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Info ARC Pro app - the missing manual?
#21

Formula One has a massive following around the world, so at least one Grand Prix format is essential for this ARC Pro guide. Unfortunately, I always get nervous about using F1 cars for digital racing - the cut and thrust of lane-changing, overtaking and up to six cars on two lanes can be a bit much for those delicate front and rear wings, bargeboards etc.

The first principle for any F1 digital racing should be 'No Contact Racing'. I've mentioned this before, but will look at it again, paraphrasing what is on the Scalextric website...
 
  • You must not brake-test the car behind you - this is 'Contact'
  • You must not deliberately crash into another car - this is 'Contact'
  • You must not change lanes into another car - this is 'Contact'
  • You must not exit the pit lane into another car - this is 'Contact'
  • You must not push or shove the car in front to cause it to lose control or de-slot into a corner - this is 'Contact'
  • You must not push a de-slotted car off the track to get past - this is also 'Contact'
 
The penalty for any contact is up to you. Usually, we give two warnings, immediately followed by a stop-go penalty on the third offense. With ARC Pro, this is most easily done by a pit stop and a count of 1-2-3-4-5-Go. For F1 races, one offence might be enough for the race steward to award a penalty. It is important to nominate one person to act as race steward - and their decision is final.
 
   
 
My fleet of four Scalextric digital F1 cars from the 2007 World Championship digital set look remarkably unscathed - just don't look too closely at the McLaren and Ferrari. The current Scalextric F1 cars are more robust and most take the C8516 F1 Digital Plug (the exceptions are the 'Start' branded cars, which will need a C7005 retro-fit chip soldered in). Despite their 'Super-Resistant' label, the front wings are still fragile. Maybe one day the front nose and wing will come as a magnetic-mounted unit, as was shown in a prototype F1 car by Slot.it/Policar at the UK Slot Car Festival in 2019. That would make pit stops after an on-track incident very realistic indeed.
 
Setting up our Formula One event in the ARC Pro app, we're looking at a timed Endurance race for qualifying - or even two timed races to finish with a pole position shoot-out. Each could be two minutes long. Then for the main event we need a Grand Prix race of around 30 laps. With the Tyre Wear simulation turned on, that should make it a two-stop race. To increase the distance to 35 laps would mean stretching pit stops to 12 laps, or pitting three times. That could be fun!

         
 
Another feature that fits nicely into the F1 format is the KERS simulation of the real life Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems used in F1 and at Le Mans. Essentially, KERS systems store up energy from braking and feed it into the power train to give a short power boost when the driver wants it. KERS was available as a simulation in some of the race management software developed for previous Scalextric digital powerbases. It could be used strategically to conserve fuel (not possible in ARC at the moment) and as an overtake boost.
 
In ARC Pro, choosing the KERS option drops the maximum power of the cars to 80%, with the extra available as the KERS boost. A three-second boost is activated by double-pressing the Lane Change button on the controller. This drops the energy available to zero. The KERS reservoir indicator sits just to the left of the timing data on the ARC app race screen. It does not have to be full (green) to be discharged, but the boost will be slightly shorter if it is less than full. Below you can see the double press of the Lane Change button and the KERS indicators on the ARC race screen. Driver 1 has only 5% KERS available, Driver 3 has 20%, whereas Drivers 2 and 4 have full KERS reservoirs...
 
         
 
The KERS reservoir starts the race empty. From the start of the race - or after a KERS boost - the level is gradually topped up - to 5% (red) after five seconds, 20% (orange) after seven seconds, 50% (orange to green) at ten seconds and 75% (green) after 13 seconds. From empty to full takes 15 seconds. The top up continues during a yellow flag, and although KERS can be discharged under yellow, there will be no power boost. This is the same for other features that rely on the calibrated low speed.
 
         
 
The way ARC Pro uses KERS is neat as it reduces maximum power and protects those fragile front wings, but offers an overtake boost if you time the double push just right. There are plenty of F1 track plans here on SlotRacer Online that are perfect to utilise KERS and this F1 format.
 
Although the KERS boost is not used in Formula One today, push-to-pass and other power boost mechanisms are pretty common in racing series around the world - as are energy recovery systems. For example, you would definitely want to include the KERS feature in a modern DTM or IndyCar simulation. The double push of the Lane Change button does take some practice. And be careful where you push it - avoid any lane changers or pit entry pieces. The original ARC Pro powerbase (those in the GT Platinum set and ARC Pro upgrade kit) doesn't like the Lane Change button pressed as you pass the sensors - you might miss a lap.
 
