Testing the limits of physics and defying gravity, the world’s fastest roller coasters zoom their way into the record books at white-knuckle speeds. Hold on tight -- really tight -- as these five mega-coasters guarantee the heart-pounding ride of a lifetime.
1. Formula Rossa at Ferrari World (Abu Dhabi)
The world-record holder since its launch in 2010, Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa features a mind-boggling initial launch that rockets riders from 0 to 149 mph in just five seconds. From that speedy takeoff, the 16-passenger, Ferrari-inspired train soars along a 6,790-foot track built with hills and heavily banked turns that are reminiscent of an auto racetrack. Riders can expect G forces that reach up to 1.7 Gs during the launch and 4.8 Gs throughout the ride.
2. Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ)
A towering green behemoth that rises 456 feet into the air, Kingda Ka is an experience only for the bravest daredevils. A park favorite since its 2005 opening, the 3,118-foot-long ride starts with a launch that flings riders at the rate of 128 mph -- at just 3.5 seconds, to boot. Kingda Ka chugs up to the top at 90 degrees and once you're over the hump, you're sent down in a 270-degree spiral. Tip: Make sure to keep your head square and pressed against the headrest as the ride can reach 5 Gs of force. Consider yourself lucky if you experience a not-too-rare rollback, which occurs when the train doesn’t completely clear the top of the structure and rolls backwards, to be relaunched with greater speed a second time.
3. Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
It is most fitting that Cedar Point, the self-proclaimed “roller coaster capital of the world,” would feature one of the world’s fastest coasters. Delivering gut-wrenching speeds in an auto-themed experience, Top Thrill Dragster raced onto the scene in 2003 to claim the title of the world’s fastest coaster (it held onto that name until Kingda Ka’s arrival). Eighteen passengers at a time load up into aerodynamic trains and head to the drag strip where a countdown builds the anticipation to liftoff. Hydraulic motors accelerate the train from 0 to 120 mph in 3.8 seconds to barrel up a 90-degree incline towards the peak and then down a 270-degree drop back to the station.
4. Red Force (Salou, Spain)
The finishing touches are underway on Ferrari Land, a mega-expansion of PortAventura, one of Europe’s top coaster destinations. Set to open in early 2017, Ferrari Land’s signature Vertical Accelerator attraction will reach speeds of 112 mph and a height of 367 feet on its race car-themed course. Breaking records as Europe’s fastest and tallest coaster, Vertical Accelerator will have Ferrari’s signature Rosso Corsa red color on the structure -- definitely making this a standout.
5. Dodonpa at Fuji-Q Highland (Yamanashi, Japan)
A speed demon that has been capturing the hearts of adrenaline junkies since 2001, Fuji-Q Highland’s Dodonpa reaches breakneck speeds of 107 mph. The trip begins inside a tubular enclosure, making the course ahead barely visible. A quick countdown gives you little time to prepare for the blast-off into an open-air joyride; before you know it, you're careening through banked turns and up and down a 171-foot structure. With stretches of level track, you'll find that it offers up a less disorienting ride -- one that relies more on speed than tricks.