A few months ago, I visited the Slot.it guys to check out post-Nürnberg progress on their Alfa 155 project and, shortly after that, I was one of the lucky few who got their hands on a limited-edition unliveried pre-release version made available at the UK Slot Festival… actually, after some rooting around on the stands, I emerged triumphantly with exactly the one I wanted – of 250, mine is number #155!
So, I was very excited to finally get my hands a production version of the CA35a Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI DTM. Aside from the striking No.7 Nannini livery, the main difference between this and the pre-release I’d already been enjoying is the motor; the M-/15 series essentially being a slightly milder version of what has, up until now, been the box-standard ‘V12’ motor.
The Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI is a racing car built to race in the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft) series in 1993. At that time the German Touring Car Championship was the peak of technology for touring car racing. The rules mandated cars with an engine displacement of 2.5 liters and 6 cylinders at most, derived from approved models and produced in no less than 25,000 units. The rules allowed deep changes to the car, provided that the external lines were maintained. This Slot.it model reproduces the works No. 7 racing on the legendary Nordschleife, driven by former Formula 1 driver Alessandro Nannini. [Slot.it]
As is usual for Slot.it, the model is a faithful scale reproduction of the 1:1, with an impressive level of detail. Mouldings at the rear of the chassis show the exhaust and aerodynamic features and, in addition to the vents, ducts and spoilers that you’d expect on the bodywork, Slot.it have gone the extra mile in creating a number of interior detail variations; in time, this will allow them to release models with the differing seat styles and helmet shapes favoured by those who raced in the DTM.
Tampo printing looks to be as clean and sharp as usual, although the red paint below could be a little more vibrant; but that’s an observation, not a grumble – this is for club racing, not concours d’elegance! And, aside from the gorgeous bodywork, details I particularly like are the heat-shrouds on the rear bumper, the interior, and the wheels… although, some brake-disc details would’ve looked fantastic peering out from behind those 6-spoke wheel inserts!
If there’s only one thing (and, to be fair, it’s a very small thing) which I’m not a fan of, it’s the chunky-looking roof aerial. On the plus side, it is made of a very flexible plastic that will resist damage if the car goes wheels-up… but, no matter how many times I try to persuade it to sit straight, it always ends up reverting to an odd angle of lean – which only serves to make it stand out more!
…out on track
Murmers online in the run-up to this release were concerned about the 155 V6 TI possibly being a little top-heavy but, especially with the magnet still in place, the Alfa corners far more confidently than you might expect – in fact, the manner in which it can so quickly change direction and flick through s-bends at speed seems contradictory to its thin, upright appearance. Maurizio explained that the Slot.it team have worked hard to reduce the mass of the higher-positioned components; parts such as the window moulding were carefully designed to keep the weight, and therefore the centre of gravity, as low as possible.
When testing a new car, I do usually like to spend perhaps a little too much time tweaking screws and adjusting settings, experimenting with front axle height and so on. So, this time I wanted to see how the box-standard setup worked with only the magnet removed.
The new 21,000rpm motor is smooth, allowing me to hustle the Alfa Romeo around our 38m Carrera clubtrack swiftly. 150gr of magnetic downforce, while not huge, does inspire confidence when cornering… but, a little care is still required. Provided you aren’t too overenthusiastic on corner entry, drive smoothly and feed in the power progressively, the car remains surprisingly stable – I found that I was putting in fairly decent lap-times within minutes of opening the box. But, if you’ve an aggressive trigger-finger and or like a bit of drifting, the magnet downforce from the motor is lost as the rear slides, the outside edges of the tyre can dig and, even if it doesn’t roll completely, it can rise up onto two wheels lifting the guide out of the slot.
So, as expected, the challenge comes as you approach the limit of the cars’ grip – and this is where keeping the standard rubber on the car actually works out well, because too much grip would only make it more likely to tip. It really is great fun to push around the track – certainly different to the low-slung LM cars Slot.it are famous for but, for me at least, that’s part of the charm of this rejuvenated class.
…wait, what – no 4WD?
With the 1:1 DTM racer boasting all wheel drive, it’s a shame that Slot.it chose not to include their excellent clutched and belt-driven all-wheel-drive system as standard – after all, the chassis was designed to allow the system to be fitted, and it was indeed a feature on the test versions I photographed in Italy.
Of course, the system can easily be retro-fitted – but, as the retail price of the CA35a is around the same as the Slot.it LMP cars on offer which have the 4WD system as standard, buying in the parts could become an expensive project by comparison.
On the plus side, extra parts (such as wheel trims) are bundled under the box to make the optional switch to 4WD that little bit easier.
…in a class of its own?
With the introduction of the Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI DTM, Slot.it have created the new ‘Classic DTM’ category of racer for themselves. While I am not alone in rushing to become an owner of this model, it is going to be a little while before a racing series establishes itself at clubs in my area. Slot.it themselves are already well on their way to having the Opel Calibra V6 on our shelves by early 2017, and rumour has it that the DTM Mercedes could follow. But, aside from the Jägermeister-liveried Alfa coming out before then, what do we pit against the CA35a in the meantime?
My thoughts go back to the Ninco version of this same model, and the other DTM stalwarts they created at that time. While the mechanics and dynamics of these older models aren’t going to compare to the Slot.it, aftermarket 3D-printed chassis available from the likes of Olifer are able to accept Slot.it components, so who’s to say we won’t see a mixed-manufacturer ‘Classic DTM’ series on our club tracks soon?
This, for me, is a very well-balanced slot car – the new motor, the standard tyres, and the dynamics of the car all work together very well indeed! Even prior to its release, the Slot.it CA35a Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI DTM had already built up quite a following – it hits the shelves in a couple of weeks and, while it’s entirely possible that home-racers will be quicker on the uptake than club racers, it’s obviously going to be a big-seller.
The real Alfa Romeo V6 has always been one of my favourite noises – so, I couldn’t resist sharing the video below. And, you might need it because, although Slot.it have succeeded admirably in creating the Alfa Romeo 155V6 TI DTM in scale, there’s one thing that’s always going to remain conspicuous by its absence… that noise – enjoy!
Available in stores: July 12th, 2016
Once again, a big thank you to Maurizio and everyone at Slot.it for making this model available to me so quickly, and to SlotRacing Mülheim for the track-testing facilities.