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Adventures with Carrera GO Plus
#1

As someone who lives in a house with small rooms, I've always found the smaller scale slot cars very attractive. My main interest over the past 10-15 years has been HO (1/72 to 1/64 scale), but I do really like 1/43 - there are the benefits of plenty of track in a small space and bigger, more detailed cars.

A few years ago, I  built a 1/43 track with Carrera Go!!! track and homemade driver stations with adjustable brakes for using Parma controllers. I raced a variety of cars, some with magnets, some without...

         

It was a fun track for a small 6 x 3 foot space and looked good too - although I never quite finished all the detailing I planned to do. Then demands for that space changed. My slot car work bench was replaced with a work desk, filing cabinets and computers. The 1/43 track table was re-allocated as the work bench, so this sad event needed to happen...

   

Most of my Carrera Go!!! track was donated to the HONK Racing Club in Kent for their regular 1/43 scale racing (including an appearance at the UK Slot Car Festival this year). So if you want to race 1/43 in the UK, you can find HONK on facebook here. I also sold quite a few of my 1/43 cars, but not all by any means. I still have some Go!!! track, a GO Plus control unit and Pit Stop Game unit - plus a couple of Go!!! cars, four Kyosho Dslot GT cars and a very nice bunch of SCX Compact Nascars, DTM, GT and Trans-Am cars.

My 1/43 racing is now very ad-hoc with a small 4 to 5 metre track set up on the floor or a table (sometimes the work desk). It's my adventures with GO Plus and both the official Carrera and the SmartRace apps that I'll be sharing here.
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#2

That's a really nice looking track. Shame you had to dismantle it.
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#3

It was a shame... Although I do still have two HO tracks and plans for a 1/32 track that will be great for my 1/43 scale SCX Compact and Kyosho Dslot cars to run on too. And the ad-hoc Carrera Go!!! rug racing is good fun.

I do like the Go!!! system - it offers a lot in a small space, is especially suited for younger drivers and can grow with them as their interests change and mature. Carrera have updated certain aspects of Go!!! over the past few years. The track now has sprung connectors so the pieces stay together without needing external track clips across every joint. The connectors are still a little fragile though... The basic powerbase was replaced with a new one last year and it looks much more slick than the old one. There are also new hand controllers - still the traditional Carrera thumb plunger type - which are the same as used with Go Plus and a lower ohmage than the older one. This isn't ideal for using other brands of car with less magnetic downforce - or for running non-mag. However, as an all-in-one package for running Carrera cars and Carrera accessories, you can't argue with what's on offer...

   

Those F1 cars even have halos. What impresses me most about the Go!!! range is the vastness and freshness of the cars, track and accessories on offer. There's Mario Kart and Pixars Cars sets and individual vehicles, a choice of F1, DTM and GT3 sets and cars, a rally set, a muscle car set and a selection of police and pace cars with flashing lights. Then there's various specialist track pieces, including rally terrain, squeeze tracks, a long chicane, a suspension bridge, loop-the-loop, cross-overs and intersections. None are particularly cheap - especially for those of us in the UK - but the range is impressive. Digital143 has never impressed me - its features are limited and it is expensive.

What I do like is the analogue Go Plus system. I picked up the Go Plus powerbase and Pit Stop Game from Germany when it came out in 2017...

   

I was a little disappointed that the Go Plus app was initially only in German (English and other languages are now built-in), but it was fun as a stand-alone unit with a lot of functionality even without the app. Here's what Go Plus does without the app connected, just by using the red slider switch on the powerbase...
  • Practice/training mode
  • 20 or 30 lap race mode
  • Chase/pursuit mode
  • Ghost car
  • F1, DTM or GT sounds
The Pit Stop Game works with the powerbase to call in cars for...
  • Engine damage - automatically fixed
  • Tyre change - pump controller four times
  • Refuel - pump controller until fully refuelled
The lights on the Pit Stop Game also function as the start light sequence. When a pit stop is signalled and a car stops anywhere on the Pit Stop Game track piece, Go Plus takes control of the car and moves it slowly to the end of the pit lane ready for the pit work to commence...

   

If a car fails to stop, a warning sound prompts the driver again. A second missed pit and no further laps are counted until after a successful pit stop is completed. It is a very neat system, an excellent upgrade to a standard Go!!! set and a lot of fun.

The Go Plus powerbase connects to an app on a smart device via Bluetooth. The official Carrera Go Plus app is very much aimed at younger racers with lots of great graphics, plus a good basic race function that allows customisation of the four race formats available via the powerbase slider switch. There are also optional games (which aren't my cup of tea) and an extra APP event for the Pit Stop Game which requires the completion of an in-app game to clear the pit stop and allow the car to resume racing.

         

The official app also updates the firmware of both the Go Plus powerbase and the Pit Stop Game to the latest versions, something my original Go Plus units have required a couple of times.

A 'grown-up' alternative to the Carrera app is the new SmartRace Go Plus app that was released in March 2019. Developed by the team responsible for the popular SmartRace app for Carrera Digital132 and 124, it does the basic race management tasks very well, without any of the annoying games. There is a lot of customisation available and plenty of stats that can be saved or exported. Plus there is a comprehensive library of Go!! car images on the main SmartRace website to upload into the app - or you can use your own. I have found it very stable and easy to use...

         

The Pit Stop Game behaviour is independent of the app, so the SmartRace app cannot control the pit options at the moment. I strongly suspect the development of the app will continue. At £3.99 (Apple iOS) and £4.25 (Android) it is good value. The website is here (in English and German): https://www.smartrace-goplus.de/en/

I must admit that the SmartRace app has rekindled my interest in Go Plus. I have enjoyed using the app with Carrera track and cars. However, there are issues with using other makes of car, both electronically and in terms of drivability. I'll look at those another time, but - in the meantime - I'll carry enjoying it with my small collection of Pixar cars.

If you're at all tempted... the Go Plus powerbase (now with wireless controllers) and Pit Stop Game are available separately or are included in a range of Go Plus sets (some have only the powerbase, some also have the Pit Stop Game, some have the older wired controllers). None of the Go Plus products are sold in the UK, but the Carrera distributor here told me that anything in the Carrera catalogue is available as a special order on request from a UK Carrera retailer. Or it is easy - and often cheaper - to import direct from Germany.
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