New Micro Scalextric Additions and the 2018 BTCC Media Day
Hello and welcome to this edition of Test Track – your behind-the-scenes look here at Scalextric HQ. Last time out we were very happy with ourselves at what a balanced offering we had for you, and we’re pleased to say it’s very similar this month (both in our offering and how pleased we are with ourselves!).
We’ll begin with an in-depth look at some of the work that’s gone into updating our Micro Scalextric (1:64 scale) slot racing system, before moving onto our team’s (very) recent trip up to Donington for the British Touring Car Championship’s Media Day.
Having attended last year, it was our pleasure to make the trip up the M1 again for an enjoyable day rubbing shoulders with the best on the British Touring car circuit.
There’s another interview for you this month too as we stick with the BTCC theme. Our Head Researcher managed to grab a couple of samples and visit West Surrey Racing to get their thoughts on our models and the upcoming BTCC season.
We certainly weren’t lying when we said we had a bit of everything this month so let’s get started…
Back in January we picked out some new tooling in our Micro range. Whilst not necessarily being the item that jumps out at you from a range launch, the advertised G1133 Sci Fi Speedway Set is the starting point of an incredibly important project the team here have been undertaking.
Following the Sci Fit Speedway Set, there’s more to come with several new sets, each offering newly tooled cars. There’s also a brand-new hand controller, and a retooled loop-the-loop track piece – and that’s just the start! With the aim of modernising and updating our Micro offering, 2018 is crucial to get the ball rolling.
Micro Scalextric has always been a key range for us here at Scalextric, offering a great introduction to the world of slot racing. It helps teach children the basics of slot cars, slowing down for the corners and then speeding up for the straights. Before long we’d often find that Micro Scalextric racers would ‘graduate’ to the full 1:32 scale experience, taking everything they’d learned along the way with them.
With this in mind it’s clear that Micro is a fundamental part of Scalextric and the hobby as whole. Of course, we’re still very happy with the experience Micro currently offers but after being out in the marketplace for over 20 years, we felt it was time to begin looking at improvements to the system. 2018 sees the first of these updates as newly tooled designs will be out in sets this year, designed to make Micro even better at getting youngsters into the hobby.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, component you’ll see are the cars themselves. Completely newly tooled these cars offer a solid, basic shape, perfect for the younger racer, yet still having enough detail to try and capture the racer’s imagination. Each car has a unique theme, which we tried to make sure wasn’t something you’d see out in the marketplace. This first set, Sci Fi Speedway, shows futuristic cars tearing through a technologically advanced city – something we hope will appeal to youngsters as they walk through the toy shop.
There’s another three types of new Micro cars designed alongside these Sci Fi racers. Again, offering a quickly understandable, yet appealing, theme. We hope these cars should be grabbing younger racers and letting their imagination run wild.
In collaboration with our US team, work began on the new cars last year, around August. Following lots of discussion in the early part of the year, our designer was able to start on the project and spent around two weeks on each car. Through the work, little pieces of detail were worked in wherever possible (with the designer particularly fond of the machine guns!), all the while being mindful of the design parameters for the model (for straight up and down moulding).
This smaller detailing can become quite a fun challenge for the designer as they balance what’s possible, with what the car is all about. This balance is present in many of our models, we even discussed it last time with the 2017 F1 cars last month (the life of a designer!).
With the CAD completed, the artwork guys could get to work, colouring the cars and trying to make them as interesting as possible. With the design for the box artwork being done in house too, the guys worked hard to not only make the cars look great in their own right, but also to make them work in a scene, the place where imagination starts. Getting to work on the artwork, each car and each set was worked on until all were approved and signed off.
However, that isn’t the full story for Micro in 2018. Alongside new tooling cars, the team are now including a new tooling hand controller. Made with little hands in mind, these controllers offer the quality and durability of their counterparts in 1:32 scale, with a speed limiter now also included. Offering children who have difficultly staying on the track an easier time of things, the easy-to-use speed limiter (just slide it up and down to control how far the trigger can be pressed) should be a popular addition.
