While we love spreading the joy of slot car racing to people that have never done it before, we really love repeat racers. This year we were invited back by O’Reilley Media to OSCON, which was again held in our hometown of Austin, Texas. This international gathering of programming professionals was 4 days of learning about open source software, networking, and fun. The fun part is what we do best, and many of the participants in this conference took time from their hectic schedules to leave it all on the track! #OReilley #OSCON #Races2U
Races2U has been asked to build or consult on many interesting slot car projects over the years, but it is a rare opportunity when we get to act as a consultant and others do almost all the work. One of our most recent projects is an amazing piece of work, created by SISU Devices for Cisco, in collaboration with Races2U and talented acrylic artist Bill Cornelius of Central Texas Plastic Fabrication.
Although Races2U and Cisco have crossed paths many times at various tech trade shows and events such as the Open Source Convention (OSCON), NetApp Insite, and OpenStack Summit, this was a project far beyond our expertise, or that of any slot car guru for that matter. For what Cisco wanted, they really needed a talented mechanical, electrical, and software engineering team, so they turned to SISU Devices to develop and integrate some high-tech features into an otherwise pretty standard slot car track.
The purpose of this project was for Cisco to be able to demonstrate through a visual means how their Time-Sensitive Network Switches (TSN) would route priority traffic over routine traffic to keep networks running smoothly. How better to demonstrate this than using actual automotive traffic, on a smaller scale. The track was designed to have a series of features that would normally impede traffic flow- a draw bridge, toll gates, and giant windmills (not normally a problem on most roads, but hey…). The idea was for users to be able to drive their cars on the track, both in “normal” mode, where they would have to wait for the obstacles to clear (or crash), or to run in TSN mode, where the obstacles would sense the cars on the road and synchronize with them to keep traffic flowing smoothly. In the event of a crash, there are emergency switches (red buttons on yellow boxes)at either end of the track that the staff manning the track can hit in an instant and stop the action.
SISU Devices is an Austin area company that specializes in industrial automation, and is staffed by some of the best and brightest engineers and designers in several different fields who create robots and machinery that help make difficult tasks seem easy, or in this case, create a slot car track that would fulfill the needs of their client, Cisco. So, if you have all kinds of engineers on staff, but no slot car experts, where do you turn? Well, to Races2U of course. We spent several hours with some of the talented folks at SISU going over the merits and drawbacks of various types of slot cars and tracks- digital vs. analog, routed wood vs. plastic manufactured, the differences between various brands of track. After much discussion, we settled on using Scalextric sport track for the project, based primarily on its width, flexibility, and smaller turn radii. The idea was for the track to evoke the streets of San Francisco, and to allow for some elevation changes (although in the end that was not necessary). The cars are a mixture of Scalextric and Carrera modified with smaller guides to run on Scalextric track. (Carrera models shown). The overall size of the track is roughly 3.5 feet wide by 14 feet long, and all assembled weighs close to half a ton!
Now where it gets techy- Rather than running a DC voltage through the controllers and the controller varying the voltage on the track, the engineers at SISU connected the controller to a power amplifier that would simultaneously send power to the track and signal to the other electronic components integrated into the overall system. Through a series of sensors built into the track, computers knew the precise location of the cars at all sectors through the circuit. The magnets in the bottom of the cars would trigger some sensors, while laser sensors would trigger other responses when their light beam was broken. This allowed not only synchronization with or removal of the obstacles, but also for interesting visual effects, such as LED lighting placed along the edge of the track to follow the cars as they drove around the track. The effect is mesmerizing and quite exciting to watch. Rather than create skyscrapers to simulate downtown San Francisco, Cisco’s own network devices act as buildings, and their prominent placement on the track allows them to show customers exactly what they look like, while in a very differing setting then where they would normally be used.
All of the telemetry from the cars was visible on the displays mounted above the track, and you could see where a car was in real time on the track map. Another interesting feature of this track was the use of high resolution/high speed cameras to show the cars from various angles. Although this is not the first time that cameras have been used to show the action on the track (Click here to see a track we built for Interstate Batteries), it may be the first time that it was done with such clarity and the ability to see the action replayed in super-slow motion. The action and replays are also displayed on one of the screens above the track.
