Top 5 Fastest Roller Coasters

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Since the first commercial roller coaster—LaMarcus Adna Thompson’s Coney Island coaster—was built at Coney Island in 1884, the thrill of traveling at high speed has been a key reason why people ride roller coasters. What has changed dramatically is the speed at which roller coasters must travel to provide that thrill. The LaMarcus Adna Thompson’s coaster propelled passengers at only 6 miles per hour, but people still stood in line for hours. Today, roller coaster designers usually need to do a little better than that. As of mid-2013, these are the fastest roller coasters in the world.

5 Superman and Tower of Terror

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Superman: Escape from Kripton, at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California,  and Tower of Terror II, at Dreamworld in Coomera, Australia, share fifth place with a top speed of 100 mph. They’re also, according to UltimateRollercoaster.com, the world’s fastest in the shuttle coasters category. This type of roller coaster doesn’t form a complete circuit. Instead, it switches directions during the ride: traveling both forward and backward.

4 Dodonpa

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The Dodonpa rollercoaster at Fuji-Q Highland, Yamanashi, Japan, uses a compressed air launch to accelerate its riders from 0 to 106.9 miles per hour in 1.8 seconds. Although its top speed is nowhere near Formula Rossa’s 149 mph, it leaves the Abu Dhabi roller coaster—and all the other roller coasters in this list—in the dust when it comes to acceleration.

3 Top Thrill Dragster

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Although it has been operating since May 2003, Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster still holds its own at third place with a more-than-respectable top speed of 120 mph. However, compared with other top-speed roller coasters acceleration is low. It takes Top Thrill Dragster four seconds to reach maximum speed. Besides brute speed, the Dragster also offers a 270-degree vertical spiral and a 420 feet top hat. A top hat is a 90 degree ascent that briefly levels out to then provide a 90 degree—also known as sheer drop—descent.

2 Kingda Ka

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Until the Formula Rossa was built in 2010, the fastest roller coaster in the world was the Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. Its top speed of 128 mph still makes it the fastest roller coaster in the Western hemisphere. The colossal construction still holds the world record in the categories of largest drop and tallest roller coaster.

1 Formula Rossa

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The fastest roller coaster in the world is, by far, the Formula Rossa at the Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi. At 149.1 mph, the Formula Rossa is 21.1 mph faster than its closest competitor, an amazing feat in an industry as competitive as roller coaster construction. The Formula Rossa is so fast, you have to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from insects and debris. Although the ride is designed to simulate the thrill a Formula One driver feels when tearing down a straightway, the hydraulic launch technology it uses to reach 149.1 mph in four seconds is based on the launch system the Navy uses to launch fighter jets from an aircraft carrier.

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