Electric road circuit

The electric road circuit is in a way the application of the principle of electric train to miniature cars.


The English term, universally used by the amateurs, is slot racing (slot corresponding to groove in English), the purists consider that the slot racing has for origin the tracks in wood, and the circuits road the tracks in plastics.[personal interpretation]

The principle is to run vehicles equipped with an electric motor on a track that serves at the same time for rolling, guidance and power supply.

The types of vehicles that can be seen evolving on a track:

  • cars
  • the trucks
  • the karts
  • motorcycles
  • the sidecars

Other types of more marginal vehicles have existed.

The guide system is a groove in the track in which a guide lug (“guide”) is inserted, possibly integral with the direction of the vehicle. On each side of this groove, two metal elements allow the capture of the current by the vehicle’s wipers often called “brooms” or “braids” (braided copper son sensors).

The system is therefore composed of rolling track elements fitting into each other in the manner of rails to form a circuit.

The goal is not only to drive vehicles but to organize real races between a number of competitors determined by the number of grooves available. The tracks (also called “tracks”) must offer developments as close as possible. If this is not the case, “rotations” of players are introduced.

Many accessories are available to ensure timing, counting of laps and the designation of the winner. The use of electronics makes it more complex to control vehicles on tracks that allow, for example, overtaking. The newly developed digital systems allow, while having only two lanes, to run together 4, 6 or even 15 cars using different systems to operate the switches. The digital systems currently available are: Davic (named after its inventors David and Victor), Scalextric Digital, SCX, Carrera, Artin and Ninco.


The first electrical circuits date from the beginning of the twentieth century, a Märklin in Germany around 1909 and a Lionel circuit in the United States with 1 or 2 cars in 1912.

From that time in the mid-1950s, there were many attempts to develop a practical circuit, but nothing really succeeded: Marklin in Germany, Marx and KoKoMo in the United States, LR in France. The first practical electric car circuit system was designed by a club in England in 1955, but used a rail track instead of a slot, almost identical to our current systems: 12VDC motors 1/32 scale, plastic body, etc.

  • The Scalextric system was introduced in England in 1957 . the vehicles were approximately at 1 / 27th scale and made of metal; later, they were 1/30 and 1/32. The same year, another British company, VIP, also released its circuit at 1/32.

The real competition appeared around 1960 [ref. necessary] , with Strombecker, Aurora (scale HO) and Eldon in the United States, Minic and Wrenn in England. In France there were the Miniamil Montlhéry circuits of Joma in the sixties, and also the famous Circuit 24, with noisy cars.

The road circuit became very fashionable around 1963-64 [ref. necessary] :

  • Carrera in Germany, Polistil in Italy, Revell in the United States.
  • in France, the Circuit 24 competes directly with the Scalextric and the Record64 system is offered by Jouef on the 1 / 40th scale, more compact.

Above all, from 1964, the large Raceways, stores with 1 to 5 large tracks, from 4 to 10 lanes, which were rented by the hour to compete with other enthusiasts, began to open in the United States. This encouraged the design of cars on a larger scale, the 1/24. France and other countries in Europe have experienced this phenomenon that will last only a short time, from 64 to 68 in the United States and end 66 to 67 or 68 in France, for example. [ref.necessary]

This size at 1/24 still exists, but not widely distributed in domestic circuits, especially in the United States and some clubs in Scandinavia. In addition, these cars do not look like real cars, but are flattened and widened to give more speed (the current world record, established on st February 2015 by Petr Krcil (Czech) is 1.374 second over a blue track King of 47.24 meters development, an average of 123.78 km / h ). The obligation to have ample space to install sufficiently large circuits leads to the establishment of special sites where competitions take place. In the United States , the United Slot Racers Association ( USRA) regularly organizes championships comparable to those of other motor sports.

The 1 / 32nd and 1 / 87th scales are also common for various reasons. The 1 / 87th is, for example, the scale of the HO train, and the slot racing has flirted several times with the universe of the electric train. But since Scalextric made its appearance on the market, the brand has remained constantly in the foreground, despite vicissitudes, and set the scale of 1/32 as a reference. [ref. necessary]

Since the early 1990s, this game is back again thanks, in particular, to Spanish manufacturers Ninco and FLY who set new standards of quality closer circuit electric cars static models. [ref. necessary]

Current productions

In Europe, there are currently 4 main manufacturers 1 (Carrera, Scalextric, SCX, Ninco), offering a full range (tracks, accessories, vehicles). There are also a large number of manufacturers of vehicles, accessories and even wooden tracks and digital systems (Fly, Revell Monogram, Slot-it, Davic, Powerslot, etc …). Each year, newcomers come with more and more realistic and attractive products. [ref. necessary]

Carrera 2

German manufacturer, Carrera is one of the oldest brands on the market. It is characterized by its quality and the width of its tracks, which makes it possible to roll models at 1 / 24th. [ref. necessary]

Slot.it [ change | change the code ]

Italian manufacturer of modern and older cars, most often very well made and very efficient on track. [ref. necessary]


Another Italian manufacturer known for its ultra efficient track cars. [ref. necessary]


An Italian manufacturer known for its high-end resin cars and more recently its Sideways range of cars that are made of plastic (ex: Ford capri gr.5 or the Lancia Beta monte carlo gr.5.)


