ARC Pro powerbase hardware and firmware upgrades
This is a brief technical aside before we move on to looking at more of the ARC Pro race modes. However, since ARC Pro was released in November 2017, two official Hornby hardware upgrades have been made to the ARC Pro powerbase that are worth mentioning...
- Polarity of both lanes through powerbase the same - so lanes can be crossed and merged in digital mode
- Resistor upgraded so laps count if lane change button pressed when crossing powerbase sensors
There are a number of ways to tell if a powerbase has these upgrades...
Each powerbase has a batch number punched into the underside of the track piece. This is the number on my original ARC Pro powerbase...
Not all batch numbers will be in that exact place. This is what the number means...
3517REF01 = week 35 / year (20)17
So my powerbase was manufactured in the 35th week of 2017, which was the end of August / beginning of September.
The good people at Scalextric have said that the first hardware upgrade (polarity) is included in all powerbases with a batch code of 1418REF01 or later - so powerbases manufactured from the beginning of April 2018. This will include the Sunset Speedway sets that were released in the summer of 2018.
The second upgrade (lap counting) was also included in all powerbases from week 22 (beginning of June) 2018. This will include the ARC Pro Le Mans 24 hour set released in the summer of 2019. This is the batch code of the powerbase from an ARC Air Le Mans 24h set...
That's 2519ERF01 - mid-June 2019.
ARC Pro Products
This is the current state of play...
- C8435 ARC Pro Upgrade Kit - neither upgrade included in the original batch (although future batches will)
- C1374 ARC Pro Platinum GT Set - neither upgrade included
- C1388 ARC Pro Sunset Speedway Set - first upgrade (polarity) included, some may have the second.
- C1404 ARC Pro Le Mans 24hr Set - both upgrades included + PIC firmware update to v2.4
Test Your Powerbase
The third way to tell what upgrades your powerbase has, is to test it...
The easiest way to test the polarity update is to build a small oval including a single C8510 Racing Curve crossover piece - or use a pit lane set to form a single lane section - and see if there is a power overload warning in digital mode. If there is, the powerbase is the original version. If there is no problem, it is the updated version.
To test the resistor upgrade push and constantly hold the lane change button as you drive lap after lap. If no laps are counted, the powerbase doesn't have the upgrade. If laps are counted, the upgrade has been done.
Workarounds and Modifications
Workarounds for the polarity issue involve not using the old curved lane changers or single lane chicanes and to only use Racing Curve crossovers in pairs. For the lap counting issue it is to avoid placing lane changers or pit entry pieces near to the powerbase. There are permanent modifications for both issues that have been described by enthusiasts and require moderate to advanced soldering and modelling skills to perform. These modifications can be found via a Google search. However, please check and double-check you actually need to carry out the modification before switching on your soldering iron or Dremel! Check the batch number, the origin of your powerbase and then test the two issues.
The ARC app shows the software versions in the Settings screen, which is accessed via the cog icon on the main screen...
The two screenshots show the software versions being used by an original, factory-release 2017 powerbase and the latest 2019 powerbase from the ARC Pro Le Mans 24h set. At the time of writing, there have been no upgrades to the Bluetooth (BLE) firmware - it is still v2.6. The only upgrade has been to the PIC chip firmware from 2.1 to 2.4 - which fixes a tiny voltage disparity between the two lanes in analogue mode.
Any future firmware updates will be listed on the ARC Firmware Update page of the Scalextric website.
There are instructions on that page to upgrade the firmware. Any future BLE updates can be carried out quite easily using the nRF Toolbox app. The PIC firmware update is more tricky and is not currently worth doing, in my opinion.
Again, please check and double check that you need to upgrade the firmware on your powerbase before attempting any update. Please check you are installing the current firmware for the correct powerbase. Check the Settings screen in the app when connected to the powerbase and compare with the current firmware versions on the Scalextric website. If in doubt, don't do it!