Friday, 15 November 2013

REVIEW: Black Arrow Aston Martin DBR9

Black Arrow Aston Martin DBR9
BACM01C, 'Aston Martin Racing', winner Le Mans 2008

'One year on from Aston Martin's first victory in the GT1 class, the 009 DBR9 of David Brabham, Antonio Garcia and Darren Turner claimed another GT1 win at Le Mans 2008.' - Aston Martin Racing.


From Wikipedia: 'The Aston Martin DBR9 is a racing car built by Aston Martin Racing, debuting in 2005 and racing actively in international sportscar racing until the end of GT1 category in 2011. The name DBR9 is derived from the original 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning DBR1 car, named for then-owner David Brown, which not only won the 24 Hour race in 1959 but also the World Sportscar title.

The car is most famous for taking two LMGT1 class wins at Le Mans 24 Hours (2007 and 2008) by the Aston Martin Racing factory team.'

The above photo is copyright Aston Martin Racing.

This from Aston Martin Racing: 'Aston Martin has produced bespoke sports cars for almost 100 years..The company began in 1913, when founders Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford realised their desire to build distinctive, high quality sports cars that were both exhilarating to drive and a beauty to behold.  Martin regularly competed in hill climb races at Aston Clinton, and a simple combination of the name of the event and the driver gave birth to one of the most famous Automotive marques.'

The above photo is copyright Aston Martin Racing.

'One year on from Aston Martin's first victory in the GT1 class, the 009 DBR9 of David Brabham, Antonio Garcia and Darren Turner claimed another GT1 win at Le Mans 2008.  The 009 car, this time resplendent in the iconic Gulf livery, took the class victory at the La Sarthe Circuit.  The second factory Aston Martin DBR9, 007, finished forth in class thanks to an excellent drive from Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Andrea Piccini and Karl Wendlinger.'

The above photo is copyright Aston Martin Racing.

The below YouTube video is an Aston Martin 'behind the scenes' promotion of their historic 2008 Le Mans GT1 victory.


As members of this dynamic hobby we are presently spoilt for choice with exciting new manufactures joining the hobby every year, MR Slotcar, FlySlot/SlotWings, SRC and of course Black Arrow.

This is the second Aston Martin DBR9 to be released by Black Arrow and given it's the 2008 Le Mans winning car in the always striking Gulf livery, it looks fantastic!  When you get this car, the first thing you will notice is the very impressive packaging.  Black Arrow have clearly gone to a lot of effort in developing their own bespoke slot car packaging.

As you can see from the below photos, packaging consists of a sturdy hardened cardboard base and Black Arrow branded lid which is easily removed.  The lid is sealed in place with 2 Black Arrow quality control 'official product' stickers.  Once you break the sticker seals, the lid comes away from the box quite easily to reveal the DBR9, (the below photo shows the display base of the box siting on top of the lid for presentation).  Printing on the packaging is clear and the official product stickers are a nice touch.  

The packaging is impressive but it does have its problems.  The obvious issue with the packaging is that if you intend on storing your new DBR9 in the box, you won't be able to see it.  If you had several Astons, you may need to mark the outside of the box in some way to differentiate them.

The slot is not secured to the base via traditional screws, but rather via a foam inlay inside the box's lid.  With the lid in place, the foam inside the lid prevents the slot from moving.

Another thing I didn't love about the packaging was that once the stickers were removed to remove the lid, the lid never completely closes again.  Without the aid of the stickers, the lid tends to 'pop' an inch or so off the base due to the foam inside the lid being too tight around the body of the slot.  Unfortunately this prevents the boxes from being stackable, that's if you're lucky enough to have several of these in your collection.

also felt nervous placing the lid back on the slot (at least prior to completing the review photography) as its pretty tight, I felt I was going to damage the slot with the force required.  Upon opening the base of the packaging, you'll find a set of 4 spare grub screws, a nice touch.


The following slot specifications are provided by Black Arrow:
  • Chassis; "In-Flex" by Black Arrow
  • Motor mount; "In-Line" V1.0
  • Bevel gears ratio; 13/37
  • Motor; 'Apache' 28,000 rpm
  • Front Tires; Zero Grip
  • Rear Tires; R1
  • Front Rims; Delrin 0,62 gr.
  • Rear Rims; Aluminum 0,95 gr.
  • Steel Axles; 56mm
  • Suspension; Springs White/Green
  • Wires; 1,3mm Oxigen Free
  • Braids; 0,4mm Oxigen Free
The DBR9 chassis comes with numerous upgrade options, including the above angle-winder chassis, different strength suspension springs and the below flexible body kit.  I'm personally a fan of the inline motor configuration but I think the flexible body kit is a fantastic idea even though the slot comes standard with flexible rear-view mirrors and aerials.

You can find out more about these options on the Black Arrow web site here.


Let’s face it, we will never have enough funds to buy all the slot cars we would like and unfortunately there are times we are forced to let one slip through the collection.  This section outlines the value the slot car represents as a way of helping with the dilemma of, ‘Should I really get this slot?’

From a straight cost comparison perspective, Black Arrow slots are more expensive than your average slot release, say a Scalextric, Flyslot,, SRC or a Ninco.  Black Arrow are more comparable with NSR and like NSR slot cars, they come with a very high level of engineering and this is what you are paying the extra for.  Is the Black Arrow DBR9 as good as what NSR is currently offering?  I think so and so do the lap times, but more on that later.

So not the cheapest slot on the market, (nor the dearest either, Le Mans miniatures, Silverline, etc.) so the real question is, would I buy another Black Arrow slot car?  Hell yeah, but it's like a special treat.  A Black Arrow is a special slot car and for that reason, you don't need to buy one every week and that works for me.

