Dear reader, I am going to share the «hard» (but fun) learning involved in participating in the discipline of a slot club. This is an article written by a newbie, and I hope it will help those who start in the hobby. On this occasion I will address the maintenance and condition of our racing car.
As I may have mentioned before, I am lucky to be enrolled in the club Costablanca Racing Slot de Alicante. Three disciplines within reach in this club: Speed racing track, Rally and Raid. And I should really say four, because within the Speed Racing Track discipline, we have both analog and digital racing. And the digital version is a world in itself, which I will address in a future article.
I dare to write this article, much less as an expert, but as an enthusiast who learns and takes note of the first basic advice provided by colleagues, and that translates into immediate improvement.
In this article I focus on the essential points, in order to take the first steps with the material that is available in the best possible condition. This in addition, with the perspective that gives the inevitable initial errors -and some successes- which I experienced .
Regardless of sophistication, and regardless of the car/category, every self-respecting slot player should start by leaving nothing to chance. Basic points:
- Cleaning of all the mechanical components of your car: crown, pinion, bearings, guides. No fluff or gumminess that sticks inside the bodywork with use. Always have a brush on hand to leave the interior and mechanicals in pristine condition before and after each race.
- Braids: Always clean, well attached to the guide, and also use the appropriate ones for each situation. What does the right ones for each situation mean? Well, in speed racing and rally, use soft braids so that they offer the least resistance and friction possible -in addition to not lifting the nose of the car. Currently (in Spain) I use copper braid MB19080/12. On the other hand, for Raid, you will need slightly stronger braids that guarantee contact with the track in any situation, for example, MB19079/12 . These with the simple touch already notice much more rigid than the previously mentioned for speed, and it is more suitable for situations in which you play with flour or dusty stuff to simulate desert landscapes.
- Proper operation of the guide: that is, that it rotates without any resistance. As you turn it with your fingers, imagine how fast it works within rail; It must be able to change angle without suddenness or resistance, facilitating the passage of the car in linked curves. Depending on the case, it may be necessary to spread a little oil on the guide rod with your fingers to help it slide naturally, although in my case to date it has not been necessary.
- Cables: The cables that a slot car comes with are not always the most suitable. Cables that are too thick/rigid will make the guide work more clumsily and abruptly, while with thin and flexible cables (for example, silicone-coated), an obvious improvement will be noted. The guide will rotate smoothly. This topic is important.
- Body tilt: This will break the principles of any first-timer. Do I have to loosen the screws? Really? Well yes….. The tilting is achieved by slightly loosening the screws that hold the bodywork to the chassis, in order to reduce the inertia of the car in curves, and help it to be able to enter them with greater speed. There are specific («tilting») screws to help with this function.
- Suitable tires and in good condition. We will define in the following points what «suitable» means for the front and rear axle.
- Rear tires: Normally, the tires the manufacturers provide us with our new slot car, will have little to offer in terms of performance in a club. You will need your car to have optimal traction in any situation, and the tires that box cars come with, with few exceptions, are not designed for competition. You will spend more time sliding out of each turn than accelerating. In this hobby, every tenth of a second counts, and this is very noticeable. Here in Spain, brands such as Scaleauto, Mitoos, SRC, put at our disposal various tyres in different sizes and compounds for optimum performance.
- Front tires: this is when the newcomer to a club may come across something that breaks their paradigms, especially in speed, the zero grip tires. They are very thin, with the minimum profile to cover the rim and little else. The function of these tires is that the front wheels interfere as little as possible in the work of the guide/front axle assembly.
- If you’re not sure which tires to order, ask your club mates which ones they use. However, they are usually reflected in the club’s regulations.
- Shafts: check that they are not deformed, that their rotation is completely regular, and that they do not present resistance or vibrations. If they oscillate, you have to replace, there is no other solution. Otherwise, the operation of our car will not be adequate.
- Bearings: Bearings in good condition, without excessive play, and lubricated. Spinning of the shaft through the bearings must be clean. If it feels «gritty» no matter how small, the car will feel forced, and will not offer all the best possible performance. Sometimes by minimally and carefully sanding the shaft, and generously lubricating its surface this issue is solved.
- Chassis: Check «by eye», and with greater precision, resting it on a flat surface, it does not present irregularities, and is completely flat.
Another colleague from the Costablanca club, Emmanuel Torres, offers us from his Torreslot channel, his approach and procedure regarding the guide-braid set.
And not least: THE CONTROLLER. From my own experience, an essential element for the enjoyment of the hobby.
The ideal is, as long as it’s possible, to try the controllers from different brands that your club colleagues may have, in order to have an idea of which one suits us best, regarding ergonomics and sensations. Because no two controllers are the same. There are some with a certain versatility for rally and speed racing, although the most common is to see people who compete with a specific controller for rally, and another one for speed racing.
The owners of the different controllerss in your club will comment on the characteristics of each one, and based on your own experience when trying them, you will decide appropriately. It is very important to try them, since, I insist, it is an essential part of enjoying this hobby. Do not get carried away at first by spectacular-looking controls and with endless pannels of buttons and switches as the ultimate weapon.
The attention we pay to all the points addressed in this article will pay off on the track. And from here, compete, learn, improve, and find your own rhythm.
In the next part of this article, I’ll talk about (my own) rookie mistakes , and how they can be remedied or prevented with a little anticipation and observation.
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article…