Back to basics
If you’re new to slot car racing welcome to our world. But where do you start? In this post we explore the basics of slot car racing.
What is slot car racing?
Slot car racing is a hobby where people use their skills and reactions to race against others with the aim of crossing the finish line first. Your first experience of slot car racing probably came in the comfort of your own home – if you’ve ever been lucky enough to have a Scalextric set.
In reality, it’s not dissimilar to real motorsport – with races taking place over a set number of laps or time and car setup/race strategy play an important part if you’re to find the top step of the podium!
What do I need to race?
Well every racer needs three simple things – a controller, car and track. Hopefully you’ve found the London Scalextric Club track so that’s one thing sorted so what about the other two?
There are lots of excellent controllers in the market and ultimately it’s down to personal preference. For club racing, typically people will use controllers made by DS, Parma, Slot.it and TruSpeed. However, it’s worth highlighting that you may consider some of these wider aspects before racing:
- Comfort – we all come in different shapes and sizes so finding a controller that works for your grip can take time. Racers use either a thumb or finger controller. Pick up a few controllers – how do they feel? You’ll want one that feels comfortable as this will give you one less thing to focus on when you’re racing.
- Feedback – true racers develop a driving style over time and controller feedback plays an important part. You may prefer a lighter controller with little feedback or a heavier controller with more. The best advice is to find a controller that complements your driving style and translates what you are thinking to your car on track.
- Analogue control – conventional controllers have a trigger which moves an electrical contact or ‘wiper arm’ along a variable resistor. So an analogue controller is simple in that it allows a proportion of the available voltage to go to the track and subsequently onto the car as you pull the trigger. If you choose a conventional analogue controller you’ll need to factor in the value of the variable resistor. Most cars raced at the London Scalextric Club work well with a 25 ohm resistance.
- Electronic adjustment – so what about electronic controllers? This can confuse many new racers as on an analogue track, where ‘digital’ lane changing is not required, it’s not a necessity to have an electronic controller with this function. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider using an electronic controller as they have many other functions. For example, racing across many categories it’s beneficial to have a controller with adjustable trigger sensitivity – electronic controllers offer this and much more.
- Brakes – believe it or not, slot cars have brakes. Well actually, braking is achieved by controllers shorting the car’s motor when the trigger is positioned to neutral. Having a controller with adjustable brakes gives racers an opportunity to maximise a car’s potential in the braking zone – so stop and think – do you want to be the last of the late breakers?
- Telemetry – that’s right… its all gone F1 all of a sudden! You can actually purchase controllers with telemetry and race display. If you can spare a minute to take your eyes away from track you may want to think about a controller that offers that little extra in terms of mapping your performance.
- Cost – fair to say, racers may have a budget to work to so finding the best controller that represents value for money will be a factor. Unlikely as it seems, upgrading your controller can make the biggest difference to your slot car racing than any other change. Just bear this in mind when you decide to invest – controllers range from £25 to £150.
So you’ve got a controller and facing the prospect of the start line – you only need one more thing now – a car. Luckily for you there’s hundreds of slot cars to choose from but where to begin…
How about scale? The track at the London Scalextric Club provides the perfect circuit for 1/32 model cars. No doubt you’ll find many slot car manufacturers such as Scalextric, SCX, Slot.it and NSR to name a few, that produce cars that look fantastic and race straight away.
It’s worth remembering slot cars are all simple – they have a motor that drives the rear wheels and steering is achieved by a guide at the front of the car – which sits in the slot of the track. Whilst conventional ‘non-digital’ cars are all compatible with our track, there are performance differences between cars. Some models are built for collectors too but in reality you have three options:
- Standard cars – buying an entry level car will cost around £30. These cars generally feature basic motors, which run at 18,000 RPM, plastic parts and are likely to feature more detailed interiors. Overall, they tend to have a higher centre of gravity and are heavier – they are ultimately slower on track too. However, they are also more robust which may prove useful whilst you’re finding your place on the grid.
- Premium cars – investing in a refined car will set you back around £50. For the extra money generally the cars will feature a more powerful motor, which run at 21,000 RPM, brass or aluminium parts and are likely to have basic interiors. The result is a competitive car out of the box which is lighter and stuck to the track. No literally, with the motor positioned closer to the track surface racers can enjoy a magnet effect created by the motor.
- Scratch-built cars – building a car from a range of parts can be very rewarding – costing anything up to £60. The advantage here is that you can specify your own chassis, body and motor. Cars can be built to optimise the track layout too – but they’re not recommended for beginners.
Whatever choice you decide to take in terms of cars don’t forget there are racing rules which you’ll need to consider too. Each category raced at the London Scalextric Club looks to provide fair competitive racing.
See you on track
Hopefully now you understand a bit more about the basics. If you have any questions just ask any club member – their years of experience and passion for the hobby will lead you to the answer. Alternatively, why not talk to the wider slot car community in the SlotForum.