Monday, September 06, 2010

Modern LMP Slot Car Shootout

I've long been a fan of American LeMans/IMSA racing. Aside from a few trips to Daytona when IMSA sanctioned the Rolex 24, I only got to see these cars race once a year at my local track Mosport. Unfortunately, aside from Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta I don't get to see many of the European prototypes race. That was – until I took up slot car racing as a hobby.

Over the last decade we have been blessed with a plethora of models from a variety of manufacturers of LeMans prototypes. What I set out to do is determine which was the quickest and best suited for some local racing series. To do this, I've reached into my collection and pulled out a cross section of sixteen different cars. I then glued and trued the same formulation of urethane tire to each car, removed the traction magnets, and then tried to set my best Q time on a local wood (22m) and plastic track. The lap times were averaged between the two tracks and the results along with my observations are presented here. It's worth noting that all the cars in this test were run in stock form (minus traction magnets). My goal was to provide home and club racers with a performance benchmark for some of the modern era LMP cars available to us.

Carrera Bentley EXP Speed 8 – 9.009s avg.


9.403s plastic / 8.614s wood / 90g mass / 0g downforce

When I first got into the hobby, Carrera was my go-to brand for magnet racing. The adjustable twin magnet chassis in several of their models and solid build made for excellent magnet racers. Once I started racing without traction magnets in place I started looking elsewhere: namely NINCO, Slot.it and Scaleauto for my fast rides. Sometimes, you can't always find what you're looking for in those other brands so you have to go with what's available. If it's the Bentley EXP Speed 8 then Carrera (aside from a boutique resin model) is the only game in town. This car is the heaviest in my test at 90g and also the slowest. This car lacks good brakes so each corner had to be approached with care otherwise it would deslot and go straight instead of turn in. Front tire rub is part of the problem here as well. A beautiful model but will need a lots of work to turn into a racer.



SCX Audi R8 – 8.902s avg.


9.203s plastic / 8.600s wood / 81g mass / 4g downforce

Audi has had quite a run of success with their R8 series of prototypes. Back in my magnet racing days the R8 was another go-to car. The adjustable traction magnet and light weight along with a motor that only seemed to go faster as the car wore in were the hallmarks of this model. Ditch the traction magnets and the car is still surprisingly good if underpowered. This car could be pushed in the corners though it was lacking in outright speed down the straights. A good starting point for a race car, but will need more power to improve its lap times.


Scalextric Cadillac 2000 LMP – 8.704s avg.


9.219s plastic / 8.188s wood / 75g mass / 2g downforce

This model is well known for raising the bar in terms of detail when it was first released. Not the best magnet car owing to the small button magnet. A few guys in my club have race tuned these cars and they are very competitive with the latest offereings from Slot.it and Scaleauto. Out of the box – not so much. The nose deslots easily in the corners and the guide can pop out if pushed. The chassis is on the fragile side so reinforcement and additional weight are definitely on order here. Not a car I'd like to change motors on frequently owing to the delicacy of the chassis, but definitely lots of tuning potential here.

SCX Dome S101 Judd – 8.674s avg.



9.219s plastic / 8.188s wood / 75g mass / 2g downforce

Another cool LeMans livery from SCX. The Dome differs from the Audi in terms of chassis design with its pivoting pod vs. the flat chassis on the Audi, though both models use a similar adjustable magnet design. Without the magnet in place the rocking motor pod can be a hindrance in terms of performance by allowing the tires to rub the inside of the fenders. I broke from my stock protocol by taping the pod to the chassis to limit movement. A slightly hotter motor than the R8 hustles this car around the track that much quicker. Super bright xenon LEDs light up the track if night racing is your thing. All four wheels were loose on their axles and needed to be glued before track testing. This is another model with lots of tuning potential. It's just not a race winner in non-magnet form out of the box.


Scalextric MG/Lola EX257 – 8.636s avg.



9.026s plastic / 8.322s wood / 69g mass, 0g downforce

Scalextric had obviously taken what they learned with their Cadillac and applied those lessons here. Beautiful detail, they replaced the button mag with a bar magnet which made this car the defacto standard among magnet racers. Ditch the mag and we're left with a decent performer. I've raced against these cars in a higher state of tune and they can be quick in non-magnet form. Chassis fragility is an issue that the tuner will have to deal with along with the pop out guid. Also, clearance over the crown gear can be an issue so backing off the screws that hold the rear cowl may be necessary. Not bad – but not great.


NINCO Acura ARX01b – 8.291s avg.



8.485s plastic / 8.096s wood / 81g mass / 8g downforce

Once I started racing non-magnet LMP cars, NINCO was my go-to brand. The BMW LMRs in my collection were only ever so-so magnet cars, but were really great performers without magnutz, especially with NSR King long can power in place of the NC2s those cars came with. The NC5 in the Acura is a decent mill but lacks the punch to perform at the top in my club. Still, a very drivable car as the average lap time demonstrates. In typical NINCO form, all the wheels were loose on the axle and the motor needed to be glued in. One big shunt and the motor will pop out possibly damaging the crown gear. With more motor and bracing between the motor and rear axle mounts this car will only get quicker. I've not yet tried the lightning version of this car: the lack of wheel inserts, odd axle sizing and brittle chassis keep me at bay.

Scalextric Porsche RS Spyder – 8.253s avg.



8.527s plastic / 7.978s wood / 77g mass / 2g downforce

I almost didn't test this car, but getting my *** handed to me by a heavily modded Scalextric Peugeot at my club had me reaching for it when it came time to select models for this review. I'm glad I took the time to glue and true a set of tires for it. Without magnets in place this car was a real blast to drive. The RS Spyder is quick down the straights even with the stock motor and has excellent handling in the corners. I bought another one of these used from a guy in my club so I think I know what my next LMP club racing project car will be…

Spirit Courage C65 – 8.193s avg.