The hand controllers for Micro posed their own challenges as the designer was faced with the ergonomic design for smaller hands, yet still had to get everything inside, including the limiter, in a cost-effective way. Fortunately, they were able to accomplish this goal and we’re exceptionally pleased with the final product – and we hope you will be too.
Lastly this year for Micro, there’s a retooled loop-the-loop. Possibly the trademark track piece of a fun, adrenaline fuelled fantasy race, this section is back to help racers have as much fun with our sets as possible. Using the old loop-the-loop as a base, our designer got to work updating the design and ensuring the track piece would offer the fun we had in mind.
Needless to say, the loop-the-loop has been a hit in the office and there’s not many people who can walk past it and not offer a bit of their time for a free testing session! The track piece being back in the range also heralds the return of wall racing, meaning the track can go up a wall at 90 degrees. Something we’re sure the kids will be happy to try but perhaps not the parents!
All in all, we hope these additions will make 2018 a hit for Micro. This cornerstone of the hobby is vitally important, and we hope these improvements will reinvigorate Micro racers – and perhaps start off a lifelong hobby.
BTCC Media Day 2018
We couldn’t quite believe it, but it’s been a year since we visited the BTCC for their Media Day at Donington. However, with that being the case it could only mean one thing, it was time for another Media Day and the start of a BTCC season! Just like 2017, an intrepid team from Scalextric was assembled and made the trip up the country to see our friends at the British Touring Car Championship.
Hopping in the car on Monday afternoon, our team made their way to Donington, enjoying some rare sunshine (which wasn’t to last, needless to say). However, with a bit of sun and a clear drive up the motorway, the team arrived at the hotel and prepped for a busy Tuesday.
Waking up early the next morning, the team arrived at Donington at 8am and with their arrival, the rain began. Once the car was parked, the team checked in before having a stop of their own at the Pit Stop Café. It was then back for the press conference at 8.30am, with Alan Hyde welcoming us to Media Day and the 2018 BTCC season. 2018 is a hugely important year for the BTCC as it has reached its 60th year, and with viewership still increasing, the BTCC is now the third most popular motorsport after Formula One and Nascar – a hugely impressive statistic. There was even time to talk about a new safety truck the series had acquired, the only one outside of Nascar and North America!
Following speeches from a number of different representatives, the drivers all came up for a chat, talking about their hopes for the season, both personally and for their team. With lots of returnees to the series this year, everyone was very realistic about their chances but what became clear was that another cracking season was upon us, with so many skilled drivers and well-resourced teams.
With the press conference concluded everyone headed to the pits where we were allowed to visit each team’s garage in turn, to have their car unveiled for the waiting press. Whilst some liveries still hadn’t been finalised, it was fantastic to see the cars up close and it was the perfect photo opportunity. We particularly enjoyed seeing the new Team Dynamics Honda Civic, plus the liveries on the BTC Norlin Racing cars and the Team Shredded Wheat cars.
With each car revealed they made their way around the track, coming to a stop on the grid for one of our favourite shots of the day. With the grid packed, some more photos were permitted before they all tore off to head back for the pits (although one driver was left stranded in their car and had to be pushed back!). The rain was falling heavily now, and cover was sought wherever it could be found, with many of the drivers doing the same.
With the cars back in the pits, it was time for the spectators to come in and meet the drivers and teams. After taking in a bit more of the sights and sounds of the BTCC it was finally time to leave. With their goodbyes made, the team found the car and started the long drive back home – more rain but at least no traffic!
Scalextric Meets West Surrey Racing (WSR)
Following last month’s interview with one of the stalwarts of the UK’s sportscar scene, Rollcentre Racing, we’re back in this edition meeting a team who can trace their roots back to single seaters, and the Formula 3 scene, but are now synonymous with both the BTCC and BMW.
Founded in 1981 by New Zealander Dick Bennetts, the team immediately found success in the British Formula 3 Championship, with drivers including Jonathan Palmer, Ruebens Barrichello and the legendary Ayrton Senna. Gaining a significant advantage over other teams by getting the most of the Ralt chassis, by the mid-1990s the single seater world had changed significantly and the team found a new home in the BTCC, running the Work’s Ford team before moving to Honda.
