Today's Slot Car Racing
Today's racing is generations removed from what we did originally! As stated earlier, everything in most slot racing "emporiums" would appear to be operated by sophisticated computerized systems. Many raceways now have several PCs - one just for the purpose of recording sales and keeping track of the store inventory and ordering through the use of bar-coding systems. Other computers are used by race directors to stage races and virtually eliminate mistakes. Each lap turned on each lane by every driver is both counted and timed - down to the 10,000th of a second! Races can be set up for up on some of these systems for up to 150 racers, all ahead of time. Special "qualifying" events can be staged, as well as the running of numerous races - virtually automatically.
In the "old days" we raced what became known as "straight rotation" - competing for a given length of time on one lane - then moving up or down the track one slot at a time. Should you have been placed between someone better than you, or who lacked your driving skills, you were stuck there throughout the race. In the 1970s a much more equitable system was established, and became known as the "random-skip-lane" rotation. Many people mistakenly called this system "European" rotation, but was actually developed by Jim Honeycutt in San Antonio, Texas for the World Championships in the mid-70s. This system is now used almost exclusively everywhere in the world today and has been made a part of computerized race director programs which are available from at least five companies in the US.
Racing in the 50s and 60s was rather hectic, but not nearly so much as we see today because of the speed of modern equipment. Even though todays cars handle so much better, de-slots occur at an alarming rate, much more so than we did back then with slower and much heavier cars. Even though modern drivers all have so much skill, accidents do occur much more frequently with the winged cars than those which are scale appearing.
As the speed increased we saw a change in racing which transpired in the 70s and almost universally accepted by most - what is called a "track" or "power-off" condition. Many old-timers all but had a hissy fit when this came about because you couldnt make laps if the power was off and many of them practiced long enough to drive within themselves and not come off. Alas, "track" calls became a reality because it became obvious that was the only way to save on ultra expensive equipment.
Another equipment-saver was the implementation of "rider" calls - where if your car jumped out of your lane and into another, the race director could kill the power to keep your car from being unceremoniously smashed into the nearest wall. There are very few races conducted in the US today where neither of these are permitted.
Writer, race director/race announcer extraordinaire Gil Aubin was one organizer that did not allow either and his races were purported to be very smooth and well run. Two companies - Cidex out of New Jersey and Tilt n Tech in New York have developed "Yellow" or "Caution Light" systems where by track power can be reduced, but not shut off during Riders and crash situations where track power would normally be turned off. I think this a much better system because the drivers who do keep their cars slotted are not penalized by those who crash a lot.