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I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:21 pm
by pgosselin
Cheap. Cheap. Cheap.

Last night, I worked as a starter at my son's Pinewood Derby and got a very close look at the inner workings of a SuperTrack brand Pinewood Derby track. Everything about it felt cheap and poorly made. Because of its flaws, a number of events transpired last night to seriously dampen the kids' Pinewood Derby experience. For these reasons, I seriously urge DerbyTalk board members to avoid this brand of Pinewood Derby track.

About the only nice thing I can say about it is that plastic construction means that it is significantly lighter than the aluminum tracks which makes it easier to store and set up.

For the last six years, my sons and I were members of another Pack that used an aluminum Piantadosi track. The Piantadosi track was heavy and not the easiest thing to store, but it was steady as a rock, impeccably crafted and performed extremely well. The SuperTrack on the other hand, is not.

Because of the lack of a center rail, your car is bound to connect with the side walls of each lane. Only thing is, the seams are rough. On a Piantadosi track, they assume your car's wheels may touch the center rail, so at the joints, they taper the bottom piece of the joint to make sure that there is always a smooth transition from the rail piece above the joint to the rail piece below. You would think SuperTrack would do the same thing on its lane side walls since that is where a car is liable to connect. These joints are not tapered and somewhat rough. So if a car is running down the track on the side. It's liable to receive a significant jolt at the seams.

Gravity kept pulling the power supply plug loose for the electronic starting system. We would have to constantly pull it loose, reinsert it, and wait for the electronic system to reboot itself. Annoying and a serious design flaw.

To open the starting gate, the starter has to hold down a switch at the top of track. Another race official then presses a button at the bottom of the track to electronically drop the starting pins. The starting pins got hung up a number of times because the part that rests against the motor that opens the gate doesn't always fit against it cleanly. The spring-loaded Piantadosi is much lower tech, much more durable, and works flawlessly.

The foamy car stop at the end of the track was cheap and completely unusable. Our pack just tossed it aside and added a wooden gravity stop at the end of each lane. This didn't work all that well either. All kinds of mayhem would transpire at the end of the track with cars careening into each other. I'm surprised my son's car didn't come home with a bent axle.

We had a complete computer meltdown with the SuperTrack software in the middle of the race. It was so bad that everyone except the Tiger Den had to race without the computer. It was only back up and running again for the finals. I don't know whether to attribute this fiasco to an older computer or to the SuperTrack software. Either way, our unit was left high and dry and the kids in the middle of the race didn't get their full six races that they would have if the computer was up and running. Instead, it turned into a double elimination type of scoring. The electronic timing system still worked worked without the computer, but it was a lot less elegant.

The supports for the track are made out of PVC pipe. Not nearly as stable as the aluminum supports on other tracks. I suspect, but can't prove, that this theoretically could add more vibrations to the track which could affect the cars stability on the track.

For all these reasons, I cannot in good conscience recommend this brand of track to any Pack leaders. I would avoid it at all costs. Save up and get a good quality aluminum track.


Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:51 am
by rpcarpe
I haven’t yet used a Piantedosi track, sounds like a very good track. And I agree with you in that I don’t like a four-man team to move and set-up a track.

It’s too bad that an event with so much work leading up to it does not go well. Perhaps you could share some ideas with your local leaders and improve the quality of the event?
It does appear that you and maybe some others at your Pack race forgot the overall purpose of the Pinewood Derby. Don Murphy set it up to be a fun event for Cubs and their families. Finding the fastest car on a ‘perfect’ track should always remain secondary. Derby organizers should always focus on the process and the fun, not just the elapsed time for each car.

You appear to blame the track manufacturer for mistakes made by the owner/operator. None of us blame Randy when we fail to tighten all the bolts on a Freedom Track.

Our three local Packs chipped in together and bought a 42’ SuperTrack, timer and software in December 2012. I usually work the Pit area, but I also got some time to see the set-up, inner workings and tear down of a SuperTrack system for three events in one day. Since I’m the apparent heir to ‘Pit Guy’ in our area, I get to see a lot of tracks, cars, races and racers.

The first event had a hiccup because the software wasn’t updated for the latest Windows Service Pack release or something. Once updated, it ran just fine for the next two events. Still, the organizers of that first event made sure the kids had a good time, the EMCEE had ‘filler’ for when the problem cropped up. They used the results they had, ran some more races with just the SuperTimer logging the results and people got their awards. No harm, no foul.

