate the speed of the trains and can function as brakes when needed. That's important if you're going to have multiple trains traversing the layout, since if one train develops an issue and goes too slow, you must have a way to regulate the speed of and/or stop the other trains before they get too close. You also need time to load the train in the station and get it out of the way before the others come in. Well.... when La Feria slapped the new moniker and the new paint on their coaster, someone apparently thought, "if we're only going to have one train, then we don't need to slow it down anywhere, do we?" The result is that the trains scream through all those places where the speed used to be checked. The longer the ride goes on, the more that extra speed accumulates. Have a look at this video - while the appearance of speed doesn't really translate well to video, you can at least see that it doesn't slow down at all on those sections near the staircases.
Now, it's one thing to watch the train race around the track and think, "that looks a lot faster than the last time I was here." But if you want the proof, have a look at the structure on that first loop when the train goes around. Here, I'll show you from the opposite angle and zoom in...
Um, yeah. All coasters move and sway as part of their design. That's a given. But when the train is hauling so much ass that it makes a large steel structure like that act like a metronome, then you know there are some crazy forces at work. And you'd be right. So let's brave the ultra-slow queue and hop on board to see what's going on with this newly-named, newly-painted, newly-unrestrained beast from the master of the looping coaster, Anton Schwarzkopf.
The loading process is ungodly slow. First, you're allowed up onto the platform and told to stand on pairs of dots that line up with the seats on the train. Then, an attendant goes down the line and asks the smaller of each pair of riders to stand on the front dot, insuring that they'll board the train first. That's your first clue that there are going to be some strong forces - when they load you so that the larger person doesn't pummel the smaller one too badly in the turns! I should also point out that the noise of the lift hill motors is loud. Like, seriously loud. Like, some of the ride ops are wearing ear plugs loud. Like you can't talk to anyone while you're waiting loud. Eventually, when everyone is situated, the gates open and you try to get into the car. I say, 'try' because the gates only open a tiny bit and some aren't even lined up with the seats properly. You may have to climb over them. Once in the seat, you'll have to figure out those weird restraints. There are straps that go over each shoulder, each of which must be adjusted. There's another clasp that hooks the straps together in front of your chest. Yep, that needs adjusting, too. Don't even try to figure it out yourself, just wait for the friendly ride op to come by and do it for you. They're probably going to, anyway. I should also mention that if you're tall or have long legs, your knees are going to be jammed into the seat back in front of you even worse than on a WestJet flight in the back of the plane. It's not comfortable, not even a little bit. And it's freaking loud! (Did I mention that already? Sorry. I couldn't think for all the noise.) Eventually, you're shoe-horned into the thing and you start up the curved lift hill.
Ok, it's not quite as noisy up here on the lift, but it's still very uncomfortable to be stuffed into this seat and restrained so many different ways. At least there's a nice view of Mexico City. It doesn't take long to get to the top... have they sped up the lift hill speed as well? No matter, we're about to do a classic Schwarzkopf twisting dive.
Now, I've done my share of classic Schwarzkopf dives. Looping Stars, Thriller, Mindbender, you name it... but this one kicked my ass. There was no graceful, floaty, twisting, butter-smooth descent here. This was more like "oh, why don't we throw you over a cliff and let you hit stuff on the way down" kind of feeling. Left shoulder, meet left side of train. Oh, and you know those shoulder straps that took so long to put on and adjust? They've probably fallen right off your shoulders at this point, not that you need them. That jolt was the first of many wake-up calls that let me know this wasn't going to be ordinary. I should also mention that the G-forces were stronger than normal for a diving circle drop. Alrighty, then. Up and around in a twisting finish to the circle, which sets us up for the first set of speed-regulating tires.
Wait... what speed-regulating tires? There's a place for them, but there aren't any. The train rolls right on through without pausing at all and slams into the next twisting drop with an even faster running start than the last one.
