| The latest buzzword in the commercial world of slot racing being DIGITAL, is it possible to race 1/24 Scale cars in the same format? Well, with a little effort and some helping hints, those 1/24 Carrera Shelf-queens can now be raced in exciting, realistic multi car-per-lane racing, with real overtaking.
Big Al got a bee in his bonnet, and produced a little gem of a track which can race both 1/32 and 1/24, and Analogue and last but not least, digital.. read and see for your self...is this the future of slotracing?.
First, the Track.
Currently, the only commercially available 1/24 capable track system on the market is Carrera. It's "wider than the rest" size, stainless rails, and super firm surface make it the next best option for racing 1/24 scale cars on, either with Rubber, or sponge tyres. This can also be reenforced by the fact that the IMCA Worlds have been held on various Carrera Plexitrack system on more than one occasion, and at all these events, the racing was extremely close and exciting to watch. So the first step is to get hold of the Carrera track Planner, a free downloadable program from the Carrera Website, and spend some time designing layouts in the measured, allowable space you're committing to your layout. Important concepts are, easy of marshalling, drivers line of sight of the whole track, and weather you want to have even lane lengths for Analogue racing. You will eventually come up with a layout that you're happy with, and from the Software, you can get the exact track parts required to assemble the 2, 4, 6 or 8 lane raceway. This is a great time-saving facility, but equally important to ending up with exactly what you want, so don't rush this task.
Next, the Digital element
Once you've already built your track and it's running fine for analogue racing, the next step is to impliment the digital component. Carrera's version is called "Digital132 and digital124, but the track parts are the same for both scales of racing. Again, the only manufacturer to produce High-speed in-line lane changers, you need to have two successive straight's in order to fit in one lane changer.
Although the Digital system doesn't have "multi-lane lane changers, this is easily accomplished by fitting Dual Lane Changers across the two track span, and using the "pitlane single straights on either side to complete the outer two lanes. Carrera offer both Dual, and left-to-right and right-to-left sinlge LC's, so the combinations are pretty varied, but the trick is to have LC's either at the beginning of a long straight, or in the middle of some technical sections, where the car's speed's won't be completely flat out.
Spaghetti Junction, the wiring
The wiring is a little more complex, but essentially, the two seperate systems, Analogue and Digital, need to be kept seperate from one another, and this is accomplished using two way toggle switches. Depending on how passionate you are to keep both formats, the Digital system is a different mindset to race on, and the concentration levels required to race fast, efficiently, and with minimal collisions is much higher than normal, one car per lane analogue racing, but it has a totally different fun element to it, and can be extremely exciting if handled correctly. No bumping, pushing etc, and a very dilligent race control to dish out the penalties is required.
Converting cars to digital
The standard, out the box Carrera 1/24 cars are all fittred with a lighting/direction chip in them, and the new Carrera Digital chips, or decoders have these built into them, so the basic change required is to open up the car and remove the standard chip, and fit the new Digital chip in the cars. Pictured in this example is the Carrera PRO X chip, which has been fitted vary basically into the chassis, witht he LED protruding through the standard hole in the bottom of the chassis. The chip is controled by one of 6 controllers, and "programmed" to that specific controller. Once the chip is fitted, the car is now digital, and you're ready to race.
In my personal experience, having raced at a number of International events, And the speeds that our 1/24 Model Cars attain, I would be hesitant to attempt to race the likes of Plafit, momo/Schoeler type cars in a digital environment, but it's not impossible. Drivers need to be a little more alert on the driver stand, you need to have a good memory of what Lane changer is situated where on the track, and where the various cars are. Racing the standard Carrera Cars however is huge fun, as their overall speeds are not as fast as the Plafit type cars, and the control of overtaking and finding the fastest racing line round a track are of big importance. If cars are running nose to tail and the lead car does perform a lane change, the car immediately behind will not follow the lead car, so in racing, it's a good idea not to follow too close, so that you can make a decision weather to take the Lane change or not, depending on what the slower car ahead has done.
Overall, the end result is very exciting, and although not "teeth-gritting" in tension, it's more a "smile-on-your-face" every lap, and with accurate Lap counting in place, and a large layout with multiple LC's situated around the track, the racing is extremely good fun. In the world of 1/32 Slotcar racing, the Digital 24 hour events which have seen up to 34 cars on a six lane layout and using another digital system, drivers have commented that after that event, they basically converted their sets to Digital and have never looked back. it won't be long before a 1/24 scale digital event is held, and the digital era of slotcar racing will become the standard in competitive, realistic slotcar racing.