The Victory Lap Hobbies 4-lane Event Track

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One of the best ways for a slot car dealer to build local business is to take the slot car racing experience out into the community.  In any area there is usually no shortage of public events that draw good-sized crowds of people.  If you do some research you can easily find events that attract members of your target demographic groups.  Many of them will cost nothing to be a part of.  Others may cost something to get into but will be worth it.  There is nothing that can turn a potential hobbyist into an actual one  like putting a controller in someone’s hand and inviting him or her to race a miniature car around your track.

Of course, first you need a track.  It needs to be big enough to impress people and provide good racing but not take up too much space.  It should be easy to learn at least well enough to keep a car on the track.  That’s so the first-timer who has waited in line, maybe for quite a while, has the best possible chance of enjoying that very first race enough to make it worth the wait.  It also needs to be still challenging for someone who has gone through the line and raced a dozen times.  You want that person to see improvement in his performance each time through yet still feel that there is more speed to be gained on the next try.

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After a lot of experience and experimentation we decided on the stretched figure-8 shown here.  It has eight turns (seven if you don’t count the kink nearest the camera in the top photo).   The most “technical” parts of the track are closest to the drivers where they have a good view of them.  The only turn where sight lines are not ideal is the 90-degree left leading into the underpass, but experience so far shows that it hasn’t been a problem.

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Why a track with an overpass, you may ask.  The main reason is that making a figure-8-based layout, which requires an overpass, equalizes the length and more or less equalizes the lap times of the four lanes.  That gives every racer the fairest possible chance to win.  Another reason is a certain “wow” factor it gives the track.  It let us put the longest possible straightaway within the track’s 16×5-foot footprint (on four 8-foot office tables) by running it diagonally across the tables.  There’s also added interest that elevation change adds to any racing layout as well as the “will my car get airborne going over the top” factor.  No, it won’t, but finding out can be delightfully scary fun.  Many first-timers (or second or third timers) have to work themselves up to taking the “hump” at full throttle. We think all that’s worth a little compromise on sight lines.

The overpass structure is made of plywood and finished with a textured grey paint that looks a lot like concrete.  It’s made in two sections that bolt together in the center.  There’s a recessed place for the DS light bridge, ensuring that it stays in its proper place with the sensors and LEDs lined up with the openings in the slots.

The track is Scalextric Sport, each lane powered separately by a stock race set transformer.  To get separate power we had to use the now out-of-production C8217 and C8241 power bases and the round-plug transformers that go with them.  We also had to use the older power bases so we could use Professor Motor controllers.  You can’t get PM controllers with the new rectangular plugs.  Somebody at Hornby should have been fired for not carrying over the separate power feature to the new power base and not making one that is wired to power the inner lanes of a 4, 6, or 8-lane track.  Then again, with all the personnel turnover at Hornby lately, maybe somebody was.

One non-standard thing we did to improve power continuity and ease of setup and takedown was to use the 90-degree radius 2 curves and extra-long straight sections that only come in race sets.  To get them we had to cannibalize six race sets, but we also now have all the cars and power packs from those sets to use with the layout and all the stock controllers and other components to sell.   the long straight sections only come with either a lap counter or a power base attached.  We had to remove those.  The lap counter comes off simply by removing a few screws, but removing the power base requires using pliers to break tiny welds between the track’s contact strips and other metal strips that connect them to the controller plug sockets.  Scalextric really needs to make both the 90-degree rad 2s and the extra-long straights (without the accessories attached) available as separate track sections.  If you’re building a long layout they really do make a difference by cutting down on the number of track sections and, therefore, track joints.  The long straights, by the way, are equal in length to a full straight plus a track section from the C8295 elevated track accessory.  We also used four of the C8295 track sections in the layout after cutting off the ears the overpass supports plug into.

Like every event track we’ve ever used, this one is timed and scored by a DS electronic system consisting of  DS300 and DS334 modules with a 4-lane light bridge and a 12-volt power supply.  We also use a 2-lane DS system on our 4×8 in-store track.  DS systems are not cheap, but they do everything most slot car hobbyists will ever need in the way of timing and scoring, and they are  durable and reliable even, we’ve found, under conditions sometimes bordering on outright abuse.

As this is being written we’ve had the this track out to two public events where it has been wildly popular and completely successful.  There are more to come, and we’ll give you an update every now and then.

Our New In-store Demo and Testing Track

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It’s not finished yet, but our store’s 2-lane Scalextric Sport demonstration and testing track is operational.  The track will also serve as a portable track for our booth at trade shows and exhibitions beginning with the Northwest Home School Convention in mid-June.  We designed it to split into two modules just by undoing two wing nuts and disconnecting track sections where they cross between the two modules.  In the photo above you can see the line where the two modules meet.  This makes it possible to transport the track easily in our trusty GMC Safari van.

We really wanted to have a larger 4-lane track in the store, one big enough to run organized races on, but that will have to wait until our business grows into a larger store space.  However, we will have not one but two 4-lane tracks for racing at other locations.  More about those in a future blog post.

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The two modules are designed to rest on either a single 8×3-foot table in the store or on two 4×2-foot tables with folding legs, which we will use in off-site locations because they are light and easy to transport in our van.  In the photo above you see the basic structure sitting on the 8-foot table.  On the floor below it you can see the circular miter saw we used to cut many of the parts for the modules.

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This is how it looks from the bottom..  The understructure, made from 2×2 lumber, holds the assembled modules securely in place on the table.  When we use the two smaller tables  they fit transversely, one under each module.  The understructure also provides attachment points for the side walls.

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This photo points out some of the layout’s features.  The areas marked A through F have been filled in to the level of the track surface or slightly above with pieces cut from plywood.  #1 is the DS sensor track we decided to use instead of a light bridge.  It is much less likely to be damaged in hard use or transport.  #2 is the “old-style” C8217 round-plug power base.  We used it instead of the current-production power base with rectangular plugs because it allows the use of two transformers for separate power to each lane, and accepts many different aftermarket controllers, which the newer power base, at least for now, does not.  #3 is the Ninco #10220 crash wall and catch fence we place between the two adjacent straight sections to prevent head-on crashes and to show off the crash walls, which we really like.  #4 is the DS2000 2-lane lap counter/timer system we will be using on this track.  DS systems are not cheap, but they do everything most hobbyists will ever need a timing/scoring system to do and they are highly durable and reliable under heavy use.

#5 marks the two gaps in the side walls to be filled in during final finishing.  #6 is a pair of sturdy “super-resistant” cars from one of the two C1319T Continental sport Cars race sets that provided most of the track sections to build the layout.  We’ll be using these cars and similar ones in the store and at public events.  I’ll write more about the C1319T set in a coming post.  #7 is a section of fill-in on which we sloped the edges down to track level to provide a bit of extra driving challenge.  A car’s rear tires can slide onto the sloped area up to a point, but take it too far and you may upset the car enough to deslot it.

This would make a really fun layout for anyone who wants to race 1/32 scale but has very limited space.  It uses almost all radius 2 curves with just one rad 1 turn to keep drivers on their toes.  Except for a long straightaway it has everything you need to explore all aspects of your cars’ performance and challenge yourself as a driver.  there’s even enough room to add scenic details, as we will be doing.

Watch for more posts about the building of this track in which we will go into the process in greater detail.

Have comments or questions?  We invite you to add them below.  We will reply.