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Advanced Driving

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  • Advanced Driving

    There are threads for almost every aspect of the slotcar/slot racing hobby. What surprises me is the lack of threads about driving. Kinda basic don't you think? But for some reason it just doesn't get discussed.

    I'm not talking about race strategy here. Or at least, not yet. I'm talking about the skill you bring to getting your car around the track.

    It is not something you are born with. And I have been dismayed at how many folks never seem to get the hang of working a controller. I am convinced that driving well, or driving poorly, is something you learn by practice, and burn into your central nervous system -- much like riding a bicycle or a motorcycle, or driving an automobile.

    You can drive mentally, or drive reflexively. Both methods are appropriate at different times.

    But if you are going to learn to drive better, you are going to have to get your brain deeply engaged while you train yourself.

    I am starting this thread in the hope that both experienced and inexperienced drivers will chime in and contribute. But I need to start the conversation.

    So let me point out a newbie mistake I have seen all too often. Correcting this mistake will make a quantum improvement in car control.

    What mistake? Pumping the controller. When I see this I say, "The controller is not a water pistol!" Constantly pumping the controller to modulate your speed means your car is never really under control. You would never drive an automobile like this -- constantly stomping the gas pedal -- yet for some reason many new racers do this instinctively.

    Pumping the controller may be an indication that you have the wrong controller, or that you have not adjusted it properly. If you can't cruise around the track with just a little pull on the trigger, the controller may be the issue.

    Or it may be you simply haven't learned how to drive properly. You should only move the controller trigger when you want to change speed. Slow down for a curve, or increase speed for a straight. A change in speed puts stress on the car, which affects its grip on the track. So you don't want to move the trigger more than you have to.

    To get out of this habit you need to practice getting around the track, consciously moving the trigger only in response to curves and straights. You should probably start by turning slow laps, so you're not driving 'on the edge'. The point is to control the car's speed purposefully.

    This is the beginning of car control. More to come.

    Ed Bianchi

  • #2
    This is why I don't bother with a fancy controller. I've taught myself to do the driving, not letting the controller do it. Kicked a lot of @ss with a $2 used Aurora controller, much to the chagrin of some long time club members.


    • #3
      No controller that I am aware of will drive a car for you. If you are using a controller that is a poor match for your car that would be less of a problem if you are a really great driver. If you are just a casual runner that mismatch might not be a big deal, if you are running in organized races that would be a different matter. Suppose that you were wearing shoes that were the wrong size. If you were walking a short distance you could live with that, if you were running a marathon you would certainly have a problem.
      With controllers if there is a bad mismatch the car might be going too fast as soon as you pull the trigger a little bit or nothing might happen until the trigger is pulled quite a bit, so the useful pull would be very limited. If you only run one type of car a simple controller will do, otherwise you may need to use several different resistor controllers or a single electronic controller that can be adjusted.
      Last edited by RichD; 02-06-2018, 05:25 PM.


      • #4
        I totally agree with the "practice makes perfect" angle--in everything, not just slot cars.

        For me, car control starts slow, with gravity cars. Like a vintage sports car, they get you familiarized with the general mechanics of the thing at its most basic. I love driving gravity cars for that reason, seeing how they slide and react to differences in the track and stuff.

        Magnet cars are a whole different beast, like a modern F1 compared to the gravity cars. My biggest shortcoming driving a magnet car, especially a really fast one, is tracking the car in my vision all the way around the track. When I can focus on the car itself with the track speeding by, I go much faster and drive much better than if I focus on just the sections of the track where the car is or will be. This is easy for me with slower cars, but much more difficult when the car is moving at warp 9.

        Gravity helps my trigger control, and magnets help my reaction times and vision, but all of it is practice that feeds the same goal: to go faster and smoother, no matter what kind of car I'm driving. I use resistor controllers exclusively--2 Parma Econos at 60 and 45, and stock 70ohm TYCO units for gravity.


        • #5
          Re: various controllers/resistors. Eh, not really. I drive pancakes and inlines with old Aurora controllers.
          Won race after race with them.

          Having never seen or run a FRAY car before, I was asked to join the local team after my first go 'round with them - ahead of a couple of guys who'd waited years for a spot to open.
          One guy stormed out because I kicked it with a borrowed car and my 35 year old controller.

          As for speed, avoid dark colored cars, especially on dark track. Bright colors are easier to spot.


          • #6
            It feels like we have already had this conversation.

            Every HO racer should be free to use whatever controller they want, without having to feel they are somehow less, or cheats, or tight.

            I think the reason driving levels/standards are not discussed ad longitudinem is the same as the reason groups don't have pages of controller rules: People just want to get on and have fun.


            • #7
              every one is different!

              racer 1 has great hand eye coordination
              racer 2 does not.

              both practice

              racer 1 will still mostly win! you can not make up for genes based on equal cars.

              But if racer 2 is a better builder, he can win with a better car.

              I know, I have won many races over better drivers with a better car.

              without fail, I can give my cars to a better driver who will run it 2/10ths faster than me.

              To help racers, the wonderful electronic controller is great as it helps people find right sensitivity for their reflexes, not that it change the car! I have seen racers where the car needs a 100 ohm controller but one guy with special reflexes uses a 45ohm controller. yeah it blows me away!

              I love having 1 feel for racing box t-jets to 6mag unlimiteds! That is the key for me. I have seen guys pay for some good money for resister parma controllers that have been smoothed out.

              how man single ohm controllers do you have to go through to find the sweet spot for a car class.
              do you run with the trigger barely pulled back or with the trigger mostly pulled back? makes a difference on the ohms needed! the electronic controllers let choose or even learn new ways to race.