Another feature that should be included in a modern Formula One simulation is the ARC Pro Yellow Flag feature. This works more like a Virtual Safety Car, activated by tapping the race screen during the race and the cars are then limited to their calibrated low speed until the screen is tapped again. During the Yellow Flag period, a waving yellow flag appears on the screen while cars circulate at a safe speed. Crashed cars can be removed and re-slotted.
 
   
 
If there's been a big smash and you need to stop the cars on track, you can tap the Pause button at the bottom of the race screen. When you are ready to race again, you can start the cars from where they've stopped or line them up behind the start/finish line in their race order - then tap Resume. A Red Flag period like this is a sensible way to avoid more damage to those lovely F1 cars.

   

Formula One formats have changed over the years and it is easy to use the ARC app to simulate different eras - using any of the Fuel, Tyre Wear, Weather and Race Incidents features. The various qualifying formats can be re-created too. A Google or YouTube search will give you clues to the race formats of different eras, as well as the championship points systems. Whether you want to be 100% authentic or create your own unique F1 format is completely up to you!

Towards the end of the manual, we will be looking at an old-style Grand Prix format to illustrate the ARC Pro Analogue Mode that uses the ARC Air version of the app. The fabulous Scalextric Grand Prix 'Legends' cars from the 1960s and 70s are small, highly detailed cars and very tricky to convert to digital. Running in Analogue Mode, but still using the ARC app features is an ideal solution to racing these cars.
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#22

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...
 
   
 
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 coupés. 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.
 
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.

         

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.
 
               

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.

         

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'.
 
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...
 
   
 
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.
 
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.

   
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#23

(24th-Oct-19, 09:20 PM)woodcote Wrote:  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.

This is one of the main selling points of ARC to me. You can get good racing with two very differently performing cars.... or you can also tweak it so that a race i more even between two differently skilled drivers.
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#24

Another feature in the ARC app that requires careful low speed calibration is Weather. Imagine a day of sun and showers at a British circuit or a race on the Nürburgring Nordschleife punctuated by the downpours so common in the Eifel mountains... The random weather changes generated by the ARC app can add realism and a lot of fun to your racing.
 
To illustrate the use of the Weather feature, we'll be racing the Scalextric Ford Sierra RS500s and BMW E30 M3s that battled hard in saloon car championships around the world in the late 1980s and early 90s. Not only were these cars front runners in the British, European and Australian Touring Car Championships, they also took part in and won prestigious races such as the Nürburgring 24 hours and Bathurst 1000. That means we can have the basis for a single driver format or a team race with two or three drivers per car.
 
   
 
For this simulation, we will recreate an early 1990s British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) race at an autumnal Brands Hatch. Although both are FIA Group A cars, the Sierra ran in Class A (over 3000cc) and the BMWs in Class B (2000-3000cc) in the BTCC. The Sierras would often disappear up the road and fight for the race win, but the BMWs would be right up there in the championship, which was based on class points. The Scalextric Sierras should, in theory, handle a bit better than the BMWs thanks to a slightly wider rear track. However, I haven't found much difference in practice. To simulate the real-life power advantage of the Sierras, we could decrease Max Power of the BMWs to 80% - or even less if the cars are running without magnets. I think it'll be more fun without giving the Sierras an advantage - we'll keep the Max Power settings of the two makes of car the same at 100%.
 
Each BTCC season in the late 80s and early 90s included one or two endurance races with teams of two drivers per car. That would give some nice variety to run a multi-race championship with the Scalextric cars, with a long pairs race as the highlight of the season. We'll keep this example as a more standard 30-lap single-driver race using the Grand Prix mode. The main feature we'll use is Weather. If we need to stop the race for any reason, we'll hit the Pause button and then Resume.
 
         
 
However, if we chose only Weather, the effect of a downpour would be to reduce the cars' speed to the calibrated slow speed until the track dried. In order to be able to pit for wet tyres (and cancel the slow speed setting), we also need to enable the Tyre Wear feature.
 
