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.
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.
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.