2016 - Review of the Year
Wow, a whole year of Test Track completed, and more importantly a whole year of exciting news straight from the Scalextric Development team. It’s been a fantastic year where we’ve explored the goings on at Scalextric HQ, and learnt a fair bit more about the people behind these projects as well (especially Luke’s propensity to be distracted on research trips!). We’ve enjoyed almost every minute of this year and we hope you have too - nearly 55,000 of you have visited Test Track this year, so we must be doing something right!
With 2016 coming to an end, leaving us to face the prospect of writing the wrong date for the next few weeks, we thought it would be good fun to go through the year and pick out some highlights. We like to think each edition of Test Track has something interesting and a recap on the year should (hopefully) bring everything into focus. So let’s get started…
We got stuck into 2016 with a look at the new version of our ARC - App Race Control system. ARC AIR introduced the first wireless hand controllers to Scalextric and brought with it a bunch of new functionality to spice up races (all customisable from the ARC app).
ARC AIR was a fantastic next step and brought with it the most advanced analogue racing experience ever with Scalextric. If you aren’t familiar with the system, we definitely recommend checking out the February edition of Test Track to learn more. You’ll even see some nice-looking BTCC cars that will soon all be available!
The next Test Track of the year was probably the most discussed (and debated!) edition we’ve had to date. The infamous ‘Room for Improvement’ blog generated some very promising discussion, but also concerns from some communities. Now that we’ve all had a bit of time to digest the changes, and see them in action on our layouts, we hope the vast majority of you are seeing improvements.
We maintain that the changes are better for just about everybody, keeping detail and the “pick up and play” aspect for more casual racers, while greatly improving performance for serious slot racers. However, we’d love to know how you’re getting on with these changes now and what you think of them.
It’s probably no shock that the team are very pleased with the improvements (although we might have to accept defeat on the improved airflow under the flat underpan…) but just as these changes were motivated and influenced by talking to slot clubs, racers and experts, you can’t beat chatting to slot racers of all skill levels and hearing what they have to say. Truly, we’d love to hear from you and what you think about these small improvements, which we hope add up to a better experience.
April started off with a Test Track full of updates you may recognise from the last couple of editions (as they’re now in stock!). The red M3, as driven by Roland Ratzenberger, would also come up again later in the year to kick off one of our more popular features - more on that later.
We also addressed some of the debate we saw about the improvements and hoped we convinced more slot racers that these changes were truly for the best.
It was the turn of some BTCC cars in the edition right at the end of April, as we showed you the latest on these popular cars. We could definitely feel the hype building for these models, even at this stage, and there isn’t much longer to wait for the remaining cars in the collection.
The British Touring Car Championship has been a regular here at Test Track and we’ve loved talking about this iconic series, as well as meeting the teams and drivers. We could consider 2016 the “Year of BTCC” and we hope our relationship can continue with this great organisation.
In the next Test Track we took a trip down under and looked at some cars that our Australian collectors could expect. Australia has always been a great environment for Scalextric and we know there’s a large community there who love slot racing.
What was particularly interesting about this edition was that these cars wouldn’t normally be seen in the UK (at least on most UK-based websites). Bringing these cars to the fore in Test Track hopefully showed off the cars and drivers who ply their trade in Australia. Collectors and slot racers around the world could see Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen’s Holden Commodores and I hope our Australian retailers heard from some interested collectors and motorsport fans around the world about these sets.
We also had a number of other updates for you, plus some news from one of the biggest and most popular events in the slot racing calendar, UK Slot Car Festival.
Test Track followed up with a blog that took a look at part of the development process we hadn’t shined a light on before - our striking box artwork. The artwork and packaging we use here at Scalextric is a hugely important part of advertising the slot racing experience.
In one of our longest blogs of the year, we looked at the artwork process and spoke to Adam Tooby, one of the main artists involved in producing these fantastic pieces of art. We hope it was an illuminating blog and showed you more of what Test Track is all about.
There was also a follow up to the “Australian” edition and a big update on the first new tooling announcement we ever had on Test Track, the BMW M3 and Ford Sierra RS500.
At the end of July, we celebrated Test Track’s first birthday with a special competition thanks to Tony Trimmer’s visit to our offices. The competition was a great way to celebrate the blog and the kind words and submissions (which you can find in the edition after) were incredibly enjoyable to read.
This instalment of Test Track also started us thinking more about our Research Trips and the fact that we’ve been to a fair few places, all over the UK and beyond, that might be of interest to our readers. The Research Trips are often vital for us before starting a new project and without the access the owners and teams allow us, it’s likely certain projects would never get off the ground.
I’m sure you’ll continue to see tales from our Research Trips in Test Track (including this one!) as they continue to offer interesting details about the models themselves, but also the whole experience in producing them. Plus, we hope they give a behind-the-scenes peek not only to Scalextric and the designers, but also to awe-inspiring car collections, museums and race teams.
Mark Williams' collection
It was a quieter Test Track in August, but we still had a brand new feature to show you. Collectors Corner made the most of some of the fantastic layout photographs that were added to our Facebook page, showing an array of impressive slot racing circuits. We would still love for this to be a regular feature on Test Track, but we haven’t seen many layout photos added to our social media pages of late. We would definitely like to see this feature back in the blog (and we think many readers would too) so please submit your photos to be featured.
To do so, please add images to our Facebook page, tweet them to us using #TestTrack, or email them directly to the email address email@example.com. We’re ready to use your images so just send them to us and you could find yourself in the next edition of Test Track!
