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Racing at Sidewinder - 1/31/18

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#1 rvec


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Posted 05 February 2018 - 05:47 PM

A big thank you goes out to Bill and Billy Strange, owners of Sidewinder Raceway for hosting a great event and welcoming an out of towner, actually, two out of towners to the mix. In addition, I would like to thank Michael Wright for the competitive loaner cars, which, fortunately, I returned in good order. I would also like to acknowledge the great group of guys that race at Sidewinder, friendly, helpful and there to have fun and to win of course.

Over the years, I have, written extensively about the facility, its unique economic model and the friendly folks that own the business and those who race there. Sidewinder Raceway is located in a strip mall in Rancho Cordova (a suburb of Sacramento, California). After more than four years of operation, the business is going strong. It is far from what I would call a traditional commercial slot car operation. The focus is on realism and fun more than speed. Customer service is exemplary. The facility is always spotless, well organized and well stocked with 1/32 RTR cars, aftermarket equipment, an assortment of 1/24 plastic models and more. Bill, Billy and others really know the product line and how to set-up the cars. They are always willing to share speed secrets, well at least most of them! The 2,400 square-foot facility houses three 1/32, 4 lane tracks. The largest track, Atlanta Raceway Park, is approximately 84 running feet while the smaller road course, Florence Road Circuit, is approximately 74 feet. The latest addition has been the four lane Dirt oval. All of the tracks were designed and built by the family. The road courses feature realistic changes in elevation and a variety of tight and sweeping corners. Atlanta Raceway Park is adorned with great looking scenery including simulated grass, trees, buildings, guardrails etc. Some landscaping has been added to the Florence Road Circuit. More will be added as time permits. The “Dirt Oval” is approximately 55 running feet and is also landscaped. Custom wall hangings add to the realistic atmosphere. Cars are run without the benefit of magnets or glue. Below are images of the tracks.




Before proceeding to a narrative of the latest event, I would like to add a bit more information about the Dirt oval. This specialized track is open to specialized cars. So far, three classes have been established including Sprint cars, dirt modified and dirt stock. Below are a few images of these unique vehicles. To make racing interesting, cocoa powder is sprinkled on the track to simulate a dirt surface. The driving experience is completely different with lots of wheel-spin and with a relatively slick surface; the cars are a handful to drive. Some of the guys are experimenting with four wheel drive cars including some of the rally cars. Bill is currently working on a formula for early dirt cars. Wow, lots of different options and a totally different slot car experience. This should be loads of fun!




The January 31 event was staged at Atlanta Raceway Park and featured Group 5 and Scalextric GT cars. Several classes of cars are run at Sidewinder. In general, each week features two classes of cars. To keep it interesting, classes rotate from week to week. Some classes are bone stock while others allow aftermarket components. I was surprised and impressed with how well the Group 5 and Scalextric GT cars accelerated and handled.

Sidewinder employs several different race formats depending on the number of classes run on a given race night, the particular class(s) in question and the number of participants. Races are expertly seeded by the Billy, the race director. On this particular evening we ran a “Sprint” format. Each heat was 8 laps in length and points were awarded by finishing order in a given heat (4 for first, 3 for second, 2 for third and 1 for fourth). Final standings in each division (novice, sportsman, and expert) were determined by the total number of points amassed by each racer in each of his four heats. This format puts a huge premium on consistency. A single off can mean the difference between first and fourth. There is simply not enough time in eight laps to make up for mistakes.
This week’s event was staged at the larger of the two road courses, Atlanta Raceway Park, and attracted 20 participants. There were two main classes of racing; Group 5 and Scalextrix GT. Each participant was allowed to field a car in each of the main classes. Furthermore each class had a subset of classes designated Spec or Modified.

I arrived in mid-afternoon to get some much needed practice. At 3 p.m., more than four hours before race time, there were already a half dozen or so slot-heads working diligently and testing their machines. As I entered, I was greeted by the owners and some of the racers I met on previous visits. After talking to Bill Strange about the operation, the new Dirt Oval and about slots in general, I snapped some photos and meandered over to the pit tables for some conversation. Michael Wright offered up a choice of several loaner cars. After testing each for several laps, I settled on a competitive Group 5 BMW 320 and an Audi R8 for the races. Both cars were well prepared and competitive. Images are shown below.


Audi R8.jpg

I then settled into some practice on the Atlanta Raceway Park road course. After over a year of absence, I was rusty to say the least. The course is tricky with a mix of sharp and sweeping turns, a long straight with a hairpin at its end and some challenging S turns. Over the course of the next couple of hours practicing on different lanes with either the BMW or the Audi, my lap times improved. I got more comfortable with the course; yet, I never really mastered the S curves and lost quite a bit of time there. The cars performed in similar fashion and with similar lap times. I found the BMW a bit easier to drive. The Audi seemed to break loose if I exceeded the limit in the corners. Both were fun to drive.

In practice, the experienced drivers passed easily and often. Thank heaven for seeding. For the most part, there were three seedings in each class from novice to expert. I was placed where I belonged, in the Novice class. This evening there were four novice drivers in Group 5 and the same four in Scalextric GT. With competitive equipment, I had a chance to win in both Group 5 and Scalextric. Read on for results.

