UPDATED 01-13-22 Finally completed all of the changes needed to the track. The fragile proto-type wires were replaced with 22 AWG heavy stranded wire. Shrink tubing was added to these connections. The wiring section has a cover plate so fingers won’t press on them during setup and takedown. The long timer cable had the finger busting tie-wraps removed and replaced with PVC cable wrap. Serial and Power cable mounts were added so the cables quickly wrap and unwrap then secured with velcro. A mounting point was added for the stand when folded down for secure storage. 2 of the track stand angle brackets were trimmed to allow unobstructed movement when folding and unfolding. One faulty switch was replaced. The control panel switch labels were replaced with a much simpler labeling.
Here’s where the story begins… updated 03-22-2022
2018-09-01 I was appointed PWD Man in the Chair this year of our pack. The cub master came over and said, find us a new track and make it happen!
In this situation the pack is upgrading from a Super Timer/Super Track purchased handed down in 2001. This track creates numerous problems with cars flying off the track due to the 3 hump rollercoaster at the starting ramp. Then being an edge guided track, the cars would bounce side to side all the way down and potentially fly off the track from that. Then if the cars made it to the end they would crash into the finish gate and bounce off that into others lanes only to have other cars smash into them creating more damage to the cars in the process. The original design of PWD tracks were always centered guided and that keep the side to side movement at a minimum as they traverse the track.
The research began online with all of the track types and track starting devices. Most tracks researched are a pull the gate handle type with options for a solenoid attached to flip the handle and release the cars. With those solenoid release designs, you still have to flip the gate back up after each heat. Then there is a handle sticking up that create storage space issues and springy dinghies etc. IMO, Besttrack.com is the… best track with New Directions components attached at the starting gate!
Complimenting the besttrack, I ran into the New Directions.org website and I was intrigued with the full motion start gate GRB. This option is the only design that opens the start gate automatically triggered by Grand Prix Race Manager and then resets it back into position for the next race heat. The software in GPRM is already setup to work with the releasing the cars on start.
The build details…
This device is complimented by the LT4 – Light Tree v4 with very bright, doubled sided, 1W un-diffused LEDS on a stick to countdown 5 seconds before the race heat starts. This visual device helps the race audience see a race is about to begin and builds the anticipation. After the staging light countdown, the start gate is triggered, releasing the cars. Built into the Light Tree v4(staging lights) is an IR receiver that will also trigger the staging lights using a TV remote. I created a custom IR remote by hacking up a TV remote button control then stuffing it in a white drain tube with a battery pack. It’s been called the P-905 Track Blaster. At the top of the track blaster are (7) IR LEDS(950uM) and (22) UV(A) LEDs for a cool blue effect when triggered.
This is a fun scout option to run a race. On each race heat, a scout can start the race! Any home TV remote will trigger it. For example, a race heat is up on the screen. The scout is starting in Lane 1 or in our case the blue lane, he is setup at the finish end of the track. The scout can press the remote to start the Staging Light countdown which then triggers the start gate to release the cars. And then the start gate is closed automatically. This takes an operator off the track not having to pull the handle and reset the start gate.
The Best Track 42′, 4 lane aluminum track with leveling kit was purchased with Grand Prix Race Manager v18(at the time). Then, the New Directions options were added: GRB, LT-4, SCI, PB3. The integration took a number of months off and on tweaking the setup to be super durable, look great, and allow several different race start options. It’s now easy to operate with nothing to remove, un-tape or unbolt before or after the Scout Pinewood Derby Race. Simply setup and level the track, connect power and computer and race.
The build idea was to be able to unplug and roll up the serial and power cables and store in the box. Out of the box the New Direction products simply bolt right in and do the job fine. I decided to take the new directions products to a new level with the integration. This build made the setup and pack up very easy with as little effort as possible to take apart for storage.
All of the New Directions hardware is permanently bolted or tie-wrapped on with just a serial cable to the Race Manager Computer, and a power cable.
The start gate track section setup process involves opening the box, attaching the start gate fold up legs and setting it upright at the track layout start position. Then, rolling out the long multi-cable assembly to the Champ finish gate.
These (3) cables are tie wrapped together and hide under the elevated leveling feet under each track piece. The multi-cable includes the serial cable, 3.5mm start/reset cable, and a 12V extension cable to the timer. All that’s left is a power cord to the Grounded Power Strip mounted under the start gate.
The timer’s 12V supply was extended from the start gate from the power pack attached to the power strip bolted on a grounded plate underneath with an upgraded 2A capacity. This multi-cable assembly neatly tucks under the track legs purchased with the leveling kit.
The GRB full motion, rotary solenoid operating the start gate is a beast! It needed to be tamed with a discrete counter balancing weight to smooth out the gate release accompanied with an adequate spring return. There is a video of that below in slow-mo on the Samsung S8 without any bounce on gate release. The results are very smooth.
The LT4 had the 1W undiffused LEDS removed from the board and located along the sides wired into the sand blasted diffused lenses. This makes it easy so there is no need to remove the original LT4 white tube or roll up the cable and manage the 3 AA batteries. The IR receiver is mounted at the top.
The LT4 PCU 4.5V battery case was removed and wired to a 4.5V power pack. The LT4 circuit board is mounted in a 3/4″ drain tube mounted under and painted black.
The SCI computer connection to start the LT4 or GRB directly via GPRM software is mounted under so that the LEDS were visible. Then the PB3 button was reconfigured in a separate black box to the green illuminated switch at the panel. It was also attached to the 4.5V power pack removing the original 3.2V button cell battery. Again, no batteries to fail and replace.
This will be used to start the race at the track if the IR device is not used. The left switch, in the group of (3) switches to the right power the LT4 and change the cabling to the LT4 and GRB. Basically it’s running the race with Light Tree – On or OFF.
The last (2) switches in the group of (3), change mode from LT4 to GRB or straight to the GRB. Or Light Tree – On or Off. The far left switch operates the start device either from GPRM software or by the IR P-905 Track Blaster (a hacked TV remote in a drain tube) to hand to each starting lane scout to begin each heat.
Then the far right red button is the Champ Timer – Reset / Test switch. This was moved to the back control panel to avoid shearing off from the side where it is originally installed. The standard 50′ Champ Timer – Reset / Test cable has a custom wired 3.5mm female stereo connector attached at the start and reset/test switches. It’s much easier to control from the back with a finger guard to prevent accidental resets.
The end result is awesome. It’s very flexible with many race modes.
So, with this setup and if GPRM – hardware setting has Solenoid Start Gate Light Tree enabled at 3 secs and with Enable Auto Advance and Enable Hands-Free Timing at 1 min in Racing Controls, the track can continuously run in full auto mode as long as you can feed the track new cars and offload cars in time.
2019-01-27 Our pack raced perfectly. No more cars getting ejected off the track and then blaming the scout team builders that they did something wrong in the build.
After the race a box was made. The BestTrack Beast Box.
Anyone else have any luck with using New Directions equipment? Add a comment below.
Take a look at the construction pics to see more details.
2021-03-02 The track had an issue with the exposed prototype wiring. The power connection to the Light Tree switch had a fracture in the solder joint. Somehow the wire was barely attached under the shrink tubing, but did not make connection. So the Light Tree would not power on. The track switches were set to manual start gate using the green lit button and the 2021 pack race continued, remotely.
I didn’t have enough time to finish all the details items like a switch cover, change the power and switch wiring to sturdy jacketed wiring, etc.
The prototype switch wiring is getting replaced with the good stuff. Jacketed 22awg 2 strand wire. Then tie wrapped to a support bar across the back. A cover is made to protect the wiring.