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PWD : Need recommendations on Tracks/Timers/Software

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This year will mark my fourth and last PWD for my Pack (Pk 461-Cleve, Oh)and I'd like to leave them with a better setup than I inherited.


I have searched a bit and would like recommendations on the following:


1. Piantedosi 4-6 Lane Track

2. Micro Wizard GP3 - P3LCD Timer, Laser Gate, PS pc serial interface

3. DerbyMaster Software

4. Anything else???


I know this is an expensive setup and I don't know if we can cough up the money for it, but isn't it better to do it once and do it right?


I picked Piantedosi because it seems to be a very high quality product. Betacraft (I believe) would be the same amount just for the extrusions, Besttrack looks nice (except for the straight-down, sudden curve first section)and I've heard that the aluminum tracks are so fast that you may have to add 1-2 sections just to differentiate who the winner is. Supertrack, the pastic one, doesn't look like it will hold up or is repairable. Some of the DIY models w/plans on the net look nice - but I don't know if I have the time or patience for all that.


Who votes for Aluminum, who votes for Wood, who votes for Plastic???


I'd like to go with a 6 lane track to shorten the race time, using average elasped time over, say, 4 runs to determine the winner. I have 40-50 kids and we run the race on 2 two-lane tracks. We run a double elimination(one for the tigers, one for everyone) and it takes 3-4 hours, with many losing interest after 20 min.

(Recommendations on alternatives to double-elimination also welcome.)


Micro Wizard seems to have the best selection of timers out there. I'm looking for simplicity, ACCURACY, and the ability to chart manually or run it all on a pc. My current tracks use 2 microswitches and a homemade flip-flop circuit (I think that's what its called, one circuit locks out the other once its made). It runs on batteries and we've had mistakes on close races. One dad (the winnerlast 3 years running) videotaped races to dispute unfavorable race results. (I think he cheated and paid someone to build a car for him -way too professional for kid work -recommendations accepted here on what too look for in terms of cheaters)


Any recommendations on the $25 Son of a Cheap Timer?

(just in case they don't give me any money


Software: DerbyMaster seemed to have the edge here. It runs on different methods, seemed to have better connectivity with different timers and Raceview seemed to have some limitations or gotcha's.



PS: Can I put this system togather and then give the trophies to the kids with the slowest times - at least I'll know that they worked on the car themselves?







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  • 1 month later...

Track - Piantedosi makes a good quality track, but it is unfinished, so make sure to budget time and money to finish it. I like the looks of the BestTrack track, but I haven't heard any firsthand reviews of it yet. In my mind the plastic SuperTrack surface should be fast and durable, but the sprinkler pipe support frame looks chintzy and wobbly.


Timer - If you are thinking of the Mirco Wizard Cheap Kit, go for the $40 kit since it has the computer interface that you can then use with GrandPrix Race Manager, DerbyMaster or RaceView software.


Software - You may want to check out GrandPrix Race Manager, at http://grandprix-software-central.com. There is a comparison to DerbyMaster and RaceView at http://grandprix-software-central.com/gprm/comparison.htm.


Race Method - Perfect-N Type Charts created by Stan Pope and Cory Young. These charts ensure that each racer will race in each lane the same number of times and it will try to maximize the number of opponents for each racer. To earn more about these charts you can go to Stan's site at http://members.aol.com/standcmr/pwportal.html.


Hope this helps.


Randy(This message has been edited by gpraceman)

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"One dad (the winnerlast 3 years running) videotaped races to dispute unfavorable race results. (I think he cheated and paid someone to build a car for him -way too professional for kid work -recommendations accepted here on what too look for in terms of cheaters)"


Can we talk obsessed here! The first thing to look for is dad's who videotape finish lines! It sounds to me like you need to get away from "fastest finish times" and back to "having fun".