Race #1 - Group 5 Modified

The Modified Group 5 race attracted four participants. These cars were fast (fast laps in the 6.7-6.9 second range) and piloted by some of the most experienced racers at Sidewinder. It was a close contest for the top step of the podium. Don Hunter driving the #1 Porsche 935 won the race scoring 13 points. David Helmer driving the Capri Zakspeed was second only 2 points behind the leader. Bill Strange and Paul Hendricks battled it out for the bottom step of the podium. In the end, Bill driving the BMW M1 finished in the third spot while Paul driving the #4 Porsche 935 was fourth. Below is an image of the grid, results and the podium.




Race #2 Group 5 Spec. Novice

Billy seeded the four least experienced racers in the Group 5 Spec. class. The group pitted two out of towners (Rich Vecchio – me from Oregon and David Farrow from England) with two locals (Doug Day and Peter Welch)

My strategy was to run a conservative race with my loaner BMW 320, avoid offs and hope for the best. Sticking to this plan, I managed to finish first in three heats and second in one heat for a total of 15 points, enough for the win. Doug (driving a BMW M1 I think) and I battled it out in all four heats. Doug finished first in one heat and second in three heats to amass 13 points, enough for second place. David finished third and Peter fourth.

In fairness to David, it had been three years since his last visit to Sidewinder and he had less than half of an hour of practice before the race. As you will see, he did much better in his next novice race.



Race #3 Group 5 Spec. Sportsman

“Super Mario” Alvarado driving a BMW M1, walked away with the top spot in the Group 5 Spec. Sportsman class winning all four heats and scoring a perfect 16. There was some very close competition for the other two spots on the podium. In the end, Nathan Cady, driving a BMW 320 finished second with 10 points and John Vina driving a Porsche 935 finished third with 9 points.




Race #4 Group 5 Spec. Expert

Any of the top four could have won this race. The cars were quite evenly matched turning fast laps turning fast laps around the seven second range. In the end, Vince Puleo (IMSA Mustang) won the race followed by Mike Wright (BMW M1) and Billy Strange (Porsche 935).




Race #6 Scalextric GT Novice


Again, Billy seeded the least experienced racers in this class. Again, it was the two out of towners versus the two locals. David now armed with some additional practice and a loaner from Michael Wright ran a more consistent race than in his first attempt. Rich and David battled it out for the top spot in each of four heats. Rich driving an Audi A8 had a bad first heat finishing third while David’s worst finish was second. In the end David won the race with 14 points, Rich was second, only a single point behind. Doug and Peter fought it out for the bottom step of the podium. Doug prevailed with 8 points, Peter with 5.



Race #7 Scalextic GT Sportsman/Expert


There were a total of eight participants in this race that mixed Sportsman and Experts alike. Alan Bengtson (Aston Martin DBR9) won with Michael Wright (Mercedes AMG GT3) second and Billy Strange third.


Race #8 Scalextric GT Modified


Although I would have liked to stay to watch the hot shoes race in the GT Modified class, I was just too tired. I would, however, like to acknowledge the top three finishers. Don Hunter was first, Paul Hendricks second and Vince Puleo Jr. was third.





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Rich Vecchio

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Posted 05 February 2018 - 07:17 PM

Those are awesome 1/32 scale tracks. In each Racer Sideways GP5 car class did everyone run the stock yellow Flat 6 motor?

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#3 rvec


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Posted 05 February 2018 - 09:10 PM

Sorry, I won't be much help is the spec. department. I don't usually race 1/32 and my cars were loaners. You might check the Sidewinder Raceway facebook page or website but good luck, I looked but could not find them. Perhaps one of the racers from Sidewinder can chime in here.

I agree, the tracks, especially Atlanta Raceway Park are awesome and very fun to drive on. I know some of the classes use non-spec motors, and running gear. These are very quick and handle great, but as I said the Group 5 cars were great fun as well. My guess is that they use the stock motors

Rich Vecchio

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Posted 05 February 2018 - 10:43 PM

Hi Rich,


Nice report on a sterling set up.


Am looking for a road trip to go some distance. Can the owners be persuaded to do 1/24th? (large wheels-like yours) Would like to demonstrate whet we Oregonians are up to.

Todd Messinger
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#5 rvec


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Posted 06 February 2018 - 09:37 AM

Hi Rich,
Nice report on a sterling set up.
Am looking for a road trip to go some distance. Can the owners be persuaded to do 1/24th? (large wheels-like yours) Would like to demonstrate whet we Oregonians are up to.

Thanks Todd. The tracks are run with no glue and foam tires are not permitted. They used to run 1/24 BRM but that program failed. The tracks are really designed for 1/32 and some of the corners are very tight, too tight, in my opinion for 1/24. If you bring some non-foam tires, maybe the Scale-Auto sets, they might let you run - up to them of course.

Rich Vecchio

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 08:01 PM

I was fortunate to stop in to race there last year. As reported, it's an immaculate, well-stocked store for the racers in their 1/32nd scale program. With eBay stores and racers selling cars and parts online, I don't know how it's successful as a business model, but if it is it would be great to see other raceways such as this one pop up in other towns. Our 1/32nd scale Farrout club has a nice variety of plastic and routed tracks in 11 to 13 spots in the LA area, but only one of them is in a store, and it doesn't cater exclusively to slot racers. It would be nice to have a place like this nearby to meet friends and race. I look forward to racing with those guys again someday.

On another note: I have a routed track, and only run no glue, no magnets. When I have put tire treatment (VTek) on foam tires, I was very surprised to see how well they worked without damaging the grip when I went back to rubber and urethane tires.


Eddie (not so Fast anymore) Shorer
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