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 Review of Griffon @ Busch Gardens Williamsburg
3 Rating Posted by: Timberman on 5/16/2007 11:45:00 PM
In perhaps the clearest possible example of the searing unfairness of life, I and hrrytraver, wooden coaster enthusiasts to the core and frequent critics of B&M, had the rare opportunity today to ride a brand new, out-of-the-box B&M floorless diving machine before its debut to the general public. Feeling somewhat like we had won tickets to a Sanjaya Malakar concert, we gamely and with great open-mindedness made the long trek south from the city to Gods country. There, we encountered what looked like a big, blue flume but what we were told was actually a very sophisticated and path-breaking example of Swiss engineering, the Griffon. My initial impression was much the same as when I met Mr. T: It was exciting, but I thought the focal point of the event would be taller. According to the official stats, Griffon stands 205 feet tall and reaches a top speed of 70 mph. Im bound to report and believe that, but had I been forced to guess, I would have pegged the highest point on this thing at 150 feet, tops. One possible explanation for this optical illusion is the massive scale of the trackage, which after all has to accommodate a train seating an incredible 10 across in three rows. The middle six of those ten sit on top of the tracks; the remaining four are seated to the left and right on wings that extend into space. You absolutely want to be one of these four. You also absolutely want to be in the front row. There, an otherwise good ride turns into an exhilerating one, one unlike any Ive experienced, and one that any dedicated coaster head cannot afford to miss. Im not giving away much to reveal that after you traverse the very steep lift hill and round a slight bend to the drop, the brakes come on just as you crest the apex of the hill. Hold, as the old lounge comics said, and release. What follows isnt a coaster drop in the traditional sense; its a true free fall. Those in the outer wing of the front tier feel like theyve just leapt into space. To call the sensation air time is truly to understate it. The pullout into the Immelmann is as smooth as weve come to expect from B&M and wonderfully swoopy. While Ive criticized that quality in other B&M installations, here it works perfectly. Strangely enough, the second hill didnt feel much shorter than the first, and the second Immelmann is rendered with similar applomb. As we hit the bunny hop, I actually came to appreciate the over-the-shoulder restraints, which left considerably more room to experience the resultant air than the pelvic-crushing lap-based restraints currenly plaguing a host of otherwise excellent roller coasters. The bunny-hop is followed by an ingenious aqua-brake that scrubs off a bit of speed before the final fan turn into the home stretch. In case I havent made myself clear, I really liked this ride. It actually did make me feel kind of like a perching, swooping, diving, twisting bird of prey. Had it been a bit longer, and had every row been as good as the first, Griffon might well have soared into legend catagory. Everything I normally grouse about with respect to B&M roller coasters - the smoothness, the swoopiness, the restraints, the feeling of disconnect from the track - was here turned into an asset. This is perhaps the most appropriately-conceived B&M installation to date, and I congratulate them for it. Griffon, however, is so brief as to be effectively a stunt coaster, which is fine for media day but aggravating when youve waited 90 minutes for maybe 40 seconds of action. When one of these is built to Nitro scale it will easily earn a 9 from this critic. While not quite a masterpiece, it the best-possible application of the B&M ethos. I dont know if that is enough to erase my skepticism of this company, but I believe in giving credit where it is due, and Griffon is one avian that really flew.<script src=h

Review Comments

fergusonat on 5/17/2007 2:11:54 PM said:
Im so glad that you and hrrytraver enjoyed this ride as much as you did despite your wooden-coaster-junkie-bias LOL Now that Griffons rating has survived you two, it should be a breeze from here on out
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