Just look at the above suspension chassis with Apache 28K motor, I could just about eat it!


The finish levels on the DBR9 are what you would expect from a slot car in this price range...very high with a paint and decal finish which is nothing short of excellent.  The one thing I wasn't at first sure of was the Gulf blue paint, it looked too light (washed out even) in the promotional imagery I had seen.  When compared to Scalextric's Gulf Aston, (see second photos below) it is a lighter blue but I think its right and looks great against the orange of the racing strip down the centre of the car.

Decal lettering is very clear, I'm particularly impressed by the Aston Martin 'wings'  logos (front and back) which are raised off the body, not just a decal - a very nice touch.  Based on comparison with the above photos of the actual DBR9 at Le Mans in 2008, the only real omissions are the driver's names from the roof of the slot and the Michellin branding on the tyres.  I can live without the Michellin branding (lets face it we change the rubber anyway) but the missing driver's names is a shame.

In the below photo, the Black Arrow DBR9 is on the left.

In terms of capturing the overall shape and body detail, Black Arrow have done an excellent job of recreating a 1:32 version of the real car.  Again, upon initially seeing the Black Arrow model I thought it was way too low when compared with Scalextric's version (see above).  After having driven the Black Arrow slot for a few hours, I now think the opposite.  The Black Arrow offering looks awesome on the track making the Scalextric DBR9 look way too high.

Not being too focussed on scale proportions, (if it looks good, it looks good) I have not measured and converted to scale to compare with actual car dimensions.  But when visually compared to the above Le Mans photos, the Black Arrow's slot looks spot on to my eye.

You can see the raised Aston wings logo in the above photo along with the bright yellow tow hook detail.  Bonnet engine cooling and air intake details look excellent, the front window come with a wiper arm extended to 12 o'clock as per the 1:1 race car.  Front light detail is very good but as with all endurance slot cars, I wish this model came with lights.  Black Arrow has done a comprehensive job on the front end, I really like the body panel removal screws that have been moulded (so raised from the body) and painted silver with small orange arrows.

Side rear vision mirrors do not protrude from the slot however if the slot was to roll onto it's roof they would come into contact with the track.  Not to fear as Black Arrow have fitted the slot with rubber flexible mirrors so they should survive the hardest of knocks.  As previously mentioned, there is also a wide range of additional flexible parts you can fit to your DBR9 such as the spoiler, rear diffuser and rear wing.

Note the panel 'inserts' above the front wheels, no ventilation slits?  Well the Le Mans DBR9 had the ventilation slit panels replaced with solid panels, just as per the Black Arrow model.

In terms of shape and look, the rear wing has been reproduced accurately and looks great on the Aston.  The only problem is that it's quite rigid and if you were to have a serious shunt, I would think it may survive.  The roof aerials are made of rubber and have a high degree of flexibility so should be fine.  In the above 1:1 photos you'll notice that there is a 3rd aerial forward of the 2 Black Arrow have included, a small missing detail.

I'm impressed by the holes recreated in the rear and side windows which can be seen on the 1:1 race car.  One of the thing I really didn't understand was why the slot as decals for air intakes over the rear wheels.  Upon researching I found the below photo which shows that these intakes were covered with clear perspex, hence the decision to show these as decals.

Looking at the below photos makes me hope that Black Arrow consider releasing a 'post race' dirty livery of the DBR9.

The above photo is copyright Aston Martin Racing.

Wheel detail look great and have discs and break callipers, I can even read Brenbo on the callipers!   As mentioned before, the wheels would have looked better with the Michellin sponsorship included.
  Driver (fully painted) and internal detail (dash, roll-cage, steering wheel, etc.) are all present as you would expect.  As this is a slot car designed for racing, Black Arrow has ensured this interior is super light-weight, a nice inclusion that you won't need to upgrade if you do intend on racing this slot. The driver is a half figure (to reduce weight) although fully painted, I did not research the helmet colours but I suspect Black Arrow have.

The Black Arrow DBR9 is an excellently detailed slot car and I'm very impressed with their attention to detail and quality control, this is one highly impressive looking slot car!

In the below photo the Black Arrow DBR9 is on the right.


I like to start with the guide, it's like no other standard guide I've seen.  Firstly its Torx screw (T6) attached via the guide post, braids are secured with 2 additional screws.  That's right I said Torx screws, typically used by the computer industry Black Arrows have incorporated them in the the DBR9.  Unfortunately for most of us (including myself) that meant buying some new Torx screw drivers, the DBR9 uses 2 sizes, T5 and T6.  You can purchase some impressive looking Black Arrow Torx drivers but there are plenty of options on eBay.

The guide is well forward of the chassis and is approximately 7mm deep and 21mm long which works very well on my Carrera plastic track.  Guide freedom of movement is very good allowing the slot to corner well.  From an aesthetic perspective the guide is set at a good height and the front of the slot sits naturally and realistically on the track.  The braid is soft and pretty thin as braid thickness goes.

The front axle is height adjustable via 4 (yes 4!) small grub screws.  2 are accessible from underneath (depth adjustment) the chassis and 2 from inside (maximum height adjustment).  The front wheels sit nicely on the track straight from the box with approximately 5mm of vertical travel so I felt no need to adjust.

The front wheels are 'pushed' on to the axle and made from delrin a polyoxymethylene plastic which is an engineering thermoplastic used for precision parts that require a high degree of stiffness, low friction component and excellent 3D stability - perfect for slot car front wheels. :)  The front wheels have low-profile, zero-grip rubber attached which is something you won't have to upgrade.

The DBR9 chassis comes setup as an inline motor pod configuration with Black Arrow's Apache 