You might have noticed that I have also set the Start Type to Dead - meaning power will only be available when the race has started. There can be no jump starts with a Dead start - that is only possible with the Live start option. The Race End Type is set to Standard - meaning all cars must finish their lap after the winner finishes the race. The All Finish option means that all cars would need to finish the complete race distance (30 laps in this example) before the race finishes and the result screen with More Stats is shown. Unless you want to compare each driver's total race time over the full 30 laps, the Standard option is neater - and less embarrassing if one driver is ten laps behind.
 
         
 
Don't forget to calibrate the low speed for each of the cars, especially if you have been using different cars with different set ups (magnets, motors etc). It is important that when the weather changes, the cars slow to a fairly equal low speed so they will benefit from a pit stop and change to the correct tyres for the conditions. The calibration process is described in the Trans-Am format.
 
When the race starts, you'll notice a sun icon in the bottom right of the race screen. That means conditions are dry and the cars will automatically be on the correct 'dry' tyres. All drivers will need to keep an eye on tyre wear. There will be a controller rumble and audio prompt when you need to pit. Enter the pit lane on your layout and hold the brake button until the Tyre Wear icon has turned green and the green GO prompt flashes. If you miss a pit stop, you risk a Tyre Blowout and a potential retirement - you will be shown as a DNF on the race screen if that happens.
 
         
 
When the weather changes, you'll see a thundercloud icon covering the race screen and hear a crack of lightning as an audio cue. Your controller will, of course, rumble like thunder... You'll also notice that your speed has dropped to the calibrated slow speed and the icon in the bottom right is the dark thundercloud. You should head to the pits, hold the brake button until the tyre change is complete. There is no way of telling from the screen whether you have wet or dry tyres, but you should be back up to full speed as you leave the pits.
 
               
 
When the rain stops, the icon in the bottom right corner of the race screen will simply change back to a sun. You won't notice a change in speed and you can continue on the same tyres until your next scheduled pit stop. Weather changes are random. The first rain might come on the first lap or the weather could stay dry until after the first pit stops. The rain might last a couple of laps or half the race - it is impossible to predict. If you gamble on a short shower and stay out at low speed, you might take the lead or - if the rain continues - you might have ruined your chances of a win.
 
Although relatively simple compared to the weather simulation in RCS64 (for the Scalextric Digital Advanced Powerbase), I think the ARC Weather feature is one of the best features of the app. I wouldn't recommend using it all the time. If it is raining outside, you might want to replicate the day's weather on your Scalextric track. Or you could roll a dice to decide...

   
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#25

We're going to take a quick break from racing to look at the ARC controllers...

   


Of the four controllers in that picture, two are standard ARC Pro controllers and the other two - with the orange lane change buttons - are ARC Air controllers converted with buttons from the Slot.it 3D Printshop here. Apart from that, there's really no need to look at the hardware, as the ARC Pro Quick Start Guide has plenty of information about the controllers and how to use them, including this handy diagram on page 4...

   

What I'm going to look at here is how the ARC app can be used to customise the behaviour and 'feel' of the ARC controllers. By altering the Throttle Curve and Max Power settings, it is possible to set up the controller to suit different types of car, different tracks and different driving styles.

Throttle Curve

The Throttle Curve feature is found in the individual Driver Setup menu, which you get to via the Driver Setup option in your chosen Race Mode - and then by tapping the driver tile you want in Choose Driver...

         

Tap the Throttle Curve option and you'll have the Throttle Curve menu screen with five different curve settings to scroll through and select. The default setting is Profile A - which looks like this...

   

What we are looking at here is the amount of power delivered to the car by a squeezing the trigger a certain distance. With Profile A, you have to pull the trigger quite a lot to get to about 25% of power, then the power goes up more quickly for a smaller amount of extra throttle. The final part of the curve shows that the last 25% of power comes in very quickly indeed. In other words, almost all the trigger 'travel' is in the low-to-mid power zone between 0 and 60%.

Profile A might be a good setting for cars without strong magnets (or any magnets at all) and fairly loose motors that get off the line easily - especially if there are lots of low speed sections on the track and perhaps a long straight. In that case, the driver will be using most of the trigger 'travel' to drive the car, which is the aim of adjusting the curve. This is also a curve that can be good for beginners as it is very controllable until you get to the top end of the trigger 'travel' - and that top end can be limited by using Max Power.

We'll now look at Profile C, the middle setting...


