Classic Racing

Back in the old days of motorsport, it wasn't uncommon for only the top five or six cars to finish a race - and some of those might have spent a long time in the pits to fix problems. Mechanical issues and retirement from a race were a fact of life - these days either would be a disaster.

The Incidents feature of the ARC app delivers plenty of mechanical mayhem into the ARC Pro gameplay - Tyre Blowout, Check Engine and Oil Slick. Both Tyre Blowout and Check Engine require a pit stop, whereas an Oil Slick reduces the car to low speed calibration speed until the incident clears and you are hit by a sudden surge of power!

To illustrate the Incidents feature - and look in detail at the Calibration process - we'll be setting up a historic Trans-Am format, using some American muscle cars that feature prominently in the Scalextric range and are also offered by Pioneer and Carrera. Our grid of four muscle cars are the Al's Body Shop Scalextric Chevrolet Camaro Z28, the #63 blue and yellow Scalextric AMC Javelin, the pale yellow Pioneer Ford Mustang 'Notchback' and the big red Carrera Nascar Ford Torino Talladega.

Trans Am slot cars

The Trans-American Sedan Championship was created by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) in 1966 as race series for modified saloon cars and coup├ęs. The first season was a mix of endurance races for two-driver teams and shorter single-driver races. From 1967, the renamed Trans-American Championship - or Trans-Am - was contested by single drivers over 200-300 mile races. In 1968, Trans-Am cars took part in the Daytona 24 hour and Sebring 12 hour races. That's a good variety of formats for some Trans-Am slot car action.

Set Up

For our Trans-Am simulation, we have the option of a long Grand Prix race with single drivers or an Endurance race with teams of two in each car. I'm going to choose single drivers and the Grand Prix race mode, setting up the race for fifty laps. When using the Incident feature, I stick to my mantra of 'less is often more' - I just choose Incidents and keep Fuel, Tyre Wear and Weather switched off. Trust me, it is better that way.

ARC Pro Grand Prix set up screenARC Pro Grand Prix Race set up Screen

Calibration

In order for the Incident features to work, each car must be calibrated so that it can go round your circuit at a low speed. Otherwise, cars might just stop on the circuit, unable to make it to the pits - or they might continue on their way at too high a speed, as if nothing has happened. The ideal scenario is for an Incident to slow the car down so it must pit (Check Engine and Tyre Blowout) or to continue at a slow pace until the Incident has cleared (Oil Slick).

When you launch the app for the first time, calibration is required in the race set-up before you can start your first race. A green box next to each driver will say "Confirm Car Connected" and when that is tapped, the green box will say "Calibrate Car". You will then need to go through the Calibration process described below. This initial calibration is then set as a default.

However, that default setting will not give all cars an ideal slow speed for the Incident feature. For example, Super-Resistant cars with strong traction magnets will require a higher calibration speed not to stop when an Incident kicks in. Conversely, cars with weaker traction magnets or with magnets removed ('non-mag') will need a lower calibration speed. When using cars from different manufacturers - as we are here - a proper calibration is definitely necessary. Differences in magnetic downforce, motor power and torque can all have an impact on calibration speed - and how they cope with the cleanliness of the track, elevations, plus any dead spots on lane changers or cross-over pieces etc.

To re-calibrate, go to the Grand Prix race mode set-up, tap Driver Setup to get to the Choose Driver screen. Each car must be calibrated separately, so tap the Red Driver 1 first, bringing up the Driver Setup screen. Scrolling down, tap the Calibrate Car - Driver 1 option.

Driver screenDriver screenDriver screen

It is then a case of following the instructions on the screen. First, place the car connected to red (the Torino in our example) on the track (either lane is fine with ARC Pro). Tap Next Step. Note: In the Legacy app and the ARC Pro Quick Start Guide (page 17), there is an extra instruction screen at this point. These instructions are now included in the active calibration screen (see screen grab above). Do not tap Lock Calibration until you have calibrated the car.

Driver screenDriver screen

To calibrate, tap the green + button to move the car. The car motor will 'hum' after one tap. Depending on the magnetic downforce and motor characteristics, the car may need between one and twenty taps to move and then a few more taps to get to a speed where it will complete a lap at the slowest speed. If your layout has elevations like fly-overs, the calibration will need to get the car up the slope. That might mean it is quicker than ideal downhill and round the rest of the track - but in this case calibration is a compromise. The Carrera Ford Torino has no traction magnets fitted and a very loose motor - it only required one tap to get it moving and then another fifteen to lap my layout at the slowest speed.

When you have completed several laps without the car stopping, tap the Lock Calibration button at the bottom on the screen. This takes you back to the car/driver set-up screen where you can calibrate the next car. If any car does not respond to tapping the + button in calibration (no hum, no movement), it is most likely you have forgotten to link the car to the correct colour on the powerbase. Remember the Rule of Three Colours.

The Race

With all four cars calibrated, it is ready to race. I have used a Jump Start Penalty of 5 seconds, so anyone jumping the start will have that added to their final race time. Otherwise, it's all down to driving well and responding to the Incidents as they crop up - be alert to a rumble on the controller and a flashing warning icon on the race screen....

Incidents shown on the race screen

Here we see the Torino (Driver 1) having to make a pit stop to check the engine. On entering the pits, the Brake button on the controller should be pressed and held until the orange PIT icon is activated. When the work is finished, the green GO icon is shown and the car is ready to exit the pits. Drivers 2 and 4 (Camaro and Mustang) both have tyre blowouts and must both pit for a tyre change. The Javelin (Driver 3) has hit an oil slick and will be at the calibrated low speed until the warning clears - then they are likely to skid off the track as full power kicks back in. An alternative strategy for the Oil Slick is to stop the car in the pits until the warning icon has gone out.

Incidents will pop up at intervals of around 20 to 30 seconds, making the race quite lively. That's why we really don't want any other of the features triggering even more pit stops. The type of Incident is random, but the number of Incidents each car gets during a race should even itself out. The aim is to deal with every Incident as quickly as you can. It is not possible to customise the frequency of the Incidents in the current version of ARC Pro. Of course you do not have to use any of the special features to enjoy racing with the ARC app - just turn everything off in the race set-up screen and then race from the green light to the chequered flag.

Mixed Grid

Running with mixed grids of cars, such as this one - with two Scalextric cars, a Carrera and a Pioneer - can be fun. However, it is important to use cars with similar performance characteristics, although this can always be tweaked using the Max Power and Fuel Load settings. You might also need to look at the Throttle Curve settings for some makes of car (I'll discuss that another time). The Pioneer cars all use the Scalextric DPR system so can be converted to digital quickly and easily using a C8515 digital plug. The Carrera car was converted by soldering in a C7005 retro-fit chip. Pioneer produce a range of cars with liveries from the original Trans-Am series and modern day historic racers. The Mustang raced in this simulation is the car driven by Jerry Titus in 1966, when Ford won the "over 2-liter" class and - had there been a drivers' championship - Titus would have been the first Trans-Am champion.

Jerry Titus's Trans Am Mustang