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Routing lane paths on an oval

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  • Routing lane paths on an oval

    I've been in the planning and design phase for a new oval for about 2 months now, but it finally got warm enough here to take my summer car out of the barn so I now have some workspace. I have many of the specs figured out and was sketching lane paths today on a scale drawing and got stumped. It's going to be 3 lanes with a 15" track width and I want the lane paths to be realistic. That means patterned after how dirt cars negotiate an oval, not 'cookie cutter' like on a plastic track. In reality cars start turning in a long arc before entering a corner and are still turning on that arc when they get to the 'end' of the corner.

    I want to replicate this type of realistic lane paths (racing grooves) as much as possible. Nominal lane spacing will be 3 1/2" with a 5" outside buffer area and a 3" inside buffer, but that can vary as needed in different areas of the track. I envision a car in the outside lane being right up against the outside wall as it nears the entrance to a corner, then dip inward to create space for a little powersliding. The 3 lanes will be bunched together a little on entry and exit of corners then diverge to normal spacing down the straights. The entire track will have lane spacing to allow passing between the 1st and 3rd lanes, but when there's a car on lane 2 it'll require patience and timing.

    My question is - has anyone done this and if so what did you do, how did it go, and what should I be mindful of? Or, am I nuts for trying to do this and should just go with mostly constant radius lanes through the corners?

    All feedback and comments most appreciated.

  • #2
    I've got a friend who did this and the group of guys he races with love it, me not so much. They sell a flexible stick for routing slots like you want to do which is how my friend did it. Here's where you can purchase one.
    Butch Dunaway
    Oxford, Ohio


    • slothead
      slothead commented
      Editing a comment
      Please tell me what you don't like about it. I generally find negative comments the most helpful when thinking something thru.

    • Pappy
      Pappy commented
      Editing a comment
      To many wrecks, to many track calls. To me it's just not slot racing. When you try to pass someone who can't drive there is no way to time it because they are not consistent. They'll brake at a different point on every turn. I raced with the group one time and it took at least 30 minutes to run a 10 minute race. But to that group of guys (and they really were a great bunch of guys and I liked them) they didn't care, it was a social get together, not a slot car race. Slot car racing is suppose to be fun, it was fun for them and that's great, but not for me. You might like it like they do.
      Last edited by Pappy; May 21, 2020, 12:15 AM.

  • #3
    Whenever you think about going against long-standing convention you need to figure out why that convention came about in the first place. There is usually a good reason.

    You are not the first person to think about producing realistic 'lines' in a slot track. I've seen photos of tracks where the slots were laid out very realistically. What that meant was every corner was a chicane. I've also seen slotless tracks where the cars could, in theory, follow lines exactly like those of their big cousins. Didn't work so well in practice.

    Trouble is, slot cars travel a whole lot faster, in scale, than real race cars. And the driver does not have their butt in the seat, or the view out the front. And steering is quite literally out of their hands. As much as we'd like to reproduce real racing in scale -- and lots of people have taken a crack at it -- their efforts have never hit the big time. The simple, conventional designs have proven to be successful long term.

    The way you describe your desired corners sounds like both ends of your oval will be chicaned. I think you will find this will make for frustrating racing. I can see the cars in lane 1 and 3 stuck behind the car in lane 2. Not because the car in lane 2 is faster, but because 1 and 3 have caught up to it but can't pull off a full pass on the straight. And they'll have to back out of it in every corner because of the chicane.

    Passing on an oval with conventional lane spacing is quite challenging enough. If the cars and drivers in adjacent lanes are closely matched it may take many laps before the car behind can complete the pass without causing a collision. Making the pass on a straight will be all but impossible, because the cars will have near identical acceleration and speed. Only when the leading car makes a small mistake in the corner will the trailing car find a window to sneak through. That takes both nerve and skill.

    That is for real. I've been in many oval races where that is exactly the case. Sometimes I was the passee and sometimes the passer. Other times I've watched first-rank competitors going at it. A great show! Truly edgy racing.

    I recommend you dial back your ambitions and just build an oval. It'll be fun. Go to school on it. I'm willing to bet it won't be the last track you build.