   

This isn't a curve at all, it is a straight line or 'linear' setting. That means the amount of power provided to the motor is directly proportional to the trigger 'travel' - what you press is what you get. A 25% pull of the trigger gives 25% power and the halfway point gives 50% power etc. I like Profile C with standard Scalextric cars with the standard magnets fitted. It gives a nice punch off the line to overcome the magnetic downforce, where Profile A might feel a little sluggish. It feels just like a traditional Scalextric controller - or a classic Parma resistor controller - of about 35-45 ohms. On a home track and running out-of-the-box Scalextric cars, it makes sense to me to choose Profile C.

We'll now go to the other end of the range - Profile E...

   

This is rather extreme... a little trigger movement and the power is nearly at 50%. For a standard car - with or without magnets - this is going to be almost undriveable. However, for a car with very strong magnetic downforce - and/or a tight high-power motor on a big, fast track - this might just be useful to get the car off the line and then use almost the full length of the trigger 'travel' to run between 50 and 100% power. However - to be honest - I really can't see it being used very often, if at all.

The remaining two settings, Profile B and Profile D are intermediate curves, halfway between the extremes and the linear Profile C...

         

In theory, Profile B will give decent low speed control, but also more mid-range control that Profile A. In practice, I find Profile B feels just a little softer than Profile C. Depending on the car, track and driver, this might be a perfect option - especially for running cars without magnets on a faster track. Profile D will give the benefits outlined in the description of Profile E for cars or drivers needing power to come in very quickly - just not quite as extreme! Nonetheless, it is still very difficult to control a standard car.

Experimentation with each of the curves is vital to find the right one for you, the track and the individual characteristics of each of your cars. Being able to change the Throttle Curve is something that only expensive electronic controllers usually offer, so this is a nice feature. It can take quite a lot of fiddling to get the right set-up, so it might be better to decide one setting for all drivers to use. I choose Profile A for running cars without magnets and Profile C for racing standard cars with magnets. Profile B is a reasonable compromise.

If Scalextric were to refine the curves in the ARC app, I would like to see Curve E removed and another curve added between A and B - perhaps as an 'S' curve which tails off a little towards 100%.

Max Power

We've looked at Max Power before as a way to simulate success ballast in the BTCC racing format, to limit top speed for beginners and to balance the performance of different cars. In relation to customising the ARC controllers, we are using Max Power like a 'choke' on a high-end electronic controller - to reduce the max power level of the throttle curve. Of course, one reason to do this might be to help beginners control their cars. However, more experienced racers might choose to use a choke if the motor in a car is too powerful for that car or to race better on a particularly slow and technical layout. By using Max Power, the choke is always on - you can't switch it off for the long straight and back on for the twisty stuff.

An example where this might be useful is with the slim can 'FF-050' motors that are fitted to some Scalextric cars. In modern Formula One cars, these are fine, but in others the car can be very difficult to control - particularly if the magnets have been removed. That's the case with the Legends F1 cars and some of the 1960s and 70s saloon and sports cars like the Ford Cortina, MGB, VW Beetle, Ford Escort and Holden Torana.

As with the Throttle Curve setting, careful experimentation with Max Power is important. Using the Custom option in the Max Power menu will help match a Curve and a Max Power setting that suit the driver, car and the track...

         

My testing suggests - but I can't be absolutely sure - that combining Max Power and Throttle Curve simply reduces the top of the curve to the power setting chosen. In other words the curve is squashed down, rather than the end being cut off - if that makes sense. Again, rather than spend a long time tweaking settings for individual drivers, a standard Max Power level for beginners can be chosen - 75% works well with standard Scalextric cars with magnets. The same can be done for using the FF-050 motors, depending on the circuit characteristics, the cars and the experience of the drivers.

One final thing - although the default curve in the ARC app is Profile A, without the app running a race - or connected to the powerbase at all - the throttles will have a linear (equivalent to Profile C) setting and 100% Max Power. That is worth remembering for beginners or when you are using difficult-to-control cars.
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#26

knowing the default settings is definitely  a good thing...
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#27

   

There are a lot of wonderful slot cars available from many different manufacturers. Pretty much all can be converted to run digitally with ARC Pro or can be used without a digital chip (decoder) in analogue mode. There is one important previso - that the guide blade must be black in order to trigger the sensors in the powerbase and count laps.

