It's time to do a little 'rug-racing' now that the Scalextric Sport Drift Set has arrived at Scalextric-USA and what a better reason to get down on the floor than to check out something totally new in the Scalextric range. While this form of racing might not appeal to everyone this new Drift Set has plenty about it to like so while it's intended purpose is to attract more 'youthful' slot-enthusiasts to the hobby this set can also appeal to even the most traditional slotting veteran thanks to some very unique features.
While the definition above I found in an on-line dictionary might be a little vague it does capture the essence of what drifting is all about. For those who haven't witnessed one of motor sports fastest growing trends it is certainly a site to behold. Driver's piloting high horse power rear-wheel drive machines intentionally roasting the tires off of the rear end while sliding their cars at close to 90-degree angles to the direction of the track in which they are traveling. It's becoming a hugely manufacturer supported industry and has gained so much popularity that Scalextric has even bought in to the game.
Opening the box to the new Sport Drift set we are greeted with two colorfully decorated versions of the Nissan 350Z sports car, a cris-cross section of Scalextric Sport track , some turn borders and the included instructions and Scalextric marketing pamphlets.
The 'Advanced Track System' fold-out is a giant poster-size listing and description of available Scalextric Sport track sections as well as provides 21 different fictional track designs and 6 real-world track plans with the needed listing of required track sections to complete each layout.
The 'Race for Real' booklet is a mini-Scalextric catalogue showing 14 different Scalextric racing sets, more track sections and accessories, 67 different Scalextric vehicles, 19 motorcycles, information on Scalextric digital and a section highlighting Scalextric's 'Sport World' internet racing.
The black and white 'X1' instruction booklet contains everything you need to know about setting up and using your new Drift set including a diagram of the completed drifting circuit for your reference while assembling.
Starting first with the 'cris-cross' track piece you only need to add two very small straight sections to complete the straight-a-way portions of the layout. From there it's a matter of piecing together six sections of corners that make up each end of the layout. The power section of track comes with the first section of turn border already installed and from there you need to add the rest.
Matching the shape of the power section border there are seven more angle-ended sections of turn borders to apply near the intersection of the Drift set's figure-eight shape. Each border piece simply attaches to the track with the aid of two small tabs.
With the special cut straight borders in place it's now time to fit all of the inner and or outer turn borders. All of the rounded sections of borders contain red and white curbing and every section of border has a place to install the provided guard-rails that come in the set.
Having all of the borders installed our small figure eight has now doubled in width making each individual track section 11 inches wide. The entire layout when completed measures out to be 5 feet, 6 inches from end to end and 2 feet, 9 and 3/4 inches from top to bottom.
Ok... I got a little ahead of myself as you obviously need to hook up the power and controllers of the track. The Scalextric Sport power base has a red LED to show when the power is connected as well as a switch for using either the sets single included wall transformer or an additional setting if you choose to use two power packs to power each lane separately.
Controllers are a familiar Scalextric design and are quite comfortable for standard set controllers. Each have 6 foot long cords attached so you don't have to sit right on top of the layout and due to the 10 feet of power cord length you don't have to be right on top of a wall outlet either.
Time to get a better look at the 'drift cars' themselves as quite honestly these are the most essential part of the entire set. Two brightly decorated Nissan 350Z coupes come with the set, an orange 'Alpine' sponsored car and a green 'Pioneer' sponsored running mate. Both look good although fans of highly detailed cars will no doubt disapprove of Scalextric's approach with the design of these cars. While the rear wings are separately applied pieces the rest of the body is a solid molded plastic shell with painted on headlight and taillight details as well as dark gray painted on windows. Before we hear any complaining though let me remind you that these cars were designed with the intentions of having them spinning in to one another quite frequently and any amount of detail would be subject to destruction as the layout has both cars tempting disaster each and every time they meet in the intersection of the figure eight or find their way sliding in front of their oncoming counterpart.
In order to take a look at the inside of these cars you must first remove the four screws holding the body to the chassis. While the two screws in front come out with standard ease the two in the rear are accessible via holes that are partially blocked by the rear exhaust detail. You can get a small screw driver in past the exhaust pipes however the screws will not fall out on their own once loosened.
Stopping briefly before we open the car I thought now was a good time to get a better look at Scalextric's use of a 360-degree guide blade system. Unlike traditional Scalextric guide-plates the braids come totally flat and wrap around the plate itself. This makes adjusting these braids a little more difficult than most of us are used to.
Probably the coolest feature of this guide set-up is their ability to rotate around and around in their mount without ever hitting a chassis stop that de-slots practically every normal-guide equipped car. Acting more like a guide 'pin' this system allows the cars to essentially stay in one place doing circles on the track.
