Arts & Culture
4:00 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

A World Record For A Tiny Car

For the fourth year in a row, a local slot car enthusiast has helped his team capture the world record for distance traveled in 24 hours by a car the size of an iPhone.  NHPR's Sean Hurley visited Dickie Pearson, owner of Slot Car Corner in Penacook, fresh off his world record race at the Michigan 24.

World Record holder Dickie Pearson and friends talk about slot car racing at Slot Car Corner.

Claudio Serrano is late to the race. He sets his briefcase down.  Planted safely in the foam molding, he introduces me to his four favorite cars. 

I could say this one is good, this one is excellent. This one is top of the line.  This one is terrible! But the important thing is that I have a lot of fun with this.  It doesn't matter how bad or how good I do, it's the fun.

Every Saturday, Serrano races against his friends on the 78 foot long copper braided track that takes up most of the floor space of Slot Car Corner, a hobby shop in downtown Penacook.  After selecting his car - Serrano readies his trigger finger.

The finger needs some exercise, so...

Serrano joins the 8 other people gathered around the track's swooping black ribbon to watch Phillip Basaldu lose to his 11 year old daughter Raven.

Does she usually beat you?
Yes, she does. 
Now how does that happen?
Cause she's better than me.
Even though I keep on crashing.

Little Corvettes and BMW's shoot down the straightaway and regularly fly off the tight corner where the reigning world record holder, Dickie Pearson fetches the cars off the floor and resetting them on the track.

It's funny to watch other people when they first start to get going and start really getting into it. They'll squeeze that trigger so hard that their hand hurts at the end of the race. It doesn't take long to be consistent.  It does take a while to become really good.  Lots of practice to get the most out of the car.

While Slot Car Corner is open on the weekends, it's mostly an online store.  Pearson and his partner Steve Sawtelle sell everything from tiny replacement drivers to their own brand of silicon and aluminum tires.

A lot of guys want to take it to the next level.  They want to get rid of the magnets cause it's more of a challenge to drive.  To drive fast.  So we offer a lot of hop up parts and tires to help the car run smoother.

Claudio Serrano buys his hopped up tires here.  He waits in the pit for Bob Bianchi to finish his race.

I would say congratulations Bob, but you were in last place! (laughs)
We were.  We were.

Serrano doesn't mean the last heat, but one of the biggest races in the country for 1/32nd scale slot cars - the Michigan 24, where Dickie Pearson took the checkered flag.    

It's a good chance to pick on Bob here.  Usually about every 10 laps I was passing Bob at Michigan.  

Bob Bianchi's Team Can Am had trouble the moment the Michigan race began.  Bianchi blames himself.  He'd picked the car - he'd done all the prep work.

But it's a Saturday Night racer. And it just couldn't take it.  We broke guides, we broke chassis, we broke the screws that hold in the front axle.  We had an awful lot of problems and just couldn't survive.

Last year, the 6 man Slot Car Corner team, anchored by Pearson, set the 24 hour world record at 269.46 miles.  This year they went faster and further - 271.71 miles.  While Bianchi blames his car, he also credits Pearson. 

No matter where he goes, no matter what the track, no matter what controller he's using, he seems to take very short time and he's driving very fast.  So I always tease him, I tease him he's a robot. The controller's just there to throw us off track - he's actually connected into the circuitry.

There are World Records that make headlines and make you famous and there are world records that hardly anyone will ever know about and don't change your life much at all. The Michigan 24 takes place in a basement.  Team Slot Car Corner's world record is noted pretty much exclusively on a British Slot Car website.

And while most of Saturday evening's race talk quickly veers into jokes about Bob Bianchi's tragic last place finish, everyone here at least knows who won the big race, who has the world record.