Redline Derby focuses a lot on the do-it-yourself racing projects…making your own track, modding your own cars, finish lines, starting gates…if you need it, I believe you can make it. I like making stuff, to me it’s just part of the hobby. But I know that we all don’t have the time or supplies to go the DIY route, in which case all you can do is try to find the best racing products. Too bad there’s not much out there for diecast racing.
Outside of the official Hot Wheels playsets and tracks, you really have to search to find stuff for racing. So when someone mentioned the Expert Drag Track over in the forums, I had to investigate. I contacted Expert Toys, who makes the track, and within a week’s time got an Expert Drag Track playset with all the trimmings.
The Expert Drag Track boasts all you need for the most diecast racing fun including lights, sounds and 15 feet of track, not to mention an electronic starting gate and finish line. It all sounds and looks great…except the price. At $80 for the base set, it might seem a little steep to some, myself included. That’s a lot for any toy so I had to find out if it was really worth the money.
Everything you need in one big box
I can honestly say that for the price you do get a complete racing set. I was actually surprised by the size of the box when it was delivered to my house. All the parts are packaged and secured well, so you don’t have to worry about busted parts before you even open it. I have to admit I was surprised by the solid construction of the parts. In the set were two-lane track pieces, a solid transition piece, the starting gate, finish line and two release pedals. I should disclaim that my set came with extra track and a power supply, which are not included in the $80 base package but are available separately from Expert Toys.
I was impressed with everything before I even had the track together. The only part that looked questionable were the support legs. Each leg came in two parts so that made me wonder how they would hold up during use, I thought they might bow and effect play. The track pieces are solid, molded two-lane pieces that slide together easily and tightly, so there’s not a lot of joint “bump” nor do you have to worry about the track moving or not being straight. The track transition is a solid piece that connects wonderfully with the track pieces. When building your own track you have to worry a lot about the transition from the hill into the straight away…Expert Drag Track makes that problem a thing of the past. The starting gate and light tree is also a single piece that sits a top the two support legs. As I thought, the two support legs do have some give to them and at first feel like they won’t be very stable, but once all the track is all together the stability as a whole improves, so the the legs really aren’t much worry.
The only part of assembly to be careful about is all the wires. With the electronic pedals, power supply and finish line there can be somewhat of a rat’s nest of cords. The power supply cord is also kind of short so if you get the adapter you’ll need an extension cord or have your starting line near an outlet. The two pieces of track used to create the drop hill do have some sag to them but nothing beyond reason that should have you worrying about performance or stability.
Bells and whistles, literally
Once it’s all put together, you’ll find that the Expert Drag Track lives up to its “drag” moniker by giving you a light tree and two push pedals for releasing your cars. Just wait for the tree to turn green and put your foot down and watch them roll! And like a good drag start would, if you press too early you fault and forfeit your heat. A real nice part of the pedal system is a switch that lets you go into single player mode, which lets one pedal control both release gates so you can play even when you don’t have another person around.
The starting gate and tree lights are another well built part of the track. The pedals control the setup of the tree lights. One press tells the tree you’re ready, a second press starts the countdown and the third press drops the gate. The starting gate itself is a little piece of metal in each lane that is just tall enough to reach the bumper of most cars. I did have a few cars (usually trucks) that had a higher chassis and actually went over the gate bar. It was still enough to hold the car back but since the front of the car did go beyond the bar it has a slight advantage over other cars before it even got released. The other thing to note about the start bar is that it’s not very wide. Many cars have somewhat pointy front ends and if you’re not paying attention the car may sit in the starting gate off center.
One other thing about the starting gate, and perhaps the most annoying part of the Expert Drag Track as a whole are the “digital effects and sound”, as mentioned on the site and box. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the “cool” factor sounds have with a toy but the Expert Drag Track sounds are extremely loud, and at first the “real roar” of a dragster is cute and fun but after even three or four races you’ll want to rip the speaker out. Unfortunately, there is no mute button or even a volume knob for the sound. If there’s one thing to change on this product, it might be the addition of a sound on/off switch.
While the sound effects may be something to be desired, one of the most fun features of the Expert Drag Track is the lap timer. On the tree lights is a lap timer for each lane, letting you know how much time passed from the green light to the car reaching the finish line. The timer seems accurate but only goes to one-hundredths of a second. This might seem like enough but I did have a couple ties happen during my races. The finish line light showed a clear winner but the time for both lanes was the same. Considering most cars will finish even a 20-foot race in under five seconds, a timer with more place values would be nice. But since the finish line does declare only one winner, the few instances where there is a timer tie is of little worry.
I hesitate to nit pick over a point with the lap timer because this is more of a wish than an expectation. The lap timer starts counting when the tree light turns green, as is normal for drag racing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really tell you the time of the car, it tells you the total time it took from foot press to car finish. If you plan on using the Expert Drag Track to make fair comparisons of car times you’re almost out of luck, unless you can find a way to press the release pedal at the exact same time, every time you race. Again, don’t hold this against the Expert Drag Track, the timer shouldn’t come that way, but it’s the kind of lap timer I was wishing to have.
Naturally, after you release your cars the next stop is the finish line. The electronic finish line is another great part of the Expert Drag Track. The finish line is nothing fancy and that’s the best part about it. Despite it having lights showing which lane is the winner, the finish line is mechanical. Each lane has a drop switch that triggers the light. And because the line requires physical contact to work, you can use the track in any environment, unlike some of the fancier IR and light sensor finish lines that can run upwards of $80 themselves. Another nice thing about the finish line is that it has track connectors on both sides, so if you have extra track you can attach track past the finish.
A great racing playset
The initial time I spent with the Expert Drag Track proved that it is a great playset that is worth the price. The $80 price tag may seem high but consider that this includes everything you need to get racing quickly, easily and reliably. And when you think about the cost of goods to build your own including wood and buying individual pieces of orange track or even BluTrack, the value of the Expert Drag Track quickly comes into view. But if you are looking at going all-out with the Expert Drag Track, be aware that this ends up being well over $125 (including shipping). The extra track is nice to have but the power adapter is the only real option. The track does run off batteries if you don’t want to splurge for the $25 power supply.
The one last thing where I think the Expert Drag Track could be improved is being compatible with standard Hot Wheels track. I know why they chose not to, it lets them sell track as a separate item and also ensures the quality and reliability of their product. But in the end, everyone wants to use their own track with the cool toys included with the Expert Drag Track. Personally, I think it would be a great selling point and would maybe make people less concerned with spending $80 knowing they can use it to expand the toys they’ve already purchased. However, even though I can’t use the Expert Drag Track with the almost 100-feet of orange track I already have, it is a very solid product that won’t disappoint anyone.
If you don’t have the time or interest to build your own diecast derby track, the Expert Drag Track is a great alternative that will save you time, worry and maybe some money. Even though I have my own home-built derby track, the Expert Drag Track will be out and racing regularly in my house.
What I liked
- Well made, solid plastic parts
- Electronic starting gate and finish line
- Easy assembly
What I didn't like
- Loud and obnoxious sounds, no volume control
- Not compatible with Hot Wheels track, longer track requires extra purchase
The Expert Drag Track retails for $79.95 at DragTracks.com. The Expert Drag Track reviewed for this article included extra parts including track and a power supply, and was offered to Redline Derby Racing at a discounted price.