The London Scalextric Club began life in 1977 when its founder Roy Charlesworth decided the time was right to resurrect his hobby and passion for slot car racing once more. Roy worked as a dance instructor at the Haringey Ballroom in Wood Green North London and so he was able to use the dance hall on a Sunday to build a circuit and host races. The track sections he used in the beginning were old Plexytrack from his club nine years before – when model slot car racing had succumbed to the might of the commercial raceway. That scene too had now been and gone, with only really Scalextric clinging on, but Roy felt that he had to give it another go.
He advertised his race days in the press and was surprised at the good response he got as people came from all over London and the South East region to race every two weeks. The club grew and went so well that in 1978 it organised the South of England Championships which attracted an entry of 54 drivers. They raced Super Formula Scalextric Grand Prix cars and the favoured model was the new Lotus 77 – one of the drivers racing a Lotus that day was a young John Herbert from Romford Essex who had arrived escorted by his father. Though he had never even seen the circuit before he went on to finish 3rd – beating most of the home drivers in the process. Johnny, as he later became better known, went on to much greater things in real cars winning F1 Grand Prix as well as Le Mans for Mazda.
As well as the racing at Wood Green there was a passion for collecting and among the members at this time was Roger Gillham whose subsequent books written on the subject have become legendary. It was at this time that a collectors club was started within the club which went on to become the National Scalextric Collectors Club (NSCC) – and it was the collecting interest in October 1979 that resulted in a young Anton Palau visiting the club as a guest of one of the members. Anton’s father’s shop in Barcelona had already become something of a ‘Mecca’ for enthusiasts in England and arrangements were made for a return visit to Barcelona the following year. But that same year the bad news came that the Haringey Ballroom was closing and the club had to find a new home so Roy asked the members to look around for new premises. What actually happened was that some members found premises nearer their own homes and started new clubs, which split the membership, though at the same time it did expand the hobby by creating new clubs.
The collectors club that started in Wood Green went on to become the National Scalextric Collectors Club (NSCC)
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Roy eventually found a new home for his dance classes and the club at St Marks Church Hall just 200 yards from where it had begun – and we are still racing there today every Tuesday evening. I arrived at the club in 1982, picking up my interest in the hobby I had left in 1969, and put my knowledge and enthusiasm into improving the club and its facilities – especially the track which by now was in a poor state. There were power problems too and a lack of automatic lap counters – or even dynamic braking.
Since the 1980’s the club and its facilities have improved along with the re-growth of the hobby, and we have hosted European Championship Grand Prix, taking the portable 6 lane circuit to various larger venues. Some of our members have even become European Slot Car Champion. We have also taken teams to overseas endurance events and been victorious on three occasions. Our current circuit is a fairly fast and flowing design of 33.3 meters – which has gradually evolved from the original design of 1982 and runs anti-clockwise.
The circuit was completely relaid with new Scalextric Sport track in 2011 which has given us our smoothest, fastest track yet and the track surface has been painted with grey polythene floor paint, which together with the urethane tyres we use, gives great grip. The whole track continues to be portable as we have to dismantle and store the track during the week to enable other clubs to use the hall. Electrical continuity is not a problem due to a ring of cable running around the complete circuit which feeds into the track at the ends of every board. These consist of 18mm chipboard to which every piece of track is pinned. All of our racing is done without traction magnets in the cars – all brands of slot cars are welcome and our rules ensure varied grids across 9 different categories.
There is also a reality check with the Clubcar Handicap test. Here every racer uses the same six cars, that are provided by the club, and that way the skill of the racer can be truly contrasted to find the fastest! We are a relatively old club in more ways than one and our racing these days is more about fun than competition – but we aim to be around for quite some time to come as you are never to old for slot car racing. We hope to see you on track soon!
London Scalextric Club – Chairman