The weekend of 16th and 17th May 2015 was a very highly anticipated one for many people – myself, I’d been making travel plans and counting the days for some time running up to the main event, and I’m pleased to say that my first visit to the UK Slot Festival did a lot more than just live up to my expectations.
More than anything, I’d been looking forward to meeting all the manufacturers, dealers and other slot-personalities that I’d been dealing with and chatting to online – it’d long been time to put names and faces to avatars and usernames!
First up was Gareth at Chase Cars – and, to be honest, this might’ve been a mistake from a time-management point of view as it turned out to be the display we kept returning to time and time again – drifting our way around a compact series of curves in a variety of cars fitted with his excellent leaning and steering chassis was so much fun! Plus, Gareth was kind enough to play the appropriate TV soundtrack depending on our cars of choice; ‘The A-Team’ theme was perfect for an authentic-sounding bit of play-time in B.A.’s van and a U.S. Military Jeep. That said, my favourite Chase Cars car was his recently completed VW Beetle – if I could’ve taken any car home with me as a souvenir of the UKSF, that would have been it.
Richard of Route 1 Racing was also at Gareth’s stand, so that was a great opportunity to pick up some of his special thin-tinned braid; more to come on that soon in a report, once I’ve installed and track-tested it on my regular racers.
…Slot Rally GB
Next up was another Gareth, this time Mr Jex over at the excellent four-stage setup of Slot Rally GB. We were initially drawn in by his colourful array of Skodas, but found ourselves chatting with him for some time about his forthcoming Audi RS002. The display model looks a little odd without the huge wing that it will eventually wear, but it’s fantastic to see Gareth putting another unique rally special out there, and really entertaining to listen to him enthusiastically talking about this and the other models in his collection.
…Slot.it / Policar
Having spotted the two Maurizios heading back towards their stand, I went over to Slot.it to say “ciao” – but, Mr. Ferrari doesn’t like to stand still for too long, so after a quick look a the liveried prototypes of the Policar Lotus 72, we were soon walking while we were talking as Maurizio buzzed around the various rooms of the UKSF, looking for Adrian Norman of Scalextric… why? Because he’d decided it was time for him to test the first liveried prototype of the Policar Lotus 72 on the Brundle F1 Scalextric circuit!
The massive 9m by 9m Scalextric track, designed by Martin Brundle to feature curves from all 20 circuits on this season’s F1 calendar was for me, I’m sorry to say, something of an anticlimax; not enough had been done to make the most of this display. At the very least, Scalextric should have considered a raised area for drivers (especially kids and anyone else under 6ft… just how tall is lap record-holder Johnny Herbert, anyway?!) to give them an easier task at actually completing a lap – another for spectators to watch from would have been great, as it would have given everyone a much better impression of the effort and skill that had obviously gone into designing the layout and constructing all the scenery… looking down on a circuit like this will always be a lot more interesting than looking across it! And, as had been pointed out to me previously, this layout should have been digital setup from the start… 45m of track with only two cars on it is pretty dull – it just didn’t come off as a serious slot racing circuit. No driver I saw seemed to be able to get their car up to a speed fast enough to challenge the record set by Mr. Herbert… but, maybe that’s not the point? In isolation, and on TV, this will be a striking and functional promotional tool but, at the festival, as a nine metre square table that was largely unattended, it proved to be more of a static display you had to walk around in order to reach the more interesting circuit displays from Slotfire and Sillage Racing at one end of the room, to Slot Rally GB and the Drag racing at the other. Such a shame!
I’d never had the chance to try out Slotfire track until UKSF2015. The first thing I noticed was the quality of its construction – while it may lack delicate detail, it just looks so solid and strong – it’s obviously built with the serious racer and the club environment in mind.
Looking closer, I saw that their clever modular approach to creating routed track design made for a neat and challenging layouts – CNC machines cut smooth, precise, compound curves into upper surfaces and small ribs into the underside of sections, in order to achieve perfectly smooth bridges and banked sections. Dirk and Felix were very accommodating, explaining not only the features of their track, but also the various timing and lane-changing options available.
A personal highlight of the Festival was taking my own Slot.it Audi R8C racer and 4WD Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro for a few spirited laps around the Slotfire track – and SlotForum’s Ian Bielby joined in for a fun impromptu little race! Slotfire Felix played catch-up in with his Slot.it Lola B09/60, and when I took one of the ‘up ramps’ with a little too much enthusiasm, I had Slot.it’s own Maurizio Gibertoni as my marshal to put things right!
A visit to the Slotfire factory in Germany is being planned for the not-too-distant future, with a full feature coming soon.
David Caille’s version of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit was a real crowd-puller – it was just too easy to lose track of time staring at it, mesmerised, as a couple of classic Le Mans drone cars set at different speeds casually lapped the circuit along the racing line, changing into different lanes automatically whenever one needed to overtake. David very graciously took time out to explain to us how this clever BLST system worked, and although this kind of technology is worthy of reward in its own right, it was actually the beautiful, undulating, landscape and detailed features that won him ‘Best Scenic Track’ in a competition run by the National Scalextric Collectors Club – well done, David!
…the Italian Job!
Many thanks to Tim Renshaw of the SMSRC for permission to post his video!
…BSCRA – British Slot Car Racing Association
Runner up to Chase Cars in our unofficial SitC ‘most time spent at one stand’ award was the 1:24 routed track and club cars organised by the BSCRA. We loved the simplicity of the concept – no concerns about scale, brand, or having a correct livery – this was all about Slot Racing. Organiser Nigel was as busy on the microphone as he was at the race controls as group after group of six budding drivers took to the smooth, flowing wooden track – many for their first taste of routed racing. Champion driver James Cleave was on hand to offer tips, and also took the time to talk me through the finer points of the new ‘Genesis’ chassis design, designed for the introductory Intro32 class… but, our brief interview was cut short by the news that he’d won the Slot Rally GB competition – congratulations, James… fastest combined time across their four stages!
And, finally… how good was it to meet this man? Giovanni Montiglio was an absolute delight to chat with, and it was fantastic to see him back on form and so enthusiastic about his new Thunder Slot project; the Lola T70 MkIII. Obviously, other manufacturers have covered this model quite well in the past, but Giovanni is intent on making this a formidable performer on track. We thoroughly enjoyed talking to him about the interesting little features of the chassis that, although not unique in their own right, will certainly be a unique combination for classic car racers when the model is released later this year.
A visit to Thunder Slot HQ in Italy is being planned for later this year, with a full feature coming soon.
Time passes differently at UKSF – five hours the first day and six the next went past in no time at all… we arrived one minute, and it seemed like the MHC staff were herding us out of the front door the next – we hadn’t even noticed that we’d missed lunch!
The sheer volume of items that the many traders had for sale was certainly impressive – although, many of them seemed to be offering similar stock at similar prices, which made it was quite tricky to find anything that proved to be a real bargain buy. But that didn’t matter as it was never really our aim for the weekend – we wanted to meet as many people as possible and experience as many different facets of this hobby as we could – so, from that point of view, UKSF2015 scored perfectly – great club tracks, rally tracks, scenic tracks and drag strips for 1:24, 1:32 and HO scales were all represented.
Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make UK Slot Festival such a great event this year – time for a thumbs up from us, time for feet up for you all – well done for making it happen, see you next year!