Now, to go along with the high-tech nature of this track, it needed a high-tech look as well. A Central Texas artist, Bill Cornelius, created a landscape built out of various colors of acrylic. A deep transparent blue was used for the water, a smokey grey and white for the terrain, and layers of clear stacked acrylic for the iconic Trans-America tower. The Golden Gate Bridge (modeled after the Cisco logo, or is it vice-versa) was built in red. We always wondered why the Golden Gate is red- it’s actually vermilion and it is to be more visible in the fog, but that’s another story.
The exposed wires, relays, laser sensors, switches and cameras all add to the high-tech look and feel of this masterpiece. The entire assembly is on an alulminum frame and industrial casters so it can easily be transported/moved to various trade shows and expositions wherever Cisco needs it to be. The TV gantry even lowers down into the base. Overall an amazing piece of work, and Races2U was proud to be a part of it, no matter how small our part was.
THEY may be one of the sexiest and most flamboyant – not to mention expensive – sports cars in the world, but don’t even think about asking for a pink Ferrari.
IT’S the ultimate in luxury sports cars — noisy, incredible to drive and possibly one of the most gawked-at set of wheels on the road.
But the one thing you will never see come out of the Ferrari factory is one in pink.
“It just doesn’t fit into our whole ethos to be honest,” Ferrari’s Australasia CEO, Herbert Appleroth tells news.com.au. “It’s a brand rule. No Pink. No Pokémon Ferraris!
“There are other colours that aren’t in our DNA as well and they are wonderful colours too but some are perhaps more suited to other brands,’’ he says, ever so diplomatically.
“The most popular colour is still red but we are trying to give as many choices as possible to everyone.”
While red does make up for around a third of Ferrari sales around the world, it is followed by silver and black with white being a colour Appleroth says is trending ‘upwards.’
“Enzo Ferrari used to say a different Ferrari for every Ferrari-ista, as globally we don’t want two cars to be the same.
“We have invested in our dealerships so each one has a tailored made, personalisation area.”
Of course, if you are spending anything from $400,000 to $2.5 million on a Ferrari you may choose to go elsewhere to have it painted pink once you have driven it out of the dealership. But at this point, there won’t be any pinkies brm-brm-brm-ing out of a showroom anytime soon.
“Every Ferrari is customised, personalised or bespoke,” says Mr Appleroth.
“There are many different levels of personalisation from sitting in the dealership and working through all of your options to the tailor-made progamme where you fly to Italy to the factory in Maranello and sit in the atelier and work out your specifications.
“And there is the one-off program where it starts with the chassis and everything is completed around your specifications. But they are very, very rare. Eric Clapton has one like that.”
Mr Appleroth says the car brand produces an ongoing book with all designs from all over the world so they can see what some of the trends and what some cultures are doing when it comes to design.
“Like anything in fashion, we push the boundaries and our personalisation programs allow for our clients to basically create a couture car.”
And who exactly are the people buying these extravagant, mechanically masterful fast cars?
“Actually the car industry is booming,” Appleroth explains. “In our space, the ‘super’ car market, it has never been as good as it is now.
“In our segment, the Ferrari world, we have seen a 48 per cent growth in the last financial year. There are number of factors to it, from our economy doing well, there’s a stability in the market and people are doing well and feeling confident about their primary investment, which is usually real estate.
“There are people who have worked hard and think ‘I want to treat myself’ and they also see a car like this as an investment as the cars appreciate simply because they are so limited and all bespoke.”
While a half million dollar fast car is a mighty big treat-to-self, Mr Appleroth thinks Australians are maturing when it comes to buying ‘luxury’.
“Maybe 10 or 15 years ago luxury was thought of as a bit of snobbery,” he says. “But I think people like to reward themselves now and look up to those who have done well as opposed to the tall poppy thing where we were always ready to cut down anyone who has worked hard for what they’ve got.”
Either way, ‘the Ferrari family’, a term Appleroth has given to Aussies who are in the F-club, turned out in force in Canberra on the weekend at an event that was an ode to all things Italian and car-like, Auto Italia.
Held on the lawns of Old Parliament House there were hundreds of Italian cars at the public event, from the likes of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Fiat, Lamborghini and Ferrari. Dotted around the lawns and owned by collectors and Italian car enthusiasts the lawns would have never had seen so much car porn in one space at one time.
