BUILDING THE CIRCUITS

Whilst my F1 cars are fairly amateurish replicas of the real thing, I am very proud of my circuits. I mentioned earlier that I use Scalextric track, but in a modified form. Until about three years ago I ran on normal 2-lane track, and used cross-overs to get from the inside lane to the outside and vice-versa. I have never used fencing, so a car cornering on the outside lane had very little room to slide its back-end before the rear wheel dropped off the track. I overcame this problem by converting to a one-lane track, with the groove running down the centre of the road.

Clearly, this obviates against racing anyone else, but then I never do that anyway, so it didn't matter. What did matter was that it enabled me to create 8 different radii of turn; this in turn meant that I could reproduce the shape of real circuits more accurately. Briefly, I create the centre groove by cutting off one sets of rails, and therefore, the outside edge of the track to which they are attached; in the case of a straight piece of track, I then glue (plastic weld) the piece I have cut off (minus the rails) back onto the opposite side. I lose a small amount of track width, (the width of the two missing rails) but this matter not a jot. In the case of curved pieces, if I have cut the outside off a standard curve, I have to attach the outside of an inner curve to it. (Don't worry if this makes no sense - it does when you do it!)

Here is a diagram which may explain it all:

As I said, this technique gives me 8 different curve radii. I call them: inner inners; outer inners; inner standards; outer standards; inner outers; outer outers; inner wide radius, and finally, outer wide radius. Confused ? You wouldn't be if you saw them.

For example, la Source at Spa is made from inner inners; while Druids at Brands Hatch is outer inners; the Parabolica at Monza begins as inner standards, opens into inner outers, and ends with inner wide radius. I can't swap from an inner standard to an outer standard in the middle of a corner, because the connectors would be the wrong way round. I have made some 'converter' pieces to get me from what would be the inside groove to the outside one, but I have only modified straight pieces so far.

The final wrinkle I use to help me produce good replicas is that I have cut some pieces of track in half. An Outer Curve turns through 22.5 degrees. If you cut one in half, you get two pieces that turn through just over 11 degrees. This means, mathematically, that any corner I build must be within 6 degrees of the correct angle of turn. As an example, if you look at a map of the Estoril circuit, the first turn is a 90 degree-er - no problem; but the next one turns through more than 90. Originally I used to make it 90 degrees, but it didn't look right. With normal Scalextric track pieces, the next angle possible would be 112.5 degress - far too much. With my 'half-sized' piece, I get just over 100 degrees, which looks just about right. The 'sharpness' of the corner determines which radius of curve I use.

In December 2002 I tried to build the old Syracuse track that was used for F1 races in the 50s and 60s. I became very frustrated because I could not get it to look right. Even my 11 degree pieces didn't help. So.... I made 2 pieces that are half the size of those 11 degree bits. Now, there is no corner on any track that I cannot get within 2-3 degrees of; and that should be close enough for ANYONE!

My biggest frustrations lay in the area of long gentle curves, like the start/finish straight at Monaco to name but one. This type of curve has to be made up as straight-bend-straight-bend-straight-bend. Not bad, but not smooth to drive. Well, you can't have it all.

Update: 16th January 2003

Well, actually, you can! I have now made 2 m.d.f. track sections with copper tape rails that represent the old harbour section at Monaco (the Tabac/Gasworks/St. Devote section) and the curve through the tunnel. Now, when I build Monaco (old version) these m.d.f pieces are incorporated into the layout and they work beautifully. I even made myself a little tunnel to put on the harbour section.

Here are 2 pictures of those track sections.....


Sometime in the future I hope to add some pit boxes and trees to the space between the two sections of track in the lower picture but so far I have not been able to find some suitable sized trees at a sensible price.

If you would like to see maps of some of the circuits I build, please click here,
or here to return to my home page.