    Ed Bianchi

    PS - I have long since proven it is possible to nerf a competitor from the outside lane. Don't think you are safe because you are on the inside lane. If you are running next to me, take care!
    Last edited by HO RacePro; May 21, 2020, 12:21 AM.
    Ed Bianchi
    York Pennsylvania USA


    • Pappy
      Pappy commented
      Editing a comment
      You can nerf someone from the outside lane, it's called a stop nerf. Stop in the turn and let them hit you, most of the time they will be the only one to come off but sometimes you will too. It's a good way to stop someone faster from coming up and taking you out going into a turn if they keep doing it. But you do risk getting your car broken, all depends on how mad you are if you want to take the chance. LOL

  • #4
    How will you be using the track? If you will be holding races, I agree with the above. I don't think it is a good idea.
    If it will be used mainly for yourself and occasionally friends and family will will join in, then go for it. That is the case with me. I built some unconventional aspects into my track. Just small changes in one lane as opposed to another make a difference. I have three lanes that drive very differently, which is what I wanted.


    • #5
      I agree with others have said, most of the 1/32nd tracks that I race on have a squeeze section and those make it difficult to make a pass when the cars are doing about the same lap times, so there tends to be more crashes than you would see on a track without a squeeze. Having an oval with squeezes on both ends would make it nearly impossible to make a pass without having a crash. One of our tracks had a number of squeeze sections and in each of those only two lanes converged. In that case it could be difficult to remember where it would be safer to make a pass.
      You might consider a sort of compromise where the lanes only squeeze up at one end of the track.


      • #6
        No problem with having tight corners (chicane), if you have a large 100-150 foot track. With a large track there are oppotunities to get ahead of somebody and stay there. On a small track, cars are too bunched up and it's hard to avoid wrecking all the time.

        You have to decide what is fun for your racers. What is their talent level ? You build tight track with hard curves they better be great drivers or there will be crashes every lap or two. The fun is gone real quick on a track like that and newbies won't be in a hurry to return.

        You build a track a little easier to navigate and good drivers will run lap after lap close together and find passing opportunities. That is fun. Newbies will catch on quick and have fun and want to do it again.
        Matt B
        So. In


        • #7
          This isn't really what you have in mind, but it's still an interesting method for routing through turns, giving a more realistic, but still parallel line. The router jig is about halfway down the page.

          "An interesting side-effect of using this approach to slot routing (elliptical routing) is that the transition from straight to curve is not tangential, as it is in plastic track, or track routed with straightedge & trammel. It is actually a spiral, with the straight turning into the curve in a constantly decreasing radius, until the final curve radius is reached. This means that the cars will not be subjected to a sudden change in direction, but will undergo a more gradual change when entering & exiting the curve. We believe this feature will make the track very fast & smooth driving."


          • #8
            My track is only 5' x 12' but is very high banked. Lane spacing is about 4". I have a gradual squeeze entering turn 1.
            Click image for larger version  Name:	20171205_121806.jpg Views:	0 Size:	3.77 MB ID:	38092

            There is no "official" competition happening on my track, Just" fun runs"
            The 2 adjacent lanes can't make the corner, but alternate lanes have no problem. (1/32)
            I find I can pass a slower car after a couple or three laps by following closely & figuring out the other guys driving style.
            You can always complete the pass on the conventional part of the track if you have to. Sometimes the squeeze results in a simple bump & no de-slot.
            (Which by the way is a good way to pass, 'cuz it upsets the front guy enough in the corner to get by....just like 1:1)
            ...................Open wheel cars can be a bit more problematic...............
            The higher banks let a car exit the turn very quickly. Another passing method is to follow directly behind the lead car, enter the turn
            by braking just a bit sooner & "come off" the corner with the car straight( no "fish tail")....It'll look like a rocket on the straightaway.
            Basically your "setting up" the lead guy for a "run off" the turn.
            Anyway you slice it....good car control on the driver's part makes this a bunch of fun.
            So if just plain fun is your choice I'd go with the squeeze.,(Not both turns) prolly wouldn't do it if your going to do a lot of competitive racing.
            ...........................P.S. Lap times are consistently under 3 seconds & there's still plenty of time.........................Brew
            Last edited by strangebrew; May 21, 2020, 12:54 PM.
            Dave J
            Millstadt, Illinois