So, what it’s really like drive a Ferrari:
When the Ferrari dealer handed over the keys to the $400,000 (plus!) Ferrari California T for the weekend test drive to Canberra, I suddenly felt rich. Like, seriously rich. Powerful and successful. OK, I shouldn’t really need a car to tell me that my life is a complete and utter triumph (insert eyeroll emoji here) but hey, this went the right way about doing it.
My little, borrowed friend was red, low-rise, streamlined, well-endowed at the front and bloody sexy.
The fact it can go from zero 100km/h in 3.6 seconds kind of concerned me as I slowly wrangled it out onto a busy and relatively narrow street from its inner city Sydney dealership.
But once I was sorted, seat hoisted up, strapped in and the ‘launch’ button pushed, it was hasta la vista baby.
Not being fluent in motorise — I’l leave all that torque to bona fide motoring writers — I have never seen as many people stare in my direction as much as they did than when I was behind this set of wheels. Needless to say, it is a car that requires your lipstick stays glossy and your hair fresh as you feel like you are on show just as much as your wheels are.
Some peeps stare in sheer wonderment at this marvel of motor engineering while a few look at you like you are an indulgent toss.
Which, as someone who grew up in public housing and where humility and self-deprecation was instilled into us from day one and … oh, stuff it. It’s just a superbly brilliant experience and ride.
We (carefully) motored down to Canberra to the Auto Italia event we’d been invited to and while 110km is our MAX Australian freeway speed (which isn’t even a stroll in Ferrari land) I kept the faith, much to the chagrin of my foot, which could smell the lead it was desperate to pedal.
Look, I’m not going to go all motormouth on you, preferring to go the more luxe and style route.
The fact is, this auto gearbox still has the feel and noise of a manual and the leather and stitching is exquisite and there is plenty of room in the boot and the convertible roof is a cinch to get off, with the push of just one button. Aah. it’s a real ride.
Okay, so if I was ever in the site to afford one, would I? Bloody hell, yes. Even if I nearly do my back in each time I limbo-ed into the drivers seat.
*Melissa was a media guest of Ferrari at the annual Auto Italia event in Canberra.
Again this year it was an honor and pleasure for Races2U to be a part of the BMW NAC in Las Vegas. Our wonderful sponsor Resolut Marketing again hosted us in their booth, and we really enjoy working with this great team of people. With offices in the US and Sweden, this company provides digital marketing solutions for some of the biggest automotive brands all over the globe. This year they were joined by their collaborative partners Thomas Direct, who provide physical marketing materials such as print and promotional items, and there was a great synergy between them. The amazing people of both organizations as well as all of the other vendors and BMW staff were a lot of fun to work with, and after attending this event the last few years, they are becoming more like friends and family than just another group of people at another event. The event was again at the amazing Aria resort in Las Vegas, and the elegant 5-star venue could not be a better place to host these wonderful people and automobiles. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Resolut, Thomas Direct, and BMW/Mini and to returning again next year.
Check out the pictures here: https://goo.gl/photos/r5bYYNMWFC69yM2H9
This may be a bit longer than our normal blog entry, but there were so many interesting things going on at the NASCC conference put on by the AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction) that we just want to share with you. Please make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom- you don’t want to miss anything 🙂
Held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Center in San Antonio Texas, this 3 day conference was about all things steel- fabrication, construction, design and architecture, testing, and more. There were manufacturers of heavy equipment, hand tools, bolts, girders, CNC machines, etc… We were hired by LeJeune Bolt company to act as a draw to their booth at this show, not that they needed us. LeJeune Bolt sponsors the #91 car owned by Team M Motorsports’ Brad and Nancy Mannstedt and driven by Ty Majeski, a rising star in the world of stock car racing. He and the car were both in the booth, and getting to know this talented and humble young man at the show was a real privilege. Along with our race track and the real car and driver, the booth was manned by the amazing staff of LeJeune Bolt Company. You could tell by their interactions with all the other attendees that they were well liked and well respected by their customers and competitors alike, and it was a great pleasure working with them. By the end of the show, they felt more like friends and colleagues than clients, and it was a great experience for the Races2U pit crew.