              • #8
                lets not forget brake vs no brake!
                or if you drag a magnet car low to the rails or run it high!

                So many variable for each driver!

                I do a lot of iroc racing, some classes I suck at, some I do good at!
                that is why I like racing the cars I build, they suit my driving style.

                there is no 1 way that will work for all


                • #9
                  Originally posted by NicoRosberg. View Post
                  It feels like we have already had this conversation.
                  Um, no.

                  That conversation was about controllers, whereas this conversation is about driving - or at least, that's the subject that got it started. Controllers and how they're used are just a part of the equation.


                  • #10
                    Going back to driving...

                    Another big newbie mistake is trying to run faster than the car next to you. This usually ends up with your car off the track because you tried to take a corner too fast.

                    The old saying is, "Drive your own race", and it is still fundamental to good driving -- and winning.

                    The simple fact is you can only lap so fast, and you need to find your fastest way to lap and stick with it. If you start trying to outrun the guy next to you you'll not be turning your best laps -- you'll get suckered into braking too late or accelerating too early and end up off the track.

                    You need to focus on YOUR car, and nobody else's. Maybe you're falling behind. Okay. The point is to turn fast laps AND stay on the track. Let the competition drive their races, and maybe make mistakes that will take them out of the lead. Fast and steady wins the race!

                    Remember that no track has all equal lanes. When you are in a slow lane you are going to lose ground to the pack. Don't let that rattle you. When you get to run in the better lanes you may be able to make up that time while your competitors suffer in the gutter lanes. If you run your best in ALL of the lanes, you should do as well as you can expect to. With luck, run a winning race.

                    The only time you should be watching the competition is when you are in a passing situation. There is a car in the next lane and you are passing them, or they are passing you. This is especially true with gravity cars because they usually drift wide in corners -- but even magnet cars can do that. What you are trying to avoid is hitting the other car, or being 'nerfed' by same.

                    Passing is safest when done on a straight. Passing CAN be done in a corner, but it takes skill (often spelled L-U-C-K).

                    If you are being passed by another car, it is often smart to slow down a touch and let them pass you on a straight. You may cost yourself a tenth of a second that lap, but you may save yourself an 'off', which more likely costs you a lap.

                    When you are trying to pass another car, you may be enough faster that you can pick where to pass. On a straight, yes?

                    But if the racing is close you may not get to choose. You may have to pass in a corner, because you are just not fast enough down the straights. Your best choice there is to pass when you are on the 'inside' lane. But even there you need to be careful. It IS possible to get nerfed by a car you are passing on the inside. (Right Gerry?)

                    If you have no choice but to pass on the outside lane, timing becomes critical -- again, especially with gravity cars. You'll have to be as close as possible going into the curve and try to slip past when you have an opening. You may have to wait many laps to get that chance -- it happens -- but being impatient will probably get you stuffed into a wall.

                    And I'm not being theoretical here. Some of the most thrilling racing happens in just this situation -- two skillful drivers are in a passing situation, one desperately trying to pass and the other trying their best to make that impossible. I've seen really excellent drivers doing this lap after lap, proving just what excellent drivers they really are!

                    When you get into this kind of a duel, and acquit yourself well, you can take off your 'newbie' stripes. You've graduated.

                    Ed Bianchi
                    Last edited by HO RacePro; 02-06-2018, 12:51 PM.


                    • #11
                      Folks, this thread is not about hardware -- it is about 'wetware' -- that is, the squishy stuff between your ears. That, plus eyeballs, hands, and coordination therebetween.

                      Good drivers, please weigh in. Especially with your own experience and advice.

                      Newbies, please ask questions. This thread is for your benefit. I am not doing this because I need typing practice!

                      Ed Bianchi


                      • #12
                        I think the reason this is not discussed much is it is fundamental and we are all trying to do it anyway. Sometimes with more success than others times, granted.

                        A very few times I have suggested to young newbies that they focus on getting through a three minute heat without crashing rather than how fast they are going. They can always add speed later.

                        I'd also say your spot-on analysis of when to pass and 'driving your own race' fall very much under the heading of strategy.

                        The purely driving side of things is interesting. The best drivers, for example, are looking 2-3 corners ahead and using muscle memory.
                        Last edited by NicoRosberg.; 02-06-2018, 01:13 PM.


                        • #13
                          Some excellent points made here. One can get used to any controller or car characteristics, given the practice time available. But having the concentration to FOCUS on just your car, and not be distracted by a car next to you, THAT is the key element. Whenever I "lost it" (de-slotted or slowed down), it was because I got distracted by another car........

                          And, understanding that "all lanes are not made equal", and driving to the characteristics of that lane, will make a major difference in personal success. Right on the money, Ed.......


                          • #14
                            That is a really excellent piece of advice on how to approach driving a slot car. I haven't seen it put down in print more succinctly that that. ...TOM


                            • #15
                              Ah yes, Ed Bianchi, the King of the nerf from the outside lane. He's taught me well. All the inside car has to do is to drift out a little in the turn and the outside car can perform the slot car equivalent of the "pit maneuver". Been a victim of it several times. And I admit to initiating it several times too. Right Richard? Yes sir, nerfed him good!

                              The whole name of the game is to stay in the slot. The controller is only a tool to that end. And what works for you, works for you and maybe not the other racer. Find what works and stick with it