Since I last played with a Scalextric set (not quite as long ago as I’d like to admit), it seems things have moved on a bit. In a dystopian present where most kids would rather play with their smartphone than with slot cars, Scalextric has clearly decided that if it can’t beat them, it had better join them.
In one giant leap for plastic racing car-kind, it’s harnessed the power of Bluetooth to link the misshapen replica of Silverstone on your front room carpet to your smartphone via the Scalextric ARC (App Race Control) app.
Prop your phone in the cradle opposite the start line and it’ll give you a proper five-and-out light start procedure, count down the laps and irrefutably tell you which driver’s won before providing telemetry to pore over on the sofa afterwards, from reaction time to real-life top speed in mph.
Adding a little more jeopardy to procedures is the option of pitstops. Turn on fuel and tyre wear and after a few laps you’ll have to stop in the ‘pit’ area at the start finish line for a few seconds for them to be digitally replenished. Ignore the call to come in (or miss your marks on the quite-hard-to-get-stopped-in pit box) and you’ll be DQ’d.
Otherwise the essential rules of the game remain the same. Either take the find-a-safe-speed-and-stick-with-it Tortoise strategy or go for the riskier limit-pushing Hare approach, which usually backfires when you have to retrieve your car from the skirting board on the other side of the room.
The ‘App Race Control’ set we tested came with two generic Viper-esque GT cars but the system’s compatible with any car from Scalextric’s line-up, which these days ranges from MGBs and Escort Mexicos to Audi R8s and Bugatti Veyrons. Some of the app’s controls are a bit fiddly and it briefly lost signal a couple of times, but otherwise it does bring a new dimension to an old-style toy.
Compatible with Android and Apple phones, the ARC powerbase can be connected to old sections of track too, so there’s a good excuse to dig any dusty Scalextric sets out of the loft.
Seems maybe everything really is better with Bluetooth after all.