Our day began with a three quarter hour drive from our overnight hotel to Bobbejaanland, a fifty acre amusement park located in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region of Belgium. There were very few cars on the road for most of the journey, as befits a Sunday morning, though the volume picked up as we neared our destination, and it was evident that almost everyone was going to the same place; we found ourselves in a queue of vehicles waiting to get into the car park when we arrived about twenty minutes before the advertised opening time. In a sign of the times a row at the front of the lot was reserved for electric car charging, and today it doubled as a virtual showroom for Tesla; the American company apparently has over ninety percent of the local EV market.
My last visit to the park back in 2011 was triggered by the installation of a new roller coaster, and today was no different; when the gate opened we joined the multitudes in an energetic walk to the new ride. We were among the first people to get there, though this turned out to be of no benefit whatsoever as it was not ready. This was actively disappointing; I'd have hoped that park management would put in extra effort to make sure that their star attraction was online at opening time. A staff member at the entrance was directing people elsewhere, though we decided to hang around, and after ten interminable minutes our patience was rewarded.
Fury (#2823) is the tenth installation of a so-called "Infinity Coaster" from Gerstlauer Amusement Rides. The product line bears more than a passing resemblance to the earlier Eurofighter family, with several models featuring the signature vertical lift and 97° drop introduced to the world sixteen years ago (yes, it is that long) on Vild Svinet. The main difference between the types from the perspective of an outside observer is support for longer trains. All currently operating installations have rolling stock holding between eight and twenty people, though the brochure for the Infinity model claims support for vehicles seating up to thirty two passengers at a time.
This unit is the first to give riders a choice about whether to ride forwards or backwards, a feat achieved using a pair of turntables at either end of the track. It would have been simple to have separate queues for forward and backward facing trains, but park management has decided instead to go with a voting system that I'd argue to be far better in theory than in practice. Those who do not want to go backwards under any circumstances can go to the left hand side of the station, where they will be guaranteed a forward facing ride. Everyone else is directed to the right hand side, where the direction of travel can be voted on using a button on the lap bar restraint. The problem with this is simple; a subset of those who would prefer to ride backwards end up going forwards as they are outvoted by fellow passengers who could just as easily have gone to the forward-only queue; why the park didn't just run with separate forward and backward queues is anyone's guess.
The ride has a very compact footprint. It starts with three passes over the launch track, heading forward/backward/forward or backward/forward/backward depending on the direction of travel. The train crests what looks like an airtime hill, but the optics are deceiving; at the apex the train rolls to the right before dropping all the way back to ground level. A corkscrew inversion at the heights, another drop, and a second rolling descent prefixes the final inversion that can be described as either a stretched loop or a compressed corkscrew. I tried both front and back of a forward facing train, and preferred the latter as there was definite shimmy in the front seats. I ended up in a middle seat for my sole backwards lap that was visually interesting and a definite novelty, albeit one with a fairly high nausea rating; I wouldn't want to do multiple backwards circuits in short succession.
With the new tick out of the way we made our way towards Revolution, a classic Vekoma machine famous for having the world's longest coaster train – an incredible thirty cars. For the last few years the park has offered VR headsets on this ride, though the rebranded Mount Mara was unavailable today. I was also refused permission to sit in the back of the train; I started walking that way only to be yelled at by an operator who insisted that I would need to go forward. This struck me as an unnecessarily guest hostile policy on a coaster with such a long train; the queue exits into the middle of the station, so why does it matter if some people go left while others go right? The experience was fine, though a lot weaker than it should have been due to where I was sitting.
We took a quick two lap spin on the Reuzenrad wheel for photographs before joining the queue for Dream Catcher, one of three worldwide examples of the Vekoma Swinging Turns, and one of two to operate with floorless trains. I'd been looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with this ride, but I'm sorry to report that it wasn't running particularly well today; the whole experience felt sluggish, and the helices that I described as forceful back in 2004 were flaccid at best. My fondness for suspended coasters notwithstanding, this machine felt past its sell-by date; I decided against waiting for it a second time. Instead I burned my remaining time allocation on Oki Doki, a custom roller skater that was respectable without being outstanding.