Today WSR is a manufacturer assisted team with BMW, a massive achievement for a team from Surrey, and something they are rightly proud of.
Once again Simon, our Head Researcher, managed to grab some time with Dick Bennetts to talk all things motorsport, including Scalextric, BTCC and his memories of Senna. Take it away Simon…
Dick, great to meet you! I’ve brought with me a couple of samples of both the Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan BMW 1 Series cars, what do you think?
Looks fantastic, I’ve got a couple of little nephews down in Australia and every year I get questions from them, ‘can you bring out the Scalextric model cars?’ I gave them some last year and there is a model raceway near to them and they were there all day! Their parents couldn’t get them out! So, they have fans as far as 10,000 miles away.
It must feel great, with WSR’s long and illustrious history, to be a manufacturer assisted team in the BTCC with the real cars transformed into working models?
The other two, Rob’s and Colin’s cars look fantastic too, great little cars, we were a bit upset we lost the driver’s [Championship] last season, but you go home thinking ‘well, actually we won the manufacturer’s, we won the team’s’, so we’ve ticked two of the three boxes and finished second in the driver’s and we were the same the year before. 2014 we won it all when fully independent, so it has been a great car for us, we’re continuing to run the 1 series BMW for 2018, and then we will see what happens for 2019.
You’ve had some incredible drivers drive for you in the past, people including Ayrton Senna, Alan McNish, Mika Hakkinen and Tom Kristensen, how do you rate some of those all-time greats of the sport?
Um, that’s always a tricky question because you’ve got to relate each year to how competitive the Championship is but yes, the days of F3, the guys that really stood out were Senna and Hakkinen. Hakkinen’s raw talent was unbelievable, he could drive a car with three wheels on it and still go quick! Ayrton was very precise, the feedback from him was so accurate it was unbelievable.
Colin is part of the family, started with us in ‘02 in the Atomic Kitten MG [yes readers that is correct, Colin’s first car in the BTCC was a MG adorned with sponsorship from girl group Atomic Kitten!]. Very experienced drivers like Anthony Reid and Paul Radisich, as well as three rounds with Nigel Mansell in 1998. I was never a Nigel fan, until we ran him! And now I am a fan. He’s very determined, he focuses a lot on what he’s doing. And when I got some of the background on some of the injuries he had, when I saw him changing in the back of the transporter one day, all the scars down his back were unbelievable, but he still came back for more. So, a fair selection of good drivers in the past!
Talking of this year do you feel confident going into the new season?
Yeah! We do our job as best as we can every year, but it is also down to the organisers on how they do their equalisation of performance. We think we are in a good position, but one doesn’t know how much development work the other teams have done, we know there are some drivers moving around, but it should be a very competitive season yet again.
So where next for WSR, are you looking to expand the operation into GT racing?
We did look at the new BMW M4 GT4, but we decided against it for 2018 as two races clash. We would need two teams of guys, separate transporters, set up equipment, so to invest in all that was too much. If none of the races had clashed we would have ran a couple of GT4s, we did have a number of enquiries about it. But if the calendar changes next year maybe we will revisit it. It’s a good formula GT4, GT3 is proving to be rather expensive, but GT4 is much more cost effective, but the cars are quick with a good formula.
We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to Dick and WSR for agreeing to meet with us. It’s a real treat that these expert teams give up their time for us, making sure Scalextric stay as close to real racing as possible.
That will just about do it for March’s Test Track. We hope you’ve enjoyed this edition as we’ve, once again, covered just about everything you can expect from the blog.
We hope, like us, you’re excited for the new BTCC season and if you don’t follow the series already, we can’t recommend it enough. Adrenaline fuelled, high octane racing, which visits circuits up and down the country. Plus, we can attest that the drivers and teams are massively friendly and almost always approachable.
Thanks again to both the BTCC and Team Dynamics for their invite to the Media Day, and an extra shout out to Dick Bennetts and WSR for agreeing to meet with us.
The Test Track Team
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