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New track part of Racer roller coaster's annual winter work

Don Helbig

Area Manager, Digital Marketing - Kings Island

The Racer – really its twin racers – has been the focal point of the Coney Mall sector of Kings Island since the park opened in 1972, and with good reason. The Racer is credited for re-igniting the roller coaster building boom in the early 1970’s, thus beginning the second golden age of the roller coaster.

An incredible amount of care goes into the Racer each winter to keep the ride in peak operating condition. Annual work during the winter months may include replacing a number of the running rails made of flattened steel strips mounted on the wooden track, replacing support bents and ledgers, or sections of track. Some years one side of the ride may be in need of more extensive work than the other, such as this winter with the back turnaround on the north (blue trains) side retracked in December.

In addition to the annual winter track and structure work, the cars from each of the four trains on the Racer are stripped down to every last nut and bolt. Once the cars have been stripped down, each part is thoroughly inspected, including magnetic particle testing, X-rays, ultrasonic and accelerometer testing and a liquid dye penetrant to detect every crack and scratch. The process of rebuilding the cars will begin later this month after cars for The Beast have been rebuilt.

In addition to being considered an important part of the roller coaster renaissance of the 1970’s, the Racer was the site of several world-record riding attempts and is notable for its appearance in the “Cincinnati Kids” episode of The Brady Bunch, filmed at the park in 1973. On May 28, 1982, one side of the Racer became the world’s first full-length, backwards travelling roller coaster (both sides now face forward). 

Kings Island officials coaxed John Allen of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company out of semi-retirement for the task of designing and building the Racer. He started to design the ride’s blueprints in 1969. Actual construction began in September, 1970. The first trial run came in September, 1971. It worked perfectly the first time as Allen predicted it would. 

The Racer was the first roller coaster built structurally on the ground with prefabricated sections lifted into position and bolted. It was one of the largest roller coasters ever built at the time, and the largest that Allen had built. He considered the Racer to be the finest roller coaster he ever built. 

While it’s no longer the tallest, the fastest, the longest or the most thrilling roller coaster at Kings Island, the ride remains popular with our guests. In fact, only Diamondback, Banshee and Mystic Timbers gave more rides in 2018 than the Racer, which gave over 1 million rides for the 47th consecutive season.

More than 105 million guests have taken a ride on the Racer since its debut April 29, 1972 – the most in park history. Its record year was 1976, when a Kings Island single-season attraction record 3,681,338 rides were given.

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Don Helbig

Area Manager, Digital Marketing - Kings Island

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