            • #9
              As Brew says, you need good car control by the driver. If all the drivers have pretty good ability and are not impatient they can navigate tighter corners and not overdrive the track. Rookies will have issues and will be de-slotting a lot.
              Matt B
              So. In


              • #10
                What works when you are running alone on the track can turn into a disaster if you do club style racing. If the track is very technical and/or has squeezes there will be a lot of crashes, even if all of the racers are experienced. If you have enough racers you can run a marshaled race, otherwise you will have to do track calls when there are crashes. If the track has places that are hard to reach you will also have to do track calls. You could end up spending more time stopped than moving and that can become frustrating. The best tracks strike a good balance between being too technical and being too easy to drive. When you are actually racing the other cars can be a bigger factor than the track. You have to decide what to do when you overtake another car or when you are overtaken. On very long tracks the cars tend to get spread out, so other cars are less of a factor.
                If you were to run by yourself on a small oval you probably would get bored rather quickly, but when you are actually racing they are a lot of fun.


                • #11
                  i typically don't like equally lane-spaced ovals, because in my experience they tend to turn into motor-dependent tracks; no matter what you do, you can't make it up in the corners, plus the inner lanes usually have the advantage (unless it's a pretty tight track).
                  -you wanted some negatives, right?
                  - - - -
                  on the other hand, i used to race on a few ovals with squeezes (which is the part of a track that i'm a big fan of, since i grew up with it):
                  One, where all the lanes squeezed in the middle of the corner at one end, and were open at the other. i like Brew's corner-entry chicane a lot.
                  Second, a four-lane where the outer two squeezed at one end and the inners at the other. it was thought to turn it into a tri-oval where the middle two could also squeeze, but the whiners won out.
                  Third, an oval where all four lanes were identically-sized and shaped ovals, but were offset diagonally from each other with crossovers. with that, the outer lane at one end crossed all the way to the inside in the corner at the opposite end, and then went straight through the others to get back to the outside entering the first one again. talk about racing lines! i used to race monogram midgets on it with the Bell Labs guys in NJ back in the 60's, and it was a blast. i still have a one-armed driver from it, and i had to remake a lot of push and nerf bars!

                  i liked all three of them, in increasing order. (Anything but a straight-up oval! LOL) but the one with the crossovers was the best.
                  we used to be ROFL. which was convenient, because while you were down there, you could ask, "hey, who's missing a handbrake lever?"

                  you can always build it the way you envisioned, and fill the slots in (if you're using tape) and re-rout one end if you don't like it. that's how i built my test track.


                  • #12
                    Slothead (I always want to call you "Moe"), I have seen a track like you describe. It was two huge sweepers with a squeeze at each end. I was sure it would be a big PIA, but it actually worked out to be fun. It was the sweeper turns that made it work. You didn't really notice the squeezes unless you were right on top of somebody. One thing to remember- if you do this, you need to plan to be able to duck under the track because its tough to retrieve cars across a wide expanse. The one I saw was over 8 feet wide at the apex of the sides, and at least 20 feet long. Having it high enough to duck under actually was part of the fun, since you could bend over to get a ground level view of your car zooming by.

                    Here's a chicane we used to race on every week:

                    I'm glad to hear you got your "summer car" out of the barn. I hear that even though its only May, someone in Maine actually saw something green the other day. The only parts of Maine I'm familiar with are the coastal boat building yards and the route to Montreal. I love wooden boats and always planned a trip to Montreal.

                    Another thing- A few years back when the Chicago chapter of HRW had annual insanity sessions, they hosted a crazy race on a flat figure-8. Participants were encouraged to modify their cars with spear points, large wood screws, and the ever-popular rack-o'-nails up front. There were no survivors. You can rest assured that whatever you build, it will be better than that catastrophe.
                    Last edited by waaytoomuchintothis; May 22, 2020, 12:40 PM.