My opinion is that modern Scalextric cars are the best suited for use with ARC Pro - they are easy to convert to digital, they are robust and they are quick, but not too quick... Digital racing is so much more than driving fast, so high-performance slot cars can actually hinder the arts of overtaking and race strategy - and can lead to a very expensive crash-fest.

If you have a good-sized home track - or can set up a big temporary layout - then running slightly faster cars can make an exhilarating change. At our Scalextric digital club, we run mostly standard Scalextric cars with magnets removed, but we do have one race for the Slot.it Group C cars...

         

Group C was a golden era of sports car racing in the 1980s and early 90s. Porsche, Lancia, Jaguar, Toyota, Nissan and Sauber were all front-runners and their Group C cars are all available as slot car models from Italian company Slot.it. The slot cars look fantastic, but are also designed for awesome performance. The cars are lightweight, have a flat chassis with an independent motor pod, plus quality components such as aluminium rear wheels and a powerful 23,000 rpm motor. Most of the Slot.it Group C cars are also designed to take the Slot.it SP15B digital chip for Scalextric digital - or come with the chip already fitted.

This is my Porsche 956LH fitted with a SP15B chip...

         

The front of the chip fits tightly around the front body post and the gold-coloured lane changer LED aligns perfectly with the hole in the chassis. I fix the rear of the chip to the chassis with a little Blu-Tak. I also fit a piece of clear polycarbonate sheet to cover the holes in the chassis to protect the chip from dirt, debris and the risk of a short-circuit. The only soldering is to attach the legs of the ferrite filter to the motor terminals. It is important to insulate the motor can from the ferrite filter and also the bottom of the motor from the track rails - I use Scotch Magic tape for both top and bottom.

The ease of converting the Slot.it cars to digital and their standard black guides make the Slot.it Group C cars ideal for ARC Pro racing. On a big track, their standard 23,000 rpm MX16 motors are not excessively quick. We remove the traction magnet from the cars and replace it with a Slot.it SP23 Tungsten weight. This means the cars can't be driven as fast and are actually much more enjoyable to race - the Slot.it cars are designed for 'non-mag' racing. If you want to reduce the speed even more, it is possible to replace the standard motor with the Slot.it MX15 21,000 rpm motor or a standard Scalextric (approx 18,000 rpm) motor. A simple alternative is - of course - to adjust the Max Power setting in the ARC app. I find the Profile A or Profile B Throttle Curves are best for running the Slot.it cars without magnets.

   

There are plenty of options for race formats. Group C cars raced at Le Mans, in the World Endurance Championship, American IMSA series, the Germany DRM Supercup, the All-Japan Sports Prototype Championship and many more national and regional series. Often these featured a variety of both timed and lap races, allowing us to use either the Endurance or Grand Prix race modes in ARC Pro. For this example, we'll choose a one-hour (60 minute) endurance race using the Custom option in the Time Limit menu...

         

I've set up the cars as Team 1, Team 2 etc - as we'll be using a pairs format, with each driver racing for half an hour. I haven't picked any pitstop features - fuel, tyre wear, weather or incidents - as the faster cars will require full attention. However, there will be a mandatory one-minute pit stop at half distance. A pit stop window will open after 25 minutes and close at 35 minutes. Within this window, each team will need to stop their car in the pits, remove the car from the pit lane and may clean the tyres (with masking tape), the braids and carry out any other maintenance. The length of the pit stop will be timed with a kitchen timer or a timer on a phone. At the end of the minute, the car is replaced in the pit lane and the second driver starts their racing stint. The timing of the pit window will be the responsibility of the race director - who can be one of the drivers.

I have enabled the Yellow Flag feature, just in case the cars need slowing to remove debris from the track or to repair barriers. The team mates who are not driving will marshal any cars that deslot and return them to the track when safe to do so. Although this is a format that is a little different from our normal ARC Pro races, it works well. With the high performance cars, it makes sense to concentrate on the driving and the racing rather than simulations and pit stops. It is an option for longer endurance races with any type of car.
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#28

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...

  1. Polarity of both lanes through powerbase the same - so lanes can be crossed and merged in digital mode
  2. 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...

Batch number -  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 is to 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.

Firmware Upgrades

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: www.scalextric.com/uk-en/arc-firmware-update

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!
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