8.297s plastic / 8.088s wood / 80g mass / 15g downforce

This is the first car in this review to feature a motor pod. Spirit provided access holes for front axle set screws on a chassis that came off the plinth fairly straight and flat. The SxXx long can motor has plenty of torque. If anything this car just needs some weight to settle it down. The Spirit Courage is another good mag-free performer out of the box. My local club's ace driver/builder had his eye on this one so maybe there's more to the Courage than meets the eye and my initial impressions?

Fly Racing Lola B98/10 – 8.179s avg.



8.480s plastic / 7.878s wood / 85g mass / 16g downforce

Surprisingly, Fly has managed to fit a long can motor under this short wheelbase low rear deck car. Unique plastic wheels with metal setscrew bosses come standard on this as does a lexan interior. A great handling car, especially on wood.


Avant Slot Peugeot 908 HDi FAP – 8.174s avg.



8.444s plastic / 7.904s wood / 82g mass / 30g downforce

These Avant Slot long can motors are monsters. They remind me of the King motors in terms of torque and power and really make the A/S cars get up and go. The funky chassis takes some fiddling to tune but seems like it has some potential. The guide and guide holders can be fragile so snap spins are something to watch out for when racing cars from this manufacturer. The standard plastic wheels needed to be glued on all the Avant Slot models I tested. The Avant Slot Peugeot is a great car with just a tire change.

Avant Slot Pescarolo – 7.898s avg.



8.095s plastic / 7.701s wood / 79g mass / 15g downforce

For whatever reason, Avant Slot decided the Pescarolo should have a chassis different from their Audi and Peugeot. It is equipped with adjustable front stub axles as opposed to the solid front axle on their other cars. It took some fiddling to keep the rear wheels from rubbing inside the fenders on this car. I ended up taping the motor pod to the chassis to keep that from happening. Still, lots of adjustability built into this chassis, and a very fast car out of the box with only a tire change – over a second a lap quicker than the Carrera Bentley on average. This is a really nicely detailed model of the Pescarolo to boot.


Avant Slot Audi R10 – 7.842s avg.



8.045s plastic / 7.638s wood / 82g mass, 13g downforce

Avant Slot has done the R10 justice with this car: it's good looking, fast, and like all Avant Slot models has plenty of adjustability and speed straight out of the box. I'd like to see Avant Slot up their game a little by including setscrew wheels. At their current price point that is still an affordable upgrade. The monster torque, great handling, and attractive paint and detail are all typical for Avant Slot. What's not to like?



Sloting Plus Reynard 2KQ – 7.812s avg.



7.876s plastic / 7.747s wood / 80g mass / 14g downforce

This is the first RTR car offered from aftermarket tuning parts specialist Sloting Plus. The only issues I had out of the box was that the profile of the stock tires was too high which caused them to rub inside the fenders. This was easily solved since a tire change was part of this test, and the lower profile ex-Radical rear tires fit perfectly on the Sloting Plus Reynard's fronts. Other than that, it's all good: setscrew wheels on all four corners, setscrews anglewinder gears, and multiple adjustment points on the chassis. You pay a little extra for this car but it is worth it. Glue and true your favourite tires and go racing.

Scaleauto Radical SR9 – 7.750 avg.



7.984s plastic / 7.515s wood / 82g mass / 6g downforce

I club raced a Scaleauto Toyota for two years so I had high expectation of this model. While I was not disappointed with the on track performance or the adjustability built into this chassis, I was surprised to see plastic press on wheels on a car at this price point. A solid racer out of the box that only needs minor upgrades for club racing duty.


Slot.it Audi R8C RAW – 7.742s avg.



7.838s plastic / 7.646s wood / 78g mass / 33g downforce

I've been a big fan of Slot.it cars since their first Audi R8C release. This car is miles ahead of their early models. I've used the fully decorated 1999 LeMans #9 livery from their most recent release on the RAW chassis. The early bodies don't fit over the anglewinder drivetrain and I didn't feel like painting up the orange body so it's a bit of an expensive upgrade. Still, this car is super fast right out of the box and one of the fastest in my collection. The RAW comes with multiple spur gears, setscrew rear wheels, and a lexan interior to really lighten things up. Even with the stock injection molded interior this car almost topped the timesheets. The Slot.it Audi is a pricey car but worth it in terms of how well it performs on the track. Still, it would be nice to see Slot.it produce a car that is modeled on something from this millennium, let alone this decade as the R8C body is getting a little long in the tooth. I only mention this since my club's racing series along with some proxy races have a ten year cutoff which this '99 LeMans entrant has passed.

SCX Audi R8 Pro – 7.599s avg.



7.911s plastic / 7.286s wood / 89g mass / 18g downforce

I have to admit that this car is not totally stock. I swapped out the Pro Speed motor on my early release model for an RX4H which is now standard issue on the Pro Audis. Aside from the motor swap and a change to club spec urethane tires, I removed the mechanical brake mechanism that also comes standard. Otherwise: stock chassis, motor, gears, wheels, and axles. The results: this car is a rocket! Light bodywork, decent spec components, and the hot 25k motor really hustle this car around the track. Until I get one of the other cars on this list running faster, the SCX Audi R8 Pro is my go-to club racer.

Thank-you to Mini Grid in Toronto for the use of their 22.1m Scalextric Sport test track, and to Super Rat for the use of his superb 21.7m 'Ring test track and the urethane club tires.

-Van LaPointe

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