Scalextric into the night!
One of my earliest Scalextric memories is a realisation. A realisation that on Christmas afternoon, after playing with my new set, that as the sun went down, I did not actually need to turn the lights on in the spare room. But rather I could continue to race my Fina RS500, or the red Pirelli Porsche Turbo around my circuit in the dark. While the room itself was hardly illuminated by the headlights of the two cars there was certainly enough light being emitted for me to be able to see where the cars were on the figure of eight track. And I think it is this realisation that has sparked a love of seeing racing cars being driven at night time. Seeing a car slide out of the corner, in real life or 1:32 scale, is cool enough, but when this is only visible due to the dancing of a pair of headlights, or the snaking of a set of tail lights, it looks even better.
In real racing of course, the experience at night is even more visceral. Exhaust flames and the glowing of brake discs that are all but invisible during the daylight hours suddenly stand out starkly against the black background. Sadly, for enthusiasts in the UK, racing into the night is a rare occurrence. Granted there are a number of 24-hour races for some rather unusual cars (2CVs and Citroen C1s for instance), but for big GT and touring cars, now the Britcar 24 is no more, we are bereft. Thankfully, for night racing at least, the season in the UK goes on into autumn, where the night draws in at mid-afternoon, so at Brands Hatch in November we are treated to some proper ‘into the night’ racing, courtesy once again of Britcar, a club series in the UK for Sports, GT and Touring Cars.
This is a real annual event for me. Those that have been to Brands Hatch and been round it know all too well how much of a scary corner Paddock Hill is. But to plunge into it at night, with less of an idea where the braking points are, must be ‘seat of the pants’ stuff. While the start finish straight is relatively illuminated by the lights of the pits and the buildings on the edge, the rest of the Indy loop is covered in darkness. The entry to Druids is another great place to watch as the cars come screaming up the hill before braking sharply, the limit of both drivers’ and spectators’ vision being the edge of the gravel, with the earth bank being menacingly hidden in the gloom.
While this year’s running of the Britcar ‘into the night’ race sadly didn’t feature some of the big GT3 machinery that previous years have had, we were still treated to some exciting action. The Ferrari 458 GT3 of Mason and Wylie set a blistering pace on both encounters, though it was pipped by the Subaru-powered Saker on the Saturday running of the event.
Ferrari leads Saker
Sunday saw some excellent fighting throughout the field for the 3-hour main event race. While a lot of the grid was made up of touring car derived cars, these are still thoroughbred racers and so the spectacle was very much there. The flame spitting antics of M3s and an ex-BTCC Toyota Avensis were certainly something to see and hear in the darkness.
All this night racing really did make me want to get home, set up a track, turn all the lights off and race round my living room! And for me this is the magic of Scalextric, while it can take you right back to racing when you are in your own home, it is just as likely to be in your mind when watching real racing. So maybe don’t turn those lights on during Christmas afternoon as you set some laps! Nearly all of our cars have lights, just look out for the symbol on the case or on our website, so grab some GTs and race on past bedtime!
Big thanks as ever to Gary Hawkins for the amazing photos in the tricky conditions, as it was both dark and freezing!
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