Small cars plus fast race equals big fun

small cars plus fast race equals big funISLESBORO — Eight years ago when Gilbert Rivera moved from Southern California to Islesboro, he left behind slot car racing and a winning reputation in the sport. But not for long. Now he races on Islesboro, and is mentor to 11-year-old Aiden Randlett, who recently picked up honors in Mount Holly, New Jersey at the 2013 United Slot Car Racers National Championship.

Slot cars, tiny plastic cars with powerful miniature motors, are set into slots of electrified tracks and operated by their owners with hand-held controllers. The lightweight cars whip around the tracks at seconds-per-circuit, and the trick is to get a car to circle faster than the others without flipping out of the tracks on corners.

Slot car racers can buy their cars ready-made, or build them from scratch, which Rivera and Randlett both do. One other level of competition, called “concourse,” is for general appearance of cars, and Aiden took a second place for best-looking car while Rivera took orders for customized paint jobs on the cars, for which he has a wide reputation, having won eight national championships in slot car production.

In fact, the fastest time ever recorded for a slot car on a 150-foot track was 1.406 seconds around, and was won by a car Rivera painted.

When Rivera, new to the island, discovered slot car racing in Brunswick, he would go off to attend races, drive back to the ferry line in Lincolnville and sleep in his truck overnight. When that racing venue closed down in 2008, Gil acquired the 75-foot long track and brought it to the island.

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