These suggestions might solve the problems you described in your new Pack and their SuperTrack system:

- Update the software. SuperTimer maintains updates on their website. Each owner of the Race Manager software (the software sold by SuperTimer) should visit the site BEFORE the race to ensure they have the latest version. Our Packs updated for free and solved the problem.

- Read the instructions and follow them. The video, online and included with a purchase, show how to plug in the power unit without the risk of it dropping out. At our events, there was an extension cord run out to the Start section and they secured the DC adapter with tape to the floor. Not a single power interruption during a race. I know all this because they borrowed my extension cord and tape (Be Prepared!).

- Supports were braced by four ropes that keep it ‘square’ as explained in the video instructions. The Cubmasters checked it before the races. Although I didn’t watch each and every car on the slope and transition, no one mentioned wiggles, shimmy, vibrations or car stability. The only cars that ‘death-shimmied’ were my two test cars that I didn’t get to tune. Plastic pipes looked thicker than PVC, probably ABS like the track.

- Stop section was white soft memory foam. Perfect for stopping cars. We used memory foam last year on a Best Track, best stopper I’ve ever seen. No damage to cars, no cars bouncing around. Your Pack should update, probably not expensive.

- Start section has a pin underneath that gets released. It’s not a motor, it’s a solenoid that releases the Start pins. The solenoid, activated by the Red Button at the end of the track, is designed to be used by the Cubs.
-- In the races I witnessed, the Lane One racer started the race after his co-racers and he all had placed their respective cars at the start section, walked down the 42’ to chairs designated 4, 3, 2 (they go with the Lane#) and racer #1 gave a ‘3, 2, 1’ countdown and released the cars. They all LOVED it! Kept them busy, involved and out of trouble. This suggestion is also in the instructions or on their website, would have to ask our Cubmaster exactly where.

- Track seams were smooth, they got them close, pulled the tensioning cord as explained in the instructions and they all got nice and clean. They did adjust the cord once because they installed part of it backwards and had to run it under Lane Two instead of Lane Three as per the instructions. Rail riders, that I helped cubs build, had no problems drifting to the edge guide (1/4” high if I recall) and went straight down the track without jumping lanes. I think one car jumped a lane one time when the nose was put high against the start pin and it bounced. Still got 3.00, 2.99 and even 2.98 times on a 42’ track. It appears there’s plenty of speed to go ‘round on this type of track.

- Center Rail vs. Side Rail – Either way, you can try for a ‘Straight Runner’ or a ‘Rail Rider’. Best Track has a ¼” high center guide, same size as the edge guides for Super Track ( I don’t know the size of Freedom Track and Piantedosi center guides. Rail riding on SuperTrack, which I did not get to hang out and test for a few hours, should only differ in which direction to have the car drift, and narrowing the rear instead of the front. I was always busy helping to get cars to weight so I didn’t get to test and tune extensively. The SuperTrack appears easy enough to transport and set-up so you might suggest a Trial Night so that racers get the hang of tuning their cars to that track.

- According to the Supertimer website, they offer a lifetime money back guarantee on all their tracks they've ever made. If you can convince your Pack to save up for an aluminum track, they can get their money back from Supertimer without a hassle. Found it! Last line on the page… ‘full refund’

All said and done, I don’t really care WHICH track gets used with any Pack. Nor do I care what condition it’s in. As long as everybody uses the same track and lanes at that event, it levels the playing field. I see advantages and disadvantages in each track on the market. I have no kids in Scouts anymore, I don’t hold a position within any Pack. (I do teach 11 yr old Scouts how to get to First Class) I don’t get paid to use or talk about anyone’s tools, stores or tracks. My main goal remains to help the kids and parents enjoy learning about the magic of Pinewood Derby; the joy of building something together and enjoying the fruits of their shared labor.

If anyone sees problems with their Derby event, work it out with your Pack, District or Council.

Yours In Scouting,

Any further questions, please use the e-mail button. I don’t like typing this much, it reminds me of work.

Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:08 pm
by rpcarpe
Most problems at events usually involve the self-induced timer/software combination. At Council races in 2010, we ended up improvising a lane rotation and points system after their system died. 'To err is human, but to really screw up ya need a computer!'

Blaming the track manufacturer when the owners haven't followed instructions for the software... we all get the idea.

Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:09 pm
by gpraceman
rpcarpe wrote:None of us blame Randy when we fail to tighten all the bolts on a Freedom Track.
Not sure why I would be blamed anyways. I don't make tracks, or timers for that matter. ;)

I only have one direct experience with the SuperTrack and it did not leave me with a favorable impression. I got an urgent call from a guy in our pack. His Indian Guides group was having all sorts of problems with the SuperTrack track setup that the group arranged to have brought in for the race. He wanted me to load up my Freedom track setup and bring it over. Talk about zero notice. They were happy to be able to finish their race.

They did not use that guy again, as far as I know. Maybe most of the problems were self induced. I don't know, but I would have thought that someone running races for other groups would know how to get things setup properly. I only saw the setup used for a few heats and I did not have time to evaluate the problems, as I needed to get my track all setup.

With that said, though, I do think that each track brand out there has its issues. If proper attention is paid to setup, most of those can be resolved and run a satisfactory race. Too often people try to do things at the last minute. Running a race is not something to do at the last minute, unless you've run dozens of races and it is old hat (like me). For most, this is a once a year deal and turnover of people running the race is high. That can lead to trouble, if things are left to the last minute.

[Edit: The track setup was not their own. It was brought in by a person that goes around and runs races for a variety of groups.]

Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:35 pm
by rpcarpe
Lucky guess that associated Randy with a Freedom Track, which he has!

The unprepared leading the unknowing... that's what afflicted the new SuperTrack event. They needed a simple software update!

I still don't know what stopped the 2010 Council Race in their tracks.

Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:06 pm
by gpraceman
rpcarpe wrote:Lucky guess that associated Randy with a Freedom Track, which he has!
Actually, up until recently, I had a BestTrack as well. So, I have experience with both major aluminum track brands. I ended up with that track when one of our other Awana Track Ministry guys passed away suddenly. That track now has a new home, with the Awana Missionary on the Western slope of Colorado.

Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:48 pm
by pgosselin
Hi rpcarpe,

I'm glad someone is having a good experience with the SuperTrack. This was my first experience with it. And I was not involved with the setup. The other race officials who trained me on my task for the night had been using it for 8 years and did the setup.

Perhaps my bad experience with SuperTrack is atypical. However, the goal of my post was less to vent and more to give DerbyTalk members more information about this track, as there is precious little written about it on this board. By posting about your good experiences, you're doing the same.

As for the software issue, I believe I was fair in noting that it could have been an older computer and not the software that was the problem. I wasn't sure. And yes, the event leaders did improvise a scoring system for the races without the computer running. But there were a lot of funny looks from parents and it was uncomfortable.

The issue with the power supply wasn't the wall wart end, it was the other end where the little male plug goes into the female socket in the solenoid starting gate. My suspicion is that over 8 years the female socket has expanded from constant use so that there is no longer a tight fit. I see this as a potential design flaw.

No, I did not lose track of the fact that Pinewood was supposed to be a fun event for the kids. Because of the software/hardware problem, some kids only got to see their cars race 2-3 times when, if the software would have been functional, they would have seen their cars race a minimum of six times. This was less fun for them which bothers me. My issue with the computer had absolutely nothing to do with track times and everything to do with random lane assignments that would have allowed the kids to race more.

I was respecting the traditions of my new unit and staging the cars for the kids. If I had my preference, I would rather have the kids stage their own cars. That is the way I have always seen it done in the past. That also adds to the fun factor for kids.

I have indeed already had some conversations with race officials on what they can do to make the event run smoother.

Oh, and the aluminum Piantadosi track to which I referred: I believe they have renamed it and now market it under the Freedom brand. So I guess you could say my previous racing experience was on a Freedom track.

I'm not trying to be combative here. I'm just trying to make sure the issues are correctly stated.


Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:07 am
by rpcarpe
I'm fine with that.
Maybe we'll both end up as the DT 'experts' on SuperTimer after a few more years of experience with it??

Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:53 am
by jmalsa

I am the derby chair for our Pack. This is the track they had when I took over. I have be running our derbies for 4 years now. Nice thing is that it is light and compact, easy to make longer if you wish by adding a couple of sections. I also was able to create a hill for it using PVC pipe and the track bends over it. So every other year we run with a hill to change it up. I agree the old stop section was horrible. We did design and make our own wooden stop section at the end. We used melamine to start the slope,attached to 1 by's and covered the melamine with the rubber shelf liner. We did separate the each stop section with a wall in between. We have foam covering the edge of the wall in case a car decides to get off track a little bit. It happens once in a while.

