Carrera Digital 143 DTM Power Race 1/43 Race Set
I have been wanting to do a review on a race set for a while now, and I was super excited to have the opportunity to review this Carrera Digital 143 DTM Power Race Set, which is brand new for 2013! What makes this race set distinctive from the other Carrera Digital 143 sets currently available, is that it offers three car, simultaneous racing straight out of the box (nothing else to buy). The other Digital 143 sets are two car sets and require an additional purchase of a Digital 143 car and controller (if you are looking for three car racing).
Before I get into the specifics of this particular race set, I want to explain more about 1/43 scale and digital slot car racing. Carerra Digital 143 is 1/43 scale, which offers a really good compromise between detail and size. The cars vary slightly in size depending on the car modeled and measure approximately 4.5” long x 1.75” wide while the track measures 4.49” wide. Some consider the 1/43 scale to be the ideal size since it offers more detail than HO scale slot cars without requiring as much space as a 1/32 layout. You can build a really nice small to medium size 1/43 layout on a 4x8 foot table. If you have the extra available space, consider extending the length of the table to either 4x10 or 4x12 which opens up even more 1/43 layout possibilities.
Digital slot car racing allows more cars than the number of lanes to race on the same track. Switching lanes is done by pressing a button on the hand controller before reaching each digital lane change track. There are some real advantages to a digital slot car race track.
More drivers than lanes can race at the same time.
If a car jumps to the other lane you can keep racing since each car can travel freely in either lane while still maintaining driver control.
It offers a new exciting element to traditional slot car racing, because you can change lanes to pass a car that is in front of you.
It’s always exciting to open a new race set and this one was no exception! The DTM Power Race set came well packed with nice attractive box art on the box and a window section in the lower right hand corner to view the three included Digital 143 cars. The box is sealed in the back with strips of clear packing tape. Upon cutting the packing tape to remove the box top, a cardboard insert was revealed with additional tape than needed removed. After removing the cardboard insert, all the components of the race set were in each corresponding compartment of the Styrofoam bottom. Overall, the packing of the race set was very good with only two track pieces that shifted slightly from their corresponding holders, but were completely undamaged.
I took my time setting up the race track, which took about an hour to complete. The track could have been set up more quickly, but I wanted to take my time and make sure to assemble all the components correctly. The instructions come in several different languages and were adequate, although they relied mostly on diagrams with short bits of English to instruct on the proper set up and operation of the race track. The front of the race set box also has a picture of the completed layout, which is helpful to reference when trying to figure out where everything is supposed to go.
The track that comes in this race set is the newer style Carrera GO/Digital 143 track that doesn’t require the extra track clips on the side to hold it together. This makes assembly slightly quicker than the older style track. Please note that the old style Carrera GO/Digital 143 track is 100% compatible with the new style track. Disassembly of the new track is a bit of a chore since it requires both sections of track to be pulled apart with considerable force. It is very important to pull the track apart evenly. Trying to wiggle the track apart, side to side could possibly damage the tabs. If the tabs happen to get damaged, the track is still usable but may require the use of side track clips to hold it together. Also, the track may be easier to disassemble after it has been done a few times and the track connections loosen up slightly.
Now, on to the cars. Carrera did a really good job modeling the DTM cars in 1/43 scale. The cars have plenty of detail with crisp painting and graphics. For scale enthusiasts, the ride height of the cars is a little on the high side with the front spoiler ramped slightly upwards to provide enough clearance for the loops. All the cars seem to have true running wheels and run equally as well. One thing to note, it is important to push the end of each braid toward the front of the car to widen the braid and to adjust the braid so it is angled down toward the rails. This is covered in the included instructions and is an important step to prevent the cars from stalling out around the track.
Getting started with running the cars was really easy, since each car came pre-programmed to a corresponding controller. If this isn’t the case with all the Digital 143 race sets, it is easy enough to re-program a car to the corresponding controller by referencing the race set instructions. I only needed to plug-in the AC/DC transformer and pick the corresponding controller to match each car. Each controller comes with a removable speed limiter on the shaft of the thumb plunger that limit’s the top speed of the corresponding car which is useful for beginner drivers. Removing the speed limiter gives a broader range of speeds with a higher top speed. The higher top speed makes the loop easier to negotiate but requires slowing down more for the curves. The car has to be going at least ¾ speed for the car to make it through the loop. So in my experience, it is best to ensure that you have the thumb plunger pushed all the way down on the straights before and through the loop, then drive at a slightly slower speed around the curves.
The Carrera Digital 143 lane change tracks give you the opportunity to change lanes and are molded in a red color for easy identification on a layout. There was a slight learning curve for me in knowing which lane change track to use, since one lane changer is going from the left lane to the right lane and the other lane changer is going from right to left. Both of the lane changers worked flawlessly on my track with only a few things worth mentioning. Any overhead lights shining directly on the lane change track sensor may affect the correct functioning of the corresponding lane change track and each lane change track has a few dead areas that could result in a car stopping on the lane change track, if that car is traveling at too low of a speed. To avoid this, it is best to place the lane change tracks in the layout where the cars usually travel at ½ speed or more. This is easily accomplished by placing at least one full length straight in front of each lane change track.
The thing I like about digital is that it isn't the absolute fastest car that necessarily wins the race. It is driving fast, but under control and staying on the track. Along those lines, I want to comment on the guardrails that come with this set. I feel that they are okay, but as I got used to the track and started really increasing my speed, I found that the cars can sometimes get hung up on the them, or the rails can move out of position after a car crashes into them. Overall, the cars hold the track very well and are a lot of fun to drive. Even my family enjoyed racing on this track more than some of the other tracks I have set up in the past.
Removing the loop from the layout only requires removing the 114mm straight track as marked with an X in the picture and the loop sections. This is a good option if you find that the loop is too challenging and/or for those who want a more realistic racing layout. I feel this is a great feature of this particular race set since it allows the loop to be removed without needing to purchase any additional track. The loop can always be added back to the layout at any time.
Overall, this race set is a lot of fun! It does require a learning curve for each driver to keep their car on the track and to master the lane changing. In my opinion, this leads to longer play value since it seems to offer the right skill level out of the box - not too easy but not too hard which can lead to a frustrating experience. Also, the option of removing the loop to simplify the layout is a plus. This race set represents an excellent value to me, since everything is included to get started in 3 car digital slot car racing.
Please note that with Digital 143 you are limited to a maximum of three cars, and can only use Digital 143 cars for this track. (It is possible to adapt a Digital 124/132 black box or control unit to the track for six car racing, but please be aware that Carrera would most likely deny a warranty claim on a modified product.)
Recommended optional items for future consideration
1) The Carrera Digital 143 Lap Counter is a must have to keep track of the action on the track for more organized racing. The Carrera Digital 143 Lap Counter features all results at a glance, fastest lap time, previous completed lap time, position, display laps remaining or current best lap and handicap races involving different lap totals.
2) The Carrera GO/DIGITAL 143 Guardrail Fences do not seem to upset the handling of the cars and stay connected to the track better than the stock guardrails. The DTM Power Race Set comes with six curves, and one pack of these guardrail fences is enough to replace the stock guardrails that come with this set with some left over. Includes 10 guardrail fences (5 grey & 5 red).