High Five wooden roller coaster to debut in China

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Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A racing wooden roller coaster debuting this spring at a Chinese theme park will feature a first-of-its-kind element in which riders in dueling trains reach out toward each other and attempt to exchange high-fives.

Dubbed the High Five by the American ride designers, the wooden coaster opening in April at Happy Valley Wuhan will be officially known as Dragon Wings.

Riders traveling in parallel trains along banked tracks during the unique High Five element will tilt inward 90 degrees, allowing their upward raised hands to almost touch during the near-miss moment.

PHOTOS: Dragon Wings wooden coaster at Happy Valley Wuhan

Designed by Ohio-based Gravity Group and built by Canada’s Martin & Vleminckx, Dragon Wings becomes only the third wooden coaster in China, where theme park visitors approach the rare rides with an unusual mixture of overwrought apprehension and unbridled glee.

Dragon Wings begins with a side-by-side ascent to the top of a 105-foot-tall lift hill. During the first drop, the twin Philadelphia Toboggan trains crisscross before racing into the marquee High Five element at 55 mph. Splitting into opposing banked turns, the trains then speed toward each other for a head-to-head pass. Racing side-by-side again, the trains navigate a weaving quartet of over-under passes before dissipating their remaining energy along a sequence of airtime camelback hills.

PHOTOS: New rides at Happy Valley Wuhan theme park

Four steel coasters are also planned for the grand opening of Happy Valley Wuhan, including an S&S Worldwide compressed air launch ride known as Extreme Rusher and a pair of Maurer Sohne rides -- a Sky Loop dubbed Flight of Phoenix and an X-Car called Magic Express.

Located about 500 miles west of Shanghai equidistance between Beijing and Hong Kong, Happy Valley Wuhan will become the fifth in a chain of parks by the Overseas Chinese Town group. OCT operates Happy Valley parks in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu with a sixth park expected to open in Tianjin in 2013.

The new Happy Valley Tianjin park will also include an out-and-back woodie created by the Gravity Group/Martin & Vleminckx team. In 2009, the team built China’s first wooden coaster on a spit of land surrounded by water at Happy Valley Shanghai.

The new Happy Valley Wuhan park will include 30 rides and attractions set amid eight themed lands:

Dream Street - Shops and restaurants along an entrance promenade similar to Disneyland’s Main Street USA.

Happy Hour - A circus-themed land with twin drop towers, a carousel and a wave swinger.

Speed World - An adrenaline-filled land with a launched coaster and a pendulum swing.

River City - A waterfront-based land that’s home to the Dragon Wings wooden coaster.

Hurricane Bay - A themed landed based on a small American town with water rides and a 4-D theater.

Paradise - An environmentally-focused land featuring gardens with bird and animal exhibits.

Fishing Island - An island with a 400-foot-tall observation tower overlooking a lake.

Magic Castle - A children’s area with a family coaster, a junior drop tower, a carousel and a 4-D theater.

The new park will also include a Mayan-themed water park called Maya Beach with racing slides, speed tubes and circular bowls.