Racing on your home track against friends and family is the predominant way of enjoying the hobby but, if you want to take your interest a bit further, why not give club racing a try? It is a great way of meeting new people who share your enthusiasm.
What is a slot car club?
There are many varieties, ranging from informal get togethers at someone’s home, through temporary tracks set up in a village hall right up to top flight clubs with permanent premises running both their own and national competitions. Some race on plastic track with magnets fitted, some without magnets and a significant number have large custom built copper taped/wooden tracks.
They all have one common aim though, the shared enjoyment of the hobby. They will have a much larger track than can be fitted in the average home so you can really give your cars a proper workout and compete against a wider selection of enthusiastic racers. 1/32 scale analogue clubs are the mainstay in the UK but there are a number of digital and HO clubs as well.
There are many clubs in the UK but they are thinner on the ground the further North you live. Check out our interactive maps to see if you have one within travelling distance. If not then you could always start your own but that is beyond the scope of this article. There are clubs worldwide but they can be harder to track down in some other countries.
How do I join?
In most cases you can just turn up on race night although it is advisable to phone, text or email first so they know you are coming and can make you welcome.
What does it cost?
Club racing can be as cheap or expensive as you wish to make it. It all depends on how many different classes you choose to take part in and what level of car modifications the club allows. Most will run at least four different classes, some stick to near box standard specification while others allow virtually limitless modifications which can get very expensive indeed. You are not generally obliged to enter every class so can tailor your budget accordingly. Also, there is often a club car class (IROC in the USA) where the cars are provided by the organisers.
Race fees are usually very reasonable at between £2 and £10 per session depending on the cost of the premises. Some clubs have an annual membership charge but these will often be inclusive of the year’s race fees. The first visit is almost invariably free and most clubs will lend you cars and controllers as well so you can dip a toe in the water at zero cost.
You will need a car complying with the relevant rules for each different class you enter and a spare is always advisable in case of accident or breakdown.
You will also need a decent hand controller, not the ones that come in sets which are inadequate for club racing. Selection advice can be found in the controller section.
Apart from that you just need the normal set of glues, liquids and tools that you would use to maintain your cars at home.
A box to transport your stuff would also be handy. One day you might aspire to a custom built one like the one on the left below.
But for starters a simple tool box as shown on the right should suffice.
Most clubs follow a similar procedure for the evening’s racing. There is usually free practice for half an hour or so followed by a set of heats in which everybody races at least once on each lane and scores points to qualify for the step-up finals when championship points are won. The winner of each step-up race is promoted to the next highest final. Some clubs run lap limited races while others use time limited ones.
When will I win?
Almost certainly not at your first meeting unless you are exceptionally talented. Club racing is much more competitive than home racing and you will be up against experienced racers who know their track well. Like any other sport/hobby it will take a while to get the hang of it and you will inevitably spend time near the bottom of the pecking order. Don’t get disheartened though as your results should greatly improve as time goes by. Other members will help you with car set up and race technique and many clubs will assign an old hand to mentor you at the start. The more you race the better you will get and when that first win finally arrives you will remember the feeling of satisfaction for a very long time!