Spanish manufacturer of cars quite efficient and rather affordable.

Hornby (Scalextric English)

English manufacturer, Hornby now owns the Scalextric brand for the whole world except Spain. In Spain, for historical reasons and rights, Hornby markets its production under the Superslot brand. Otherwise known as “Scalextric Sport”, the current analogue range remains compatible with the old Scalextric “Classic” range thanks to adapter rails. Even in digital, you can mix with other manufacturers, provided that turnouts and digital accessories (rev counter, etc …) are all Scalextric Digital.

Tecnitoys (Spanish Scalextric or SCX)

Spanish manufacturer, Technitoys sells its products worldwide under the brand SCX, but under the brand Scalextric in Spain because it holds the rights. The risk of confusion is great, especially since the two Scalextric are not fully compatible, especially in digital version. In analog, you can mix the 2 brands Scalextric (Spanish and English), the “Classic”, the “Sport” or “Superslot”, SCX, and even Ninco thanks to the adapter rails.

In digital, the entire SCX digital system is totally specific and is not compatible with any other brand, or even with analog SCX; Indeed, the bottom of rail is specific, the fasteners are specific, and even the vehicles (at the level of the guide) are specific.

This confusion around the Scalextric brand stems from its history. [Personal interpretation] Scalextric was at one time mainly produced in Spain. During the bankruptcy of the company, it was sold on one side for its English part, and on the other for its Spanish part, which explains the coexistence of the two. This split was even at the origin of the creation of a new brand, Ninco, by a team of Scalextric Spain having launched their own production.


The other Spanish manufacturer, born more recently, Ninco has its own standards in analog as well as digital, but the particularity of offering adaptive rails that allow compatibility with other brands in analog. In digital, you can mix with other manufacturers, provided that turnouts and digital accessories (rev counter, etc …) are all Ninco Digital. [ref. necessary]

Fly slot car

This Spanish brand has long represented the revolution of the road circuit since it is the first brand to have produced industrially 1/32 high quality vehicles, to the point of having collectors who do not roll the models, but expose them in showcase. Today, other brands have bridged the quality gap with Fly, which explains its difficulties and its pace of novelties smaller than at its time. [ref. necessary]

Analogue or digital

By operating principle, an analog road circuit can only drive one vehicle per lane. For each channel, the speed of a single car is varied by varying the voltage. If the pleasure sought is to reproduce a motor racing, it must be admitted that with 2 lanes therefore only 2 cars, we limit much the spirit of competition and excitement of the race. It is therefore necessary to increase the number of channels, which most manufacturers can do (up to 8 channels). On the other hand, each car remaining on its own path, one can not fall back in front of an outdated vehicle, overtaking is unrealistic, etc. Finally, it is difficult to guarantee that each lane will be the same length as the other and will have the same difficulty,[Ref. necessary]

The solution to all these drawbacks: to allow several vehicles to circulate on any lane, by providing a system that allows them to change lanes on order. This is called digital (or “digital” by language abuse or anglicization). On-board electronics allow each car to communicate with the power base and receive specific instructions (accelerate, slow down, brake, change lanes). [ref. necessary]

Despite some attempts during the xx th century, it was not until 2004 that appeared the first effective and satisfactory digital systems. [ref. necessary]

The first concerns of reliability are now solved, and the 5 main manufacturers each propose their system, unfortunately not compatible between them. However, it is possible to adapt the vehicles of all manufacturers to all circuits (except SCX Digital, which requires strictly specific vehicles): just add the chip that will allow the vehicle to communicate with the base. food. [ref. necessary]

Piloting is then closer to reality, we go beyond, we fall back, we block the passage of other competitors. For example, some digital systems allow you to fictitiously manage fuel consumption and refueling, with the car “running out of fuel” returning to the pits at idle speed. One can suddenly imagine different race strategies, all this giving an additional interest to the competition, getting closer to the scenarios of “real” races.

Since 2009, digital has reached a stage of maturity to fill the “slotteur” limited to 2 cars on its circuit. The next step is to wait for a convergence of the systems proposed by the manufacturers, like what happened in model railroading. [personal interpretation]

Notes and references

Rampini Paolo, Slotcars made in Europe 1930-1980, Edizioni PR 2003

  1. ↑ ” The brands of electric car circuit “, Specialized site , ( read online  [ archive ] )
  2. ↑ ” Carrera Slot Car Racing – Slot Car Racing ”  [ archive ] , on www.carrera-toys.com (accessed July 15, 2017 )

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