Deep in the woods of Williamsburg many strange creatures are waiting to frighten and scare the unprepared traveller. The Loch Ness Monster, the Big Bad Wolf, an Alpengeist and horrors behind the walls of DarKastle we don't even dare to mention here. Since 2007 another of these mysterious creatures got lost in the deep woods of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and awaits brave adventurers. The Griffon, a creature half lion, half eagle uses his large paws to take incautious visitors and afterwards flies high to the skies with his enormous wings. Anybody who manages to escape the claws of this beast after going through breathtaking dives and wild manoeuvres should run as fast as his shivering legs can still carry him. Because before you know what happened Griffon will take you again.
Griffon is waiting at the France area of the park. A bridge provides access to a small round area which serves as the entrance and exit of the attraction. From here you can have a very good view on the First Drop which leads under the mentioned bridge. Thanks to the broad track profile the already impressive steel structure appears to be even more massive. A terrace further away in the back provides some nice seating positions and is used by spectators to watch the water splashdown effect at the end of the ride. But several other spots throughout the park are good places to watch the wild flight of Griffon, too. Despite the high tree population of the Park you can always find wonderful views to the ride while strolling around the walkways.
The station building has a very plain look and therefore blends very unobtrusively into the rows of houses of the France area. The Griffon logo in form of an emblem is used as decoration for the house frontage of the station building. The interior of the station is simply and held more functional. Three long metal railings separate the waiting riders which have to choose one of the three rows early on. As one such row fits ten people the line moves very quickly and a few moments later we already sit inside one of the trains. But right now the ride cannot start yet. With a gentle hiss the floor under our feet is being lowered and then tilts away. The space left between our feet and the blue track feels to be only a few inches wide. As our feet are now dangling freely in the air the ride operator says his usual "enjoy your ride on Griffon" and the steel monster begins to move.
Our with 30 people loaded train leaves the station building and takes a wide 180° turn before smoothly and quietly entering the steep lifthill. We can barely estimate the height which we are about to climb up to as the only thing we see while looking forward is steel and the sky. Only when the train gets released into another 180° turn after climbing the lifthill we can roughly think about the height of those 62 meters which we will plunge straight down in a few seconds. We have a virtual unobstructed view till the horizon in all directions. The train snaps into a chain and crawls over the edge of the first drop to the extent that the front row hangs nearly vertical in the air. The riders in the seats at both sides of the train can now enjoy a breathtaking view straight down. The riders in the middle seats still see the track disappear in front of them and reappear much further down below. Our train stays in that position for a few seconds before we are taken over by gravity at last. We plunge straight down in free fall before the track slowly bends back to a horizontal angle again. The train flies under the bridge we crossed to get to the station and rises to the sky again into a half loop. We manage to escape from the inverted position by twisting to the left and taking another drop down to the earth before gently gliding upwards again in a left turn. The following block brake takes us to a nearly complete stop. In front of us we now see the Rhine River where the boats of the Rhine River Cruise attraction are floating along. With the last bit of speed left our train rolls over the edge of the second and smaller 90° drop. Again we save ourselves with the same flight manoeuvre as the track pulls up into a half loop just above the water surface and then twists out of the inversion. We speed upwards again and move slightly to the right before the train picks up some speed again and drops down to the water pool near the station. We are speeding flat above the water surface and the train lets a huge water fountain rise behind us. We pass one last higher placed turn before flying over the pool once more and finally reaching the final brakes. There is only a brief moment of time to take a deep breath before we roll into the station again and the ride-op greats us over the speakers with a "how was your ride?". We are clapping and cheering and the speaker voice responds with a dry "you are the loudest train today!".
Griffon has an older sister: Already in 2005 SheiKra opened at Busch Gardens Africa (Tampa, Florida). The ride has an almost similar layout but could only be ridden with normal sit-down trains at first. Meanwhile the new floorless trains were added here, too.
|Manufacturer:||Bolliger & Mabillard|
|Opening:||May 18th 2007|
|Specials:||Two 90° dives|
|Ride Time:||3 minutes|
|Trains:||3 rows for 10 riders each|
With the B&M Diving Machine the concept of floorless trains seems to have finally found a reasonable field of application. While only the front row really could take advantage of the unobstructed view at the normal four seats wide trains, the large distance between the 10 seats wide rows of the diving machine trains provides a clear view down on every seat. Also the slightly changed layout of Griffon compared to SheiKra with a second inversion distinctly enhances the ride experience. Griffon hence not only breaks and holds several records in its category but also manages to deliver a harmonic yet action-packed ride. An investment that surely was worth it for the park. But Griffon is not only the fifth roller coaster of Busch Garden Europe, it also is the fifth of its' kind although the concept of the Diving Machine already premiered in 1998 in England. We hope that despite the larger costs this type of roller coaster will be build in many parks to come as the thrills and the fun while riding rarely lie that close together.