(Retrospective October 2015)
Enrico and I were hoping to find some local slot car club houses where we could talk with the racers, view the technology involved, and draw some real comparisons with VSC based on actual real world racing data. Well, it just so happened that, to our fortune, Prague was about to host the 2015 International Slot Racing Association (ISRA) world champs! How about that, we were over the moon at the prospect of seeing the best of the best with their state-of-the-art cars race. It was a dream come true.
The 2015 ISRA world champs were held on the 2 - 10 October, at the Chateau Štiřín, Prague, Czech Republic. After some informal and well received emails requesting permission of our attendance, we arrived with laptop and tablet in back-pack, and were warmly met by two of the Prague organisers - Pavel Flaisig and Antonin Vojtik, both were also competitors.
Everyone was in full swing of their practise rounds, and since this wasn't the competition day, we were told it was the best chance to talk to the competitors in their pits and near the track, since come race day, people will have only one thing on their minds – to win.
I was struck by how many people were involved, well over 120 people were milling around, working on their cars in the pits, there were two packed pit-stop rooms, discussing race tactics and technology or testing their cars on the specially transported Czech ISRA racing track. It was a competitive event but also a social one, the number of opened Slivovice and Becherovka bottles on the work shop tables told no lie about this :) The mood was one of friendly comradery but also was coupled with the focused intent to win.
The tools, equipment, and number of spare cars and parts for each team was breathtaking. Never had I seen such an array of miniature workshops all self lit, and all immaculate in their layout and order, occupying no more than 1m width of working space. The pit-stop rooms themselves were absolutely packed, and the racers and support teams all within an arms reach of each other, busying away with honing bushes, cleaning gears, straightening a chassis, or truing a tyre.
Once we had melded in and met some of the people there we started to let it be known that we were making a slot car game and that we wanted it to be as realistic as possible, and that we were seeking help from them to achieve this. On the whole this was well received and so our investigations began.
From my perspective, it wasn't just about the technical data, though that was obviously important. I wanted to find out what this sport was truly like, who did it and why, and why didn't more people do it in todays world. In the end it felt to me that sports such as this offer a heck of a lot to the participants, but at a real monetary cost. The cost of bespoke hand made car parts, a chassis may cost over 700 euros, motors doing over 100,000 RPM burn out after one race which is not unusual in pro racing of any kind so having spare motors is common, the travel involved and logistics costs not to mention all the workshop tools, the list goes on. These are all the things that make the sport wonderful, challenging, exciting, that make it more involving, make it more than just the race. It's the preparation, the customisation, the lead up to and anticipation and risk of trying out new parts and combinations, all affecting how the race will go. Yet all these prerequisites may be too expensive for some people.
It became clear to me that to remove these costs and logistics from the equation could really help someone determine if slot car racing was for them. We want to reach out to those that want to feel something of the world of slot cars without the burden, we want to get you as close as possible to the excitement of competitive club house and world champ racing without having to leave your home.
And if by chance such a person continues from VSC to the real world of slot car racing – I think that would be very nice indeed.
The main event took place and tensions were high, you could cut the air with a knife. Of all the things I least expected was one of the Kiwi contestants to rock up by my humble request for an audience of VSC. Gill Andrews managed to do this during the actual competition.
Gill was shown a small presentation we had made in video form displaying the game and it's extensive customisation capability – the chassis, brushes, gears, tyres, bodies, motors, motor mounting options. As soon as Gill saw what we had to offer he conveyed some real support, and may I say surprise with, I think, genuine interest. It seemed he was especially interested in the car and track customisation at a level that he was familiar with, something that was similar to the league that he was in. We even had made the ISRA track, the night before, using the in game editor and were achieving similar lap speeds to the contestants with the AI , though we ourselves couldn’t quite match the same skill level, but what we had right in front of the worlds best could match their car and track environment virtually. Gill left with a promise of a free copy of the game for testing and comments and a massive smile from both Enrico and I. Thanks Gill!
Enrico hadn’t played slot cars at this level for 25/30 years. I hadn’t played them since I was a boy. The ISRA 2015 event brought back so many happy memories, the colours, sounds, and smell of O3, it was really a lot of fun and extremely nostalgic. The technical improvements that the sport has seen were phenomenal to us compared to days gone by. And somehow memories of past F1 races and events resurfaced in our minds eye which of course resulted in many in-depth discussions.
We got all the latest statistics on motor RPM and dimensions, gear ratios, tire sizes and wear rates, composites used, chassis weight and axis of movement, part sizes, costs, and many more. The visit, in our eyes, had been the best thing we could have hoped for from any such visit.
The demographic included men and women, from the very young to the slightly older. All at the top level, the best of the best. In my opinion, the event showed the very best of what slot cars can do, that is bring people of all ages and genders together to compete in a friendly and co-operative environment that results in pure fun and excitement and experimental challenges.
For more information on the event, and who won! Please visit: http://isra2015.attanslot.cz ;)
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