Montu (roller coaster)
Montu is an inverted roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida. Built by Bolliger & Mabillard, it is the park's second roller coaster designed by the Swiss company following the success of Kumba which opened 3 years prior. When the ride opened on May 16, 1996, it was the world's tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster, a title it has since conceded to Alpengeist at sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The ride stands 150 feet (46 m) tall and reaches speeds of 65 miles per hour (105 km/h).
The concept of an inverted roller coaster with inversions was developed by Jim Wintrode, the general manager of Six Flags Great America, in the early 1990s. To develop the idea, Wintrode worked with Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard – from Swiss roller coaster manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard – and engineer Robert Mampe to develop Batman: The Ride which opened in May 1992.
In early 1995, planning began for Montu, fourteen months prior to the ride opening to the public. The owners of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Busch Entertainment (since renamed SeaWorld Entertainment), entered into an agreement with Bolliger and Mabillard which would see them add Montu to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in 1996, followed in 1997 by the additions of Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and The Great White at SeaWorld San Antonio. On May 16, 1996, Montu officially opened to the public. At the time of its opening to the public, the ride was the tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster in the world.
The 3,983-foot-long (1,214 m) Montu stands 150 feet (46 m) tall. With a top speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h), the ride features seven inversions including two vertical loops measuring 104 and 60 feet (32 and 18 m), respectively, an Immelmann loop, a zero-g roll, a batwing and a corkscrew. Riders experience up to 3.8 times the force of gravity on the 3 minute ride. Montu operates with three steel and fiberglass trains, each containing eight cars. Each car seats four riders in a single row for a total of 32 riders per train.
Montu was launched alongside Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's Egypt section of the park, which reportedly cost approximately US$20 million. With an overall theme around Egyptian mythology, the ride is named after the god of war Montu, a man depicted with the head of a hawk. When the ride was first launched, a Nile crocodile exhibit was located underneath the first section of the ride. These animals were later relocated to the park's main animal habitat.
The ride begins with the floor retracting which leads to the front gate opening the trains leaves the station with a small dip and turnaround out of the station tracking towards the 150-foot-tall (46 m) chain lift hill. Once at the top, riders twist down 128 feet (39 m) and into a 104-foot-tall (32 m) vertical loop, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). Following the vertical loop, an Immelmann loop comes next, and provides a footchopper element with the pylon. After completing the Immelmann, the train goes through a zero-g roll, where riders experience a feeling of weightlessness. Following the zero-G roll, riders are then inverted twice during the batwing element which leads into the mid-course brake run. A twisting dive to the right immediately follows the brake run and leads into a 60-foot-tall (18 m) vertical loop. A series of corners and a corkscrew lead the train to the final brake run and back into the station.
Montu has generally been well received. Tom Buckingham of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune commended the ride, giving kudos to the park "for designing its monster rides so that wait times put Disney to shame". He stated "you'll generally be on the ride and screaming" before riders get a chance to change their mind. Sabrina Rojas Weiss of the Lakeland Ledger stated "the way this ride twisted my body upside-down and sideways seriously confused my senses". The Los Angeles Times put the ride on their "high rollers" list of new roller coasters for 1996. In 2012, Montu was featured on the Travel Channel TV series Insane Coaster Wars in the "Hang 'em High" category. Although the ride lost out to Aftershock at Silverwood Theme Park, Theme Park Review's Robb Alvey believed Montu would beat the competition which also included SeaWorld Orlando's Manta and Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Alpengeist.
In Amusement Today 's annual Golden Ticket Awards, Montu has consistently ranked highly. Montu is also one of only seven roller coasters to appear in the top 50 for all 15 years. It debuted at position 3 in 1998, before rising to position 2 the following year. Montu has remained at position 14 for 2011 and 2012.
In Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll, Montu entered at position 2 in 1999, before dropping to a low of 20 in 2010. The ride's ranking in subsequent polls is shown in the table below.