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Russell Sheldon's Slot Car Biography
My professional career has led to a number of overseas assignments, which has unfortunately
not always allowed me to race slot cars as much as I would have liked. In fact, I havenít raced
slot cars regularly since 1984! 'Home' over the past twenty years has been South Africa (three times),
France, Belgium, England, and is presently Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I love the hobby
and have never lost interest, managing to keep myself more or less abreast of the latest
developments, thanks mainly to the wonder of the Internet.
Russell Sheldon's Slot Car Biography
(continued from above)
For me it all started in 1965. I was very fortunate to receive a small oval Scalextric set for Christmas.
Scalextric was the craze at the time and together with my friends I 'played Scalextric' practically every
day after school. At least once a month we would organize a "championship" event by combining our tracks to
build a large layout on the garage floor.
The hobby really took off and the first commercial raceway centre in Cape Town opened in 1966. Miniways had three huge
eight lane tracks for racing 1/24th scale cars; a 155' Blue King, a 110' Orange Monarch and a 90' Black Prince. The
raceway also had a vast inventory of spare parts and I became interested in building my own cars. 1/24th scale didn't
really appeal to me though, because the cars were too big for my Scalextric track, so I raced my home-built 1/32nd
scale cars at the raceway, often beating the older boys and adults who were racing the larger and faster 1/24th scale cars.
Late in 1969, by which time the worldwide slot racing boom was already over, the raceway closed down. A group of
adult enthusiasts decided to start their own club, the Cambridge Model Car Club, which is still active today.
I soon joined up. They raced mainly 1/24th scale cars, so I finally converted to the larger scale. Since the early
1960s however, 1/32nd scale club racing has been the mainstay of slot racing in South Africa. The South African Model
Car Association (SAMCA) was formed in the early 1960s and is responsible for standards and national championship racing.
With Cambridge being one of the few clubs still racing 1/24th scale cars, we decided to convert to 1/32nd scale in
early 1970. A new 6-lane track was built and the club joined the SAMCA. This enabled me to compete in a couple of
South African National Championship races, which attracted upwards of 100 entries. Along with other club members
willing to embark on the 1,000 or so kilometre drive from Cape Town, I really enjoyed competing in these events.
It was a great experience and learning ground, although it was only in 1978, after moving to Durban, that I became
serious about racing at a national level. In Durban, I joined the Ecurie Elite Model Racing Car Club (EEMRCC),
founded in 1963 and still active today. It is possibly the oldest surviving slot car racing club in the world.
At the time, the South African National Championship was contested over four rounds, at four different tracks each year,
with your best three results counting towards the championship. Slot racing at national level in South Africa has always
been extremely competitive; in order to even things out, drivers were graded into three classes - A, B and C - depending
upon ability and experience, with a national title bestowed upon the winner of each of the classes. The SA National
Champion title was awarded to the overall winner in Open Class, regardless of driver grading.
After winning two national races and taking the C Class title in 1978, I finished third in the championship in 1979.
However, my only win in 1979 was at the Pretoria Grand Prix. 1980 was my most successful year, winning both the A Class
and the South African National Championship titles, despite having to miss the last race of the series due to a military
I won two of the four Grand Prix's in 1981, but poor results in the other two races left me in third place overall
in the championship; however, I did win the A Class title. I won the A Class title again in 1982 and, with another
two Grand Prix wins, came second overall in the championship. 1983 brought no national wins; only two second places
and a third place, giving me second place in A Class and second in the championship. Overall, between 1978 and 1983,
I managed to win 11 races out of 23 national championship races that I competed in.
In 1984 I was transferred to France and stopped all slot racing activity until we moved to Belgium in 1986. After
living in Brussels for about two years, I heard about a club in Wesembeek Oppem, which was only about fifteen minutes
from where we lived! I joined the club and raced in a few Belgian Open Meetings, but pressure of work did not allow
me to become a very good club member. When we moved to London in 1993, I joined the North London Club, but rarely
managed to get any regular club nights into my schedule. I did however manage to travel to the national in Cape Town
in 1994, taking top British racer Geoff Mitchell with me. It was a great event, which also attracted top Brazilian
racer "Gugu" Bernardino. Geoff pulverised the field, with me taking second place.
I have been fortunate in having raced in a few ESROC/ISRA World Championships; in Ceska Lipa in the former Czechoslovakia,
Gateshead in England and Dordrecht in the Netherlands. Although "retired", I was also invited to compete in the ISRA World
Championship in 2002, where my car won the concours díelegance. Racing in these international events gave me the opportunity
to meet and befriend some of the best slot car racers and builders in the world, something that I will always treasure.
I enjoy building cars for the proxy races that I enter these days. Proxy racing has also brought about new friendships,
even though I haven't actually met many of the personalities.
Russell Sheldon, December 11, 2004