By Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times
9:00 AM EDT, June 5, 2013
"Insane Coaster Wars" would be the ultimate road trip for any ride enthusiast who had about $100,000 to drop on a single vacation and the fortitude to travel around the world.
Premiering at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on the Travel Channel, the internationally themed second season of "Coaster Wars" will take viewers on a virtual ride aboard 28 roller coasters in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and the United States.
The impressive lineup for the new season boasts some of the top coasters in the world, with at least half the rides appearing in the top 25 of either the Amusement Today or Mitch Hawker polls, the two most respected annual rankings by coaster enthusiasts.
"It literally is the cream of the crop," said Theme Park Review's Robb Alvey, who serves as a coaster expert on the show. "It showcases the best coasters out there."
He should know. Alvey has traveled to more than 400 theme parks around the world and ridden 1,528 coasters during tours set up through his Theme Park Review fan website.
After the first season of "Coaster Wars," Alvey sat down with the show's producers to shape the ride lineup for the upcoming season.
"The list covers a lot of my favorite rides," said Alvey, who has ridden all but one of this season's coasters. "It really is a roller coaster trip around the world."
Every "Coaster Wars" show will pit four rides against one another with the results from in-park polling shown at the end of each episode.
With Alvey's help, let's take a look at each of the seven episodes:
Episode 1 (June 9)
The first episode includes the one coaster from Season 2 that Alvey hasn't ridden: the 249-foot-tall Shambhala, which opened in 2012 at Spain's PortAventura and ranks in the top 10 of the Mitch Hawker poll.
The other three coasters in the episode typify the stellar lineups found throughout Season 2 of "Coaster Wars" - Superman: Ride of Steel at Maryland's Six Flags America (a former No. 1 coaster in the Hawker poll), Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi (the reigning fastest coaster in the world at 149 mph) and the terrain tracing Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California (Alvey's favorite Bolliger & Mabillard flyer).
Alvey's pick: Unable to choose, he opts for a tie between the top speed of Formula Rossa and the intense airtime of Superman: Ride of Steel.
Episode 2 (June 16)
The second episode takes viewers to one of Alvey's all-time favorite parks for the Blue Fire magnetic launch megacoaster at Europa Park, a proving ground for Germany's Mack Rides.
The Tower of Terror II shuttle coaster at Australia's Dream World more than makes up for its short ride in speed (0 to 100 mph in 7 seconds), height (377 feet) and weightlessness (6.5 seconds). The Titan mega coaster at Six Flags Over Texas reaches similarly impressive speeds (85 mph) and heights (245 feet).
Alvey's pick: With a top speed of 90 mph, the 305-foot-tall Intimidator 305 at Virginia's Kings Dominion has been known to cause "grey outs" at the bottom of some drops.
Episode 3 (June 23)
Alvey opts for another tie in the third episode, unable to decide between the 197-foot-tall Colossos at Germany's Heide Park (the tallest wooden coaster in the world) and Skyrush at Pennyslvania's Hersheypark (the most intense air time in the U.S.)
You know it's a stacked episode when the powerful 2012 Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland, one of the fastest (92 mph) and tallest (306 feet) coasters in the world, can't muster more than a bronze medal in Alvey's eyes.
Also ran: The Griffon floorless dive machine at Busch Gardens in Virginia with a pair of vertical drops each topping 100 feet.
Episode 4 (June 30)
In the most stacked episode of the season, Dodonpa at Japan's Fuji-Q Highland (the world's fastest launch at 0 to 107 mph in 1.8 seconds) can do no better than third best while New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas (a top five coaster in both the Hawker and Amusement Today polls) must settle for silver.
Alvey's pick: The 2001 Expedition GeForce at Germany's Holiday Park, the No. 1 steel coaster in the Hawker poll.
Out of the money: The 80 mph Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, a 2001 B&M mega currently the No. 3 steel coaster in the Amusement Today poll.
Episode 5 (July 7)
In the fifth episode, the seven-inversion Takabisha at Japan's Fuji-Q Highland (the world's steepest roller coaster with a beyond vertical 121-degree first drop) and the lightning fast and ground-hugging Furius Baco at Spain's PortAventura (the world's only launched winged coaster) are forced to battle for no better than second place.
Alvey's pick: Maverick at Cedar Point in Ohio, which combines multiple launches, dual inversions and loads of air time for what he calls the "most well-paced ride in the world."
Bringing up the rear: The 1998 Volcano: The Blast at Virginia's Kings Dominion, the world's first launched inverted coaster and a one-time record-holder for the tallest inversion at 155 feet.
Episode 6 (July 14)
The sixth episode features a pair of unique rides in the Superman Escape dark ride-coaster combo (one of Alvey's all-time favorites) at Australia's Warner Bros. Movie World and X2 (a fourth-dimension coaster with rotating seats) at California's Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Alvey's pick: iSpeed at Italy's Mirabilandia, the European cousin of Maverick with a magnetic launch, 180-foot-tall top hat element and plenty of airtime hills.
Out of the running: the 2012 X-Flight winged coaster at Six Flags Great America outside Chicago.
Episode 7 (July 21)
The season finale includes Magnum XL-200 at Ohio's Cedar Point, a 1989 Arrow Dynamics hyper that many enthusiasts still consider one of the greatest coasters ever built.
But Alvey opts instead for Katun at Italy's Mirabilandia, a relentless inverted coaster built in 2000 with six inversions that he calls a "bat out of hell."
That leaves the Behemoth mega coaster at Canada's Wonderland and the Batwing flyer at Six Flags Maryland to fight over third place.
Related theme park stories and photo galleries
Universal Studios Hollywood: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Six Flags Magic Mountain: Full Throttle
SeaWorld San Diego: Aquatica
Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times