MAG Racing: In More Depth

Slot Car Racing has been around for more than 40 years and has changed very little in that time. Basically, only one car can be raced in each slot (or lane) and to race 6 cars together at the same time requires a track with 6 lanes which is very wide and impracticable in most private homes which is where most racing takes place. Also, in a turn, the car in the outer lane travels in a very wide radius turn whilst the car in the inside lane travels in a very tight radius turn. This is not at all like real motor racing. Recently, some improvement has been made with the introduction of ‘Digital’ slot racing whereby up to 6 cars can be raced on a 2 lane track and lanes can be changed at designated points around the track but there is still much room for improvement.

Radio controlled model car racing is also a well-established hobby and radio controlled model cars can nowadays be manufactured in very small scales, I.e. down to 1/32 scale similar in size to slot cars, and this would seem to be the answer except for one major problem.  For various reasons of scale time, friction, air drag and human reaction times, driving such small models accurately is virtually impossible.    Tracks need to be at least 60cms wide and even then overtaking without a collision cannot be guaranteed and following the racing line through a corner is almost impossible. Watch videos on YouTube such as,’ Mini z outdoor oval’ and you will see what we mean!

MAG Racing takes the best elements of both these systems and, with new technology and innovation, solves or improves upon all of these shortcomings. The cars are guided basically by a magnet following a steel wire embedded in the track. They can be steered from one side of the track to the other by radio control at selected but easily and cheaply fitted lane change points. Speed is controlled by the pistol trigger and cars are powered by a single rechargeable Lithium ion cell. Run times are in excess of 20 minutes using a single AAA cell which is inexpensive and quickly recharged. The battery is located underneath the car, held in place by a magnet (patented) and, for a pit stop can be changed in less than 5 seconds! There would normally be two guide wires around the track forming two lanes and up to 15 cars can be raced together by selecting different radio frequencies. Cars can change lanes to overtake, can be steered to take the fastest line through each turn by approaching in the outside lane, turning early to clip the apex and finishing back on the outside of the track. They can also turn into the pit lane when required. All this on a track of only 7” (16cms) wide with no slots, pick up tapes or lane change points to spoil its appearance.

The speed of the cars is much closer to scale speed (perhaps 200mph!) so in action they look much more realistic than slot cars or indeed 1:12 scale free running r/c cars. Because the front wheels steer, we again see greater realism. When driven too quickly, the cars will either spin or under-steer off the track. This is of benefit because, if the car runs completely off the track, it cannot block following cars which often happens with digital slot racing. Cars are steerable when away from the guide wire and, with the introduction of reverse (March 2103) can be steered back on to the track after almost all crashes. This means that marshals standing around the track are no longer required. This is a major advance over slot-racing and indeed over early MAG Racing.

The idea of steering vehicles by magnet and guide wire is not new but what is new is this systems ability to change from one guide wire route to another. This is achieved by removing a short length of the guide wire at the desired lane change point and replacing it with a patented flat plate. At this point, it is then possible to change the direction of the car by means of a radio controlled actuator in the car. This steering actuator turns the wheels just sufficiently for the car to leave it’s straight line course and to realign with another guide wire. This wire can then lead the car to the alternative lane or to the fastest line route around the turn or to the pits lane, etc.. If the driver inadvertently turns the steering the wrong way ( quite easy for a novice driver!), the car will not leave the track and crash but will continue straight ahead. The steering must be actuated (i.e. the steering wheel turned) before the car reaches the lane change point and held until after the L/c point has been passed.

This track system is extremely simple and inexpensive to construct and maintain. A racing scenario would see up to six cars running on the two lanes. If two cars approach a turn side by side, the driver in the outside lane must forgo the fastest line route and stay in the outside lane. As well as looking more realistic, speeds have been deliberately restricted to allow drivers time to make these decisions. Acceleration and braking rates are also restricted nearer to scale to allow cars to race much more closely to each other. During a lap of a typical track, Linford Two for instance, a driver has 12 lane change and racing line options to consider in approx 10 seconds in addition to speed control and awareness of up to maybe 5 other cars on the track. Pit lanes are easy to include and battery changes are a feature of longer races.

As in full size motor racing, it is necessary to learn the track . Small arrows are painted on the track to indicate where the lane change points are but at racing speeds the driver must memorize these.

Early tracks used 2mm diam wire in routed slots but this has been progressively reduced and we now recommend 22swg (.028”/0.07mm) piano (music) wire glued to the baseboard and the track level raised flush with plaster (quick but messy!) or more slowly but cleanly by infilling with panels of low cost card of the same thickness cut to shape and stuck down. Lane changes require careful positioning of the flat lane change plate and the enter and exit guide wires but the cost of a lane change is almost nothing compared to that of a digital slot lane change. A track could be as small as 3feet x 6 (1metre x 2) but larger tracks enable greater use of MAGracing’s features.

Radio Equipment
The radio control equipment has been purpose designed for MAG Racing. Proportional steering is not needed as the lane changing and racing line steering is effected by means of an electromagnetic coil Speed control is fully proportional. Range is adequate with antennae of only 90mm easily hidden within the cars. Cars and radio transmitters (txs) are both powered by the same AAA rechargeable cells.

Cars are 1:32 scale, similar to the most popular slot racing scale. Motors are purpose built high torque 3.7 volt. Body shells are High Impact Styrene mounted with magnets giving instant removal and replacement. Body removal is only necessary for maintenance or for steering magnet ride height which may be easily adjusted if necessary to suit differing tracks which may or may not be smoother than your own! Tyres supplied are deliberately low grip to reduce cornering speeds thus increasing the skill required and ensuring that cars cannot be driven flat out around the track.. Tyre dressings/additives can easily be added to increase grip and details are included in the tyres section. This makes the cars easier to drive for novice drivers but can remove the skill for experts. MAG Racing driving does take some time to learn and most people will need a couple of evenings to master it. For this reason MAG Racing is unlikely to prove suitable for ‘Pay As You Go’ circuits.

Lap Counting
A fifteen car system has been developed and will be available shortly.

This is a revolutionary new r/c race system made possible by new technology and innovation. It is not envisaged as a replacement for a slot racing set for 5-10 year olds set out on the home floor but as a new hobby for adult model car or motor race enthusiasts who appreciate the greater realism and driving skills which this system offers and who are prepared to devote a small but permanent space for a race circuit where individual enjoyment or serious competition can take place. Unlimited challenging track features can be included for those interested in the racing aspect and more realistic scenic effects can be included by those looking for greater realism.