We don't have any fancy laser gates, finish line timers, pc interfaces or computer software. Our timers are quite simple, sometimes possibly incorrect, and we would not change them if we were offered the most expensive, high tech stuff out there. Our timers are 2 Assistant Scoutmasters from our Boy Scout Troop! They get down on their hands & knees (with the boys who are racing right down there with them) and they call 1st, 2nd & 3rd for each race. This is one of the ONLY times our Cubs get to interact with adults from the BS Troop. The boys love to see them and the ASM's love to do it. We have never, ever, had a parent or boy contest a decision made by an ASM!


This might be the last year for our track as well. It is wood, 3-lane, built, I believe, as an Eagle project many, many, many years ago! It is starting to show it's age and we usually have to repair it each year before we can use it. We have had a dad offer to build us a new one and we just might take him up on it. The new one will probably be wood also but we would really like something that takes less space to store than our present one!


We stopped double elimination about 6 years ago and will never go that route again. It creates to many bad feelings, sad kids, and boys with nothing to do but go home (or run around) because they have been eliminated from the race. We found a program on the web (I can't remember where but I think it has been mentioned on this forum before) that once you input your lanes, number of racers, and time, it will gererate a spreadsheet showing who races who so that every boy races every other boy and on each lane. It might take a little longer because we race ALL of the boys each heat. But the boys stay involved and HAVE FUN! Sure they want to win. We keep track and the final race is between the 3 cars with the most wins. But we want them to have fun and not focus on how fast their car is.

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I'm glad that you haven't had problems with human judging and parents or racers contesting results. We have not been as fortunate. We have a 4 lane track and had initially tried the "eyeball" finish line detection system and we had problems with some parents contesting the results. After that race we had built a simple finish line sensor system for under $100 and we have not had any arguments over results since. Since people are not worring over the results, they are having more fun with the race. It was a small price to pay.


If there are parents videotaping the race because they are worried about fairness in the results, then having a timing system may eliminate that worry and remove the distraction of them hovering over the finish line with a video camera. Achieving a fair race may be elusive, since there unfortunately are those that will skirt the rules and try to win at all costs, but reasonable attempts should be made if the overzealous are keeping everyone else from enjoying the race.


If your system is working for you, that is great, but each pack should decide for themselves whether to use tools such as times and software based on their previous experience. Though, with a 4, 6 or 8 lane track, I don't see how you could do otherwise.


Happy Racing and God Bless,



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We have a four-lane wooden track, made by a parent about ten years ago. It's holding up pretty well. We use a "three-times-and-you're-out" system - an electronic sensor at the finish line determines the order of finish (we don't time them), and cars 3 and 4 get an 'X'. Each car continues to race until it has accumulated three X's, then it's out. It works pretty well. In the past, lane assignment has been random - we now have a couple of volunteers working on a system that would make sure that every car essentially races on every lane, to be sure things are as fair as possible.


We've had virtually no complaints, so this relatively lo-tech system seems to work. :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

We had our first race on our new Best Trak aluminum, 6-lanes track. Boy ... is it fast! Last year, on our wooden track the fastest average time was 3.9021. This year the fastest average time was 2.905. The aluminum shaved off a full second.


We used Microwizard's starting and finishing gate. It only registered to the 1000th of a second. It seemed that this brought up a need for three tie-breakers.


We used Derby Master as the software. Fairly decent software that you can pretty much do everything except for grouping the cars according to their average time after the first heat, which is what we are used to, but good software nevertheless.


We ran 92 cars through each of the 6 lanes randomly within 2 hours ... with break, song, open class, and awards ... the whole derby lasted a hair over 3 hours ... not a disatisfied customer in the house! We handed out 92 ribbons (no one leaves without a ribbon) and 15 placement trophies by rank.


This year we did something different! I was determined to get every single car across that finish line ... so we helped everyone at check-in to get their car up to 5 ounces exactly. We even provided lube stations. It was wonderful to see that all the boys enjoyed every single race ... and there were 6 heats with 16 races each! Except for one or two of the over-zealous fathers who thought that they have the "secret to success!" We had a lot of "cinderella" cars. Several that I helped to add weights and lube even beat my sons' cars!