Another jab to the left shoulder as you twist and drop. That's when you get an even better indicator of the extra speed: At the bottom of the drop, just before the first loop, the track levels out and straightens out. On other Schwarzkopfs, this is handled gracefully. On Quimera, this is going to fling you back into the side of the train with brute force. No time to even contemplate that, though, because you're staring that first loop right in the face. Up you go.
The G-forces in that loop are just sick. Your forehead tries to make contact with your knees and all the blood drains from your noggin. Coming out of the loop, you begin to grey out: it's a sense of disorientation combined with the inability to see color. It's all due to gravity trying to send all your blood to your toes. Then as soon as you're out of that loop, Schwarzkopf throws you another one. There is no recovery time at all.
If you greyed out in the first loop, you're going to have issues at this point. Tunnel vision kicks in and the whole world starts to fade out. I've never come so close to completely blacking out on a ride, ever. Even in your stupor, though, you notice that even though the loops are both the same size, the second one is just as fast as the first. How is that even possible? It should be a little bit slower, right? Out of the loop and into another twisting, rising turn. There's a small dip here, which is also common for Schwarzkopf multi-loopers. Here's the difference on Quimera: airtime. Yes, I'm serious. You come at this thing so fast that you get airtime on a little hump that's meant to slow down the train. Also, there's that long string of tires on the next section. This part actually does have tires on it, but they are spaced too far apart to make contact with the train and they aren't even turning. You sail right through that section with no break in speed whatsoever. Up and over the next hump into another twisting drop. Oh, and more airtime. That's already two more moments of airtime than other similar coasters and we're not even halfway through.
That sets you up for the third loop, which is a bit smaller than the others. You know what you get with a smaller loop radius? Yep. Lots more G-forces than before. Tighten up your abs, boys and girls, if you want to keep any blood in your head at all. (I learned that trick from a fighter pilot friend.)
Now if you've been on other Schwarzkopf multi-loopers, you know that once you've done the final loop, the rest of the ride is just speedy, twisty fun until you've expended enough speed and energy to hit the brake run at a respectable pace. You might think that would be the case here. You'd be wrong. This is where Quimera sets itself apart from every other Schwarzkopf - and every other coaster, period. Coming out of that third loop, it's like the train just goes batshit crazy. The rising turn out of the loop is crammed with G-forces. The little hump and dip after that are full of ejector air. Yes, on a Schwarzkopf! There's a quick little jab to the right followed by a drop with even more ejector airtime. That leads to a curving rise in the opposite direction and another set of what should be trim brakes, but there aren't any. Staring you in the face at the end of a short stretch of straight track is a flat turn to the left and a drop. You look at it and think that there is no way you are going to take that corner at this speed. No way. Oh, but you do. You do. And all of those jabs that your left side endured up to this point are going to seem like love taps when you hit this corner. If you're in the back, you can even watch the front of the train hit this thing and you can't even comprehend how it was going one way just a second ago, now it's going another. Unfortunately, there's not a good place to get an unobstructed shot of this section, but this short video might come close:
I call that turn, "chiropractor corner" - because if you don't see it coming, you'll see a doctor. After getting slammed into the right side of the train, you get even more airtime on the way down the drop. That leads to one last turn and another little airtime hop into the brake run.
It's interesting to note that among the American Coaster Enthusiasts on this South of the Border trip, who are by definition die-hard coaster people, there were two distinct reactions that I saw:
1. "Wow. I'm sore. That was too much. Once and done."
2. "Holy shit, that was intense! That was amazing! I've never ridden anything like that before, let's do it again!"
I fall into the second category. While I normally hate rides that are rough and/or brutal, it's usually because they're that way due to poor engineering, poor maintenance, or poor train design (or some combination of those). But if a coaster is a bit brutal because it has intensity far and above other rides, then I'm game... at least until my body tells me, "no. Not again. Get off and get some photos instead."
So if you thrive on adrenaline and intensity and don't mind getting a bit roughed up in the process, this coaster should be at the very top of your bucket list. If not, then you should probably avoid it. That goes for the spinning mouse coaster on the other side of the park as well, but that's a story for another day. I'm still recovering from Quimera.