Starting out at 4am in the morning just sucked! But the riding was well worth it...
After a 4am arrival at the employee lot, we were given T-shirts and Lanyards and herded over to Sheikra for the morning news tapings/live shots.
Whoa. Sheikra is one relatively compact and impressive coaster, its a maze of track surrounding the station with a short run out towards the boundary of the park. My first thought was how steep the lift hill is, later I found out its a 45 degree angle and when you ride you are pushed back into the comfy B&M recliner seating (more on those later).
We were escorted through the construction area, Busch is way behind on getting the theming, que, landscaping and even some basic construction done on the site. They were installing walls in the que area, no actual que railings yet, prepping walkways for cement, the roof on the station house isn't complete, neither is the interior work, especially the ops station, and the stairs leading into the station and exiting are still being installed. Landscaping is barely existant, with some temporary landscaping brought in that morning to give the unfinished theming some polish.
The tunnel and other ride oriented theming is mostly done, just some final touches and clean up work. The tunnel looks cool and the splashdown area is very nicely done.
The station itself is like an aerie - you go up a set of stairs (we used the emergency stairway), into a holding area and then 6 seperate ques, one for each row, cross a open area and onto the loading platform. Yes, Sheikra has a double loading station, so throughput should be nice.
After a briefing, I was lucky enough to be on the first train out, middle row of the 3 row train setup, dead center. The seats are a version of the B&M speed coaster seats, they are heavily reclined back with a V shaped headrest and the standard B&M shoulder harnesses with 2 "fat boy" seats in the middle row, center, of each train. Each train has 3 cars of 1 row each.
After some camera adjustments we were off, making the right turn to the steep lift. The 45 degree lift takes a few seconds and you are definitely pressed back into your seat. When you reach the top you roll slowly around the tight curve and engage on another short chain. You move forward, getting a great bird's eye view of Tampa and vacinity - later in the day you could see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Then you are hung over the approx 200' vertical drop. When I say hung over, I mean hung over - its much more forward than Oblivion's hang point. All the riders get a great view of the still unlandscaped bottom of the drop, and then, after a varying short interval your dropped. Nice airtime across the train, with the back getting a ton, you then pull up into a short rising curve into the immelman. A short pop of airtime leading into the immelman becomes floater air extending through the immelman and then a nice crush of positive Gs push you back into the seat. The midcourse brake run evac ladder does a great headchopper to most of the train.
You then head into the midcourse brake, the brake is on fairly heavily - I understand why. The second, 158' drop, is very steep, I don't think its another 90 degree drop, but its very close. The 2nd drop has the great headchopper tunnel and the train picks up some speed as it pulls out of the drop in a fairly deep trench. A short rising, overbanked curve leads into the splashdown effect - the backseat riders on the ends get a bit misty as the car kicks up a HUGE plume of car behind it. Its very cool. The train then heads up a rising overbanked curve into the magnetic station breaks with a bit of airtime on the beginning of the rise out of the splashdown pool.
Sheikra is a classic B&M, smooth with some forces - we're not talking "old time" B&M forces but some solid negative and 1 or 2 spots of positive Gs. Its definitely not a "forceless B&M" design. One thing, the back row, right end seat was in high demand since it was very intense in that seat.
Also I hear a rumour the ride will have a single riders line??Is this true, I really hope it is sinse it will really help me when I visit seeing as I will be riding it on my own.
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