As many of us are used to with Scalextric models this set comes equipped with four additional guide plates and instructions on how to change them. I found it a little ironic how the track facing part of the guide plate (bottom guide below) keeps the braid nice and flat while the chassis side of the guide has the open end of the braids looking more like you would find in a more standard set up.
We'll get back to the guide in just a minute as now it's time to get a better look at the chassis of our drift cars. Here in the picture below you can easily see the solid body section of the car although more importantly we get to see the round guide mount, the front mounted bar magnet and the electronics that make the whole 360-degree guide rotation work the way it should. An interesting side note about the magnet; the chassis of these cars does have a second magnet pocket so that you can move the magnet back closer to the motor or even add a second magnet. While at first I thought this would be required to run these cars on any other manufacturer of track it didn't take long for me to realize how silly I was being... this cars are just too much fun to change.
Now if you've ever placed one of your standard cars on the track facing in the opposing direction of normal operation you will have no doubt learned that the car will take off in reverse. In the case of these new 360-degree drift cars it is thanks to the electronic chip that these cars continue in the direction their nose is pointing. So unlike a normal car, where you will have to fetch your now de-slotted model, this new guide system simply allows your car to continue driving although in the total opposite direction from which it was headed previously.
Besides the circuitry the other essential part in all of this is the very unique guide mount with both power wires soldered directly to small tabs on the casing. There is literally no stopping of the guide rotation with this system as the wires never begin to tangle and there is no part of the chassis for the blade to come in contact with. It's a really great idea... and after spending several days with this system I have to admit that I wish more cars came with such guide systems.
Something else you might have noticed in the image above is a decent sized chuck of lead placed by Scalextric in nose of these drift cars. This weight, coupled with the front mounted magnet positions make for cars that act a lot more like non-magnet slot cars than some people might expect.
Once you combine light weight cars (roughly 76 grams each) with very light magnetic down-force and Scalextric's side-winder motor configuration what you end up with is a very fast car that can literally roast the tires off of the rims while sliding sideways and doing doughnuts on the track.
And I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that these cars slide like nobody's business. They are so easy to spin that often times the fastest way around the track is to simply use the rear fender of your neighbor to help keep your car in line.
Of course on at least half of the layout you can always try to slide your Nissan 350Z drift car up and over the Scalextric border rumble strips and allow the guardrail to be your best friend.
On the other half of the layout you're forced to keep your car in line yourself or if you get a little too heavy on the throttle your back end will easily spin around on you and you'll find yourself going in the complete other direction. One note here: as your car whips around on the inside lane it isn't uncommon for it to continue around until the rear end slaps the inside guard railing. Nothing to worry about though as if the rumble-strip didn't upset your car enough to de-slot it chances are the walls won't either so just continue on until you can whip the car around again.
Just as in any form of slot racing there are times when picking your line through a turn is far more important than getting there first and because these cars slide so effortlessly it won't be long before the door-slamming begins although if its just a nudge in the door you should consider yourself lucky!
Because not only do you have to worry about the cris-cross center section of the track but now because your cars can travel in opposing directions you'll also have to contend with the potential head-on crash from time to time. Now does anyone see why less detailed cars makes good sense?
Oh yeah... Scalextric has included a nice bag of 20 tires that the instructions show being used as 'obstacles' on the track. While I'm not sure another challenge is really needed these will come in handy as after just one weekend of testing the original pair of rear tires on both cars are showing their wear and leaving that familiar 'rubber dust' inside of the cars.
The Final Verdict:
Ok, the testing is now over and here are my thoughts. For starters... I wish the included track layout was at least twice as long as it comes in the set. With only five and a half feet of total track width you really start to get dizzy keeping track of where these cars are and how much they're spinning. The lack of track length also prohibits the cars from reaching their top speeds as you're no sooner out of the last turn and suddenly you're right in to the next turn. Quite simply the cars are much faster than they need to be for such a small track design. Detailing wise, yes the cars could have been made with clear windows and a shallow interior to make some of the scale enthusiasts happy but for the abuse these cars will take I fully understand why Scalextric made them as they did.
Strong points? Well the guide would have to be the biggest and in conjunction with the guide you need the electronics to keep the system working. What sold me on the idea was how well it allowed the action to continue long after any normal car would have wrecked and stopped. Rather than picking your cars up to re-slot them you simply had to travel the opposite direction and pick your spot to whip the car back around again. The cars are smooth, very tail happy and a whole lot of fun! Oh... and if you can get any idea of how much fun you might have from the tiny little video I captured on my digital camera I can guarantee you'll have a blast with these cars racing them for yourself!
Special thanks go to Scalextric-USA for providing Powerslide Sport Drift set for review. As always, please feel free to email me with any comments or questions about this or any other review and I’ll be happy to answer any questions that I can. Happy slotting!