As for the start gate a rubberband attached to the underside pin will help pull it down quickly. A cheap and easy solution.

The software is terrible. Even with updates and it is very limited. We have had it crash on more than one occasion. Last year we choose to buy GPRM, best choice we ever made!!!!! You set it up with other timer chosen in hardware setup along with a specific reset command (there is a list but one seems to work better than the others) that somebody had researched and gave to Randy. I have the list and Randy also does. The only thing that occasionally happens is the hardware locks up(happened twice last year, did not happen this year) and a quick unplug and plug back in and thirty seconds you are up and running.
GPRM has all kinds of reports (all our racers like that they can get a report on their individual car/race stats). It allows for different race methods not just dynamic. So with a few changes I believe it can be a functional and useful,as well as a fun track to run on and you do not have to empty your budget for a new track.

Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:05 am
by pgosselin
Thanks for the comments, jmalsa. I'm sure the folks here using FastTrack will appreciate your great tips.


Re: I cannot recommend SuperTrack

Posted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:17 am
by rwburbage
I agree 100% with this report on this track. It's a disaster of a design. The edge guided design allows cars to flop back and forth at a higher sweep than the center guided tracks. The stop foam works exactly as described, crash, knock out the graphite, t-bone other cars, damage. The ramp causes changes in positive load as it rolls across the 3 braces that will throw cars off the track.

I was in a pack that was simply faithful to this track. There reasoning was when a car flew off the track it was the builder's problem that it happened. You will have the rerun about 10-20% of the cars because of this. I've spent over a year researching the different tracks and talking directly to the designers of all of these tracks and this is the worst one offered. I proved that without total structural support from the start gate, this plastic track flexes in between each support, during the race, making the G-force change plus and minus, making the front end of the cars flip up and jump lanes or fly off the track. This track is advertized as as compact track but the electronic parts will not fit in the original box. So, you have more totes with flags, tape, scales boxes etc. We resorted to using duct tape on the back of the tracks for the best connection between the track pieces as the supplied ramp cord and bracket system used for track assembly, buckles and warps the tracks when installed. The start gate design is horrible as the slightest vibration when loading cars will trip the start gate and the cars will fly off. You can tweak or slightly rotate the blue gate pin but the problem is still there. A slight bump during loading and the gate trips. Instead of a simple coiled spring installed in the start gate, you resort to a factory suggested rubber band to supply the tension which does work very well. You will just have to replace it often.

The best feature with this track is the solenoid start gate. The ability for the kids to start the race is great. The latest version software with this track is 15 years old technology is very buggy and accidental erasure of race info is very likely. GPRM Pro works awesome with this track! See this link on how to connect supertimer to GPRM Pro edition. ==> ... r?set_id=2 I don't like to bash something so bad but I had to get the info out there as I/we were torchered watching all of the mishaps during the race for 2 years. The biggest positive change that could be made to this track is to create an aluminum or wood, straight slope at say 26 degrees and then allow the track to bend naturally at the end transitioning to the straight away to finish. The bend will be created by the track itself. You will still need to support this transition with, for ex. pillows to stop all flexing during the transition to the flat straight section. Using this stright slope supporting system, it will be similar to the derbymagic track setup.

I did successfully create a 50" wooden stop box for the race end. The stop box would gently capture 98% of the cars without damage. I'll link a video and pics of this. It was very difficult to build taking 2 full days to come up with a rail shape and length that would allow the cars to gently align themselves onto the stop rails perfectly without rolling off or popping up. The stop rails are beveled and tapered with black craft foam added then angled upward so the car gently glides to a stop. If the car rolls slightly the box bottom will maintain the car and the original stop foam is there for added protection. The supertimer II electronics box attaches using the supplied long bolts that originally attached to the end of the track. The supertimer is now attached to the back of the stop box with all cabling underneath. The supertrack square notches fit snugly into the stop box track guide rails at four spots. At the end of the race you disconnect the cables from the ramp and roll them up into the stop box. No need to remove the supertimer or the attached cables which speeds up teardown at the race end. Then, the ramp start gate electronics lays inside the stop box also for a more secure storage. The stop box was damaged in the last race as it looks like someone stepped on it and scratched it up. But it's repairable. If anyone is interested in this let me know and I can fix it and ship it out to you.