One of the things we got to do during the rare bits of downtime during the conference was learn about the industry, and the Races2U girls got to play steel workers for a bit using both the Torque and Angle system from our hosts LeJeune as well as a hammer drill from our neighboring booth Hilti Tools. In this video you can see Skylar and Erica learning the trade.
One of the other highlights of the show was the opening day party, put on by one of the shows big sponsors, Peddinghaus Corporation. They really went all out, renting out Howl at the Moon, one of the largest venues on San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk, with a full buffet dinner, open bar, and entertainment provided by none other than the car guy’s car guy Jay Leno. If that wasn’t enough to keep people entertained, later in the evening we were serenaded by winners of a Karaoke contest who were all incredible, but all paled beside the “ringer” singer who was none other than Roderick Dixon, a professional tenor with so many credits to his name we can’t list them all, but you can read about him and hear him on his website.
We could not have planned this better if we tried! By sheer coincidence, there were two large trade shows in completely different industries that happened to be taking place at the same time in the same convention center that both had a racing theme. This was not the first time that Races2U has set up tracks at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center at the National Harbor in Washington DC, but we’re betting it was the first time there were 4 tracks there at the same time!
LKQ Corporation, a large automotive aftermarket parts supplier, was having their annual corporate training March 8-10, and hired Races2U to provide a couple of slot car tracks to provide entertainment for their executives, vendors, and sponsors. In cooperation with LKQ’s marketing partner Club Colors, we branded the cars and track with their logos, and even created a custom car hauler for them. Our tracks were set up in the center of the exhibit hall, and Races2U pit crew kept the races running smoothly throughout the event.
At the same time, Henry Schein Medical was having their national sales meeting in the adjacent hall, from March 9-11, and their theme was “Need for Speed”. They had over 2000 attendees and vendors from various medical equipment and supply companies. Although Horiba did not go all out with renting a large track from us this time around, we were happy to see they did set up a small slot car track in their booth. Alfa Wasserman purchased a Carrera Go! track to be a part of their booth at the show. It was good to see that both the racing theme and slot car racing are still a part of this large event 5 years after we first set up a slot car track for them in Dallas.
Whether your event is big or small, and you need racing entertainment for a dozen people or a thousand, Races2U will bring the fun anywhere you need it!
Races2U just completed another event here in Austin for the Electronic Representatives Association. It was held at Stubbs BBQ on Red River, home of some of Austin’s best BBQ and live music. We set up our NASCAR track out on the deck of their event hall, and the weather was perfect! We created a custom car hauler truck for them, and they were thrilled:
“Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the racing at our conference party, and that was no surprise considering how competitive our members are! You should know that we awarded the ERA truck to our first place winner the next day in front of our entire group of attendees. Thanks so much for everything!”
Let Races2U go the extra mile for your next corporate event!
We recently received a consignment of many great, lightly used Carrera items, most of which still have the original boxes and manuals. It’s a great opportunity to expand your track or car collection at less than retail prices. Some of these cars have become collectible, and won’t last long on our shelves. Come check out what we have in store- at these prices, they won’t last long.
Races2U was recently hired to set up a couple of slot car tracks at Flexera Software’s annual sales meeting in Schaumburg, Illinois, a large suburb of Chicago. At first we were a little nervous, as a Texas based company, most of our personnel don’t have much experience with the harsh winters of the Great Lakes. As it turns out, the weather was wonderful, and we were really warmed up by the great reception we received. We were working with the fantastic event planners from Plan On It, and they did an amazing job of putting on this multi-day event for this international Fortune 500 company. There was delicious food and drink, and of course our racing was a part of the entertainment. It was really a privilege to entertain so many great people from all over the world, and we had racers from England, Italy, France, India, and more. It was almost like attending a real Formula 1 race with the international crowd. A big “Thank you!!!” to our wonderful hostesses Lynda and Teresa and the rest of the Plan On It staff, and all the participants from Flexera who raced with us. Our tracks were sponsored by KPMG, and you will note their logo appears all over the track as a thank you for their sponsorship. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without the help of our two amazing “Pit Crew” track attendants, Cierra and Teresa, who kept the races running smoothly.