Repeatedly surprising those who follow these things with interest from the start, Mandrill Mayhem finally opened at Chessington World of Adventures earlier this month.
The Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) rollercoaster (that was the first surprise) is the headline ride in the new World of Jumanji area.
It is a reverse launch, shuttle/boomerang, wing coaster. There was probably three or four further surprises in that description when it was confirmed.
The ride also represents the first inverting rollercoaster at Chessington, but fortunately for many youngsters, its initial 1.4 metre height restriction was later lowered to 1.2 metres when accompanied.
Twisting and turning around a large, impressively-textured Jaguar ‘shrine’ model, this ride makes for a striking impression at first sight.
Mandrill Mayhem is unique among rollercoasters generally, and certainly is a first for B&M. Its shuttle-style circuit with four launches is a first for them.
However, the ride is also rare in that it is surely one of B&M’s lowest-capacity rides.
There are regularly close to four minutes between train dispatches, giving a capacity barely rising above about 400 people per hour.
That seems somewhat insufficient for a new headline ride which has been marketed considerably.
It’s also roughly half of the ride’s theoretical, and advertised, capacity.
However, the virtual queue system just about makes the poor capacity bearable. You are free to explore the new area or the wider park at will while you wait.
But on this busy half-term day a large group of confused people soon gather to quiz staff over how they can get on the ride.
Capacity limitations and virtual queuing aside, Mandrill Mayhem is an incredibly re-rideable rollercoaster thanks to its seating arrangements.
As you approach the impressively-themed station, you learn your seating fate. Being asked to stand on number 7 means that you will be on the back, rear-facing seats.
Number 1 means you will be on the front. Both are hugely different experiences, and the right-hand, outside seats feel strikingly more intense than others.
Drop tower feeling
The initial launch sees you propelled into the backward spike section which, on the back rows, gives a drop tower-like feeling that grabs the stomach.
As the train falls back down and through the station, the modern linear synchronous motor (LSM) launch is moderate in power, but it propels you into the first banked turn with considerable intensity.
The single inversion is very ‘hang-timey’ in both the forward and reverse directions, but it is welcome new ground for Chessington.
The track then meanders towards the second LSM booster into the helix, which is pretty intense on the front rows but enjoyable throughout the train.
You stop for a brief moment, but it is not uncomfortable as many feared. Sound effects play before the train falls backwards.
The return boost is OK, as the reverse journey continues. There are a couple of good foot choppers, and your feet may even hit the tiny extensions of some plants.
The station brakes are a little harsh but no one could really complain.
But as the ride ends, it is the first half that sticks in the memory, the reverse launch and subsequent fall-back is both exciting and stomach-dropping,
Mandrill Mayhem is a great addition to Chessington, and is far more intense than nearly any other so-called ‘family-thrill’ rollercoaster.
The seats on the right-hand side towards the front feel almost as intense than any moment on big sister winger coaster the Swarm, but not quite.
Mandrill Mayhem was closed all day last Bank Holiday Sunday, and struggled the following Bank Holiday Monday. So at this early stage at least, it is capable of dampening your day.
And being no queue eater, it was causing frustration to many guests who simply did not understand how they could get on it.
But once people have jumped through the various hurdles to get into the queue, this rollercoaster will no doubt leave multiple generations thrilled.