It’s also worth mentioning the Ford XB Falcon (C3697) as it had its first (and last) appearance in this edition of Test Track. This model was insanely popular and really captured the imagination of collectors and enthusiasts around the world. We’re guessing anyway as its sold out just about everywhere!
As we started to hit the home straight for the year, Test Track had another new feature in store at the end of September. With Simon, the Head Researcher, bringing this touching story behind his connection to the driver Roland Ratzenberger, and his historic BTCC car. This edition was somewhat of a watershed moment for us this year as we realised the true potential of the Story Behind the Model feature.
This section lets us shine the light on cars in a different way, perhaps that we can’t always do in the few lines of description on the product page. Plus, it lets you know why a model has been selected and what it means to us, as motorsport and slot racing enthusiasts too. While we’ll continue to share these stories where we can (and they’ve been fitting nicely into the New Arrivals section recently) we know there can be too much of a good thing so we’ll be looking to strike a careful balance next year.
October saw the return of the BTCC to Test Track with a 2017 announcement (which many of you probably saw coming!). After a visit to Brands Hatch, it felt the right time to confirm a few of the liveries you’ll be seeing in 2017 and we hope you enjoyed the video (it looks like Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal enjoyed making it!).
Our last three most recent blogs have announced some brand new tooling, exclusively in Test Track. It was great to reveal three new tools that will be bringing a number of models to you in 2017. First, right at the end of October, we revealed an absolute classic and a car often seen as the most beautiful ever produced.
The Jaguar E-Type is likely to be a popular tooling and the first livery we announced, and put on pre-order, has already been a great success. If you want to find out more, you can find the C3878 Union Jack E-Type details here.
From an older classic car, we moved to something much more current with the Mercedes AMG GT3. This car hasn’t been on the GT circuit for long, but from what we’ve seen it already looks promising and the car is certainly a looker.
That brings us right up to date with the last edition of Test Track, published two weeks ago today, where the Ford GT40 Mk IV joined the Scalextric ranks. The Mk IV joins the other GT40s we’ve produced and, despite its racing career being cut short, it enjoyed some success with a Le Mans performance in particular being its crowning achievement.
That just about covers the year from Test Track and if anything caught your attention (and you didn’t read it at the time) we definitely recommend you go back and check the full edition of Test Track out. While we aim for Test Track to be on the cutting edge of news and development here at Scalextric, there is definitely an element of making each edition stand the test of time and be as engaging when its first published to months or even years down the line.
Story Behind the Model
Whilst the model this car tells the story of is still a little way away from being released, we wanted to include this story from Scalextric Designer Luke to finish off the year. As we mentioned, these stories really help to bring home how we feel about Scalextric models and to hopefully highlight that these aren’t slot cars cranked out to enthusiasts. We are enthusiasts too and want these models to do well, both on the track and being admired on the shelf (especially as we’re likely to be racing and adding them to collections too).
If you’ve read the Test Track from the beginning of October (where we announced some 2017 BTCC liveries), you’ll have read about Luke’s time with the drivers at Brands Hatch. However, in this ‘Story Behind the Model’ Luke goes into a bit more detail about the significance of the race and building to this special moment over the year.
Designing the Honda Civic Type R, driven by one of my favourite racing drivers of all time, Matt Neal, was the most fun I’ve had designing in a long time. The interest in us releasing this model also led to unbelievable hospitality from Honda, as we were invited to a test day/shakedown back in March at Brands Hatch. There we met Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden who were over the moon to see a Scalextric version of their race car. It was particularly cold that day so Matt Neal invited myself and Rob (my colleague) into the trailer for a cup of tea. Never would I have thought I’d be sharing drinks with two touring car legends!
The next time we would meet Matt and Flash again would be the season ending Brands Hatch round in October, where both drivers were in the hunt for 4th and 3rd respectively. It was Friday practice, and again we were invited by the team to come and see them and show them the latest samples of the Honda (this time with minor errors corrected and improvements made). This would lead to us setting up a track in the garage and Matt and Flash racing their cars…. which would then lead to Matt Neal challenging me to a race. So to race one of my motorsport idols on a Scalextric track is not something everyone can say they’ve done, so it was a pretty proud day for me!
It must be quite something to race with one of your idols, with cars you designed, especially in surroundings like Brands Hatch. For me, that would be like Neil Buchanan reading one of these blogs, whilst we sat on the 1990s set for the classic ‘Art Attack’. Remarkable stuff!
Both 2015 Honda Civic Type Rs should be available by the end of January, check out Matt Neal’s (C3734) here and Gordon Shedden’s Championship winning car (C3783) here.
We hoped this story would offer a great end to the year and allow us to reflect on what has been a jam-packed 2016. With 15 blogs in 12 months (including this one) we’ve tried to offer you a direct line straight into the Scalextric Development team and I really do hope you’ve enjoyed reading Test Track as much as we’ve enjoyed putting them together for you.
Expect much of the same next year, although we might try to space out announcements a fraction more in 2017 (four in a row was quite something!). No doubt, we’ll discover a few new features along the way and we’ll definitely be keen to get you more involved next year too.
Well that leaves us to hope you had a great Christmas and to wish you a Happy New Year, and of course…
The Test Track Team
P.S. Keep an eye on your inbox and our social media channels for details of the Scalextric 2017 launch - first week in January...
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