The best thing that came out of this is seeing one boy's face after I worked on his car. He brought a "plain Jane" car that he and his mother worked on. He kept on saying that he does not like his car and that other cars are much nicer than his. His mother was fairly stressed by this. I happened to have a page of "firebird" sticker. So I went on and applied the sticker to his car. You all should see the beaming smiles that came out him! Now that's worth all the trouble! His parting words were ... "wow my car is cool!"


Of course ... the other neat story that I would like to share is that of my 2nd-year Webelos. He worked hard on his bullet car (he did 90% of the car ... the power tool is where I took over) and when we put on the axles .. the axle supports broke (all four). I did my best to help him remedy the car. I finally ask him if he would like to use my car (the one that I was going to use for the Open Class). He declined and wanted to use his because he made it himself. His car consistently finished 2nd and 3rd of each heat. At the end, I was proud to announce that his car took 2nd in the Webelos 2 division. He was very proud .... one can see from his face! From my observation ... he is ready to join the scouting rank and it was my proudest moment of him!(This message has been edited by OneHour)

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OneHour -- are you in my Pack? We did the identical thing this weekend. Same track, same times, everything.


We've got a new Besttrack, too. Very fast -- even kinda scary the first time cars shoot down it. We run our races by rank, with each heat consisting of four runs with the cars rotating across all four lanes for fairness and to give each car more track time. Even if you are eliminated in the first round, your car gets to run four times. The top two cars advance and the bottom two retire. In years past, we tried to run a true double-elimination bracket, but it's very difficult to manage with the number of cars we have.


Even with the aluminum track, there is still lot of variation between lanes. After one four-run heat, two cars were tied. Since our timer records the time of the first-place car, we ran the two cars down the same lane for a timed, solo run. The winner won by one-hundredth of a second. To paraphrase Richard Prior, you can't see one-hundredth of a second. I don't know how you can run a race without an electronic finish line.


Generally, we were very pleased with the Besttrack. One dad complained about the severe curve at the bottom of the hill, but I don't know that it matters. We did have a lot of problems putting it together. Four of us spent all day Saturday assembling the track for the first time. The alignment pins seemed WAY to tight. Next year we will probably try to loosen the slots that receive the pins.


I forget the brand name of the electronic finish line, but it worked great. A couple of the dads thought it would be nice if it timed all four cars, not just the fastest. They want to use total time from the first heat to advance and seed the cars for the second round. That would eliminate the possibility of a fast car being eliminated early due to the luck of random pairings. But that's a little more technical that I think we need to get. More of a dad thing than a boy thing.


Oh by the way. Both my son's cars were eliminated in the first round of racing. However, both cars brought home trophies in the design competition, as voted on by the other Cubs. Generally, our whole family is more built for looks than speed. ;)

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We used a new plastic track for the first time this weekend. We don't time our races so can't say if it was faster or not. We also do the "three x's and you're out" elimination.


We have an electronic gate to tell us the different places. It's a good thing because 4 of us standing there would see different cars finish 1st. Then 2nd, 3rd & 4th were really difficult to tell.


Our pack also helps anyone who needs weights, graphite or adjustments. If we weigh someone in and they aren't near 5 ounces, we hand it back with some weights and point them to the person with the glue. We also checked each car for graphite. All the parents and older brothers pitch in with helping.


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When I was the Pack CC, we bought a 4-lane Piantadosi with a "Judge" timer. True, the track comes unfinished; they want to give the customer the option to paint, stain, clear coat, or whatever. We clear coated ours, about six coats with a light sand in between.


The Piantadosi tracks are marvels of workmanship. The quality details are evident in the wood itself (cabinet grade), the design, the fasteners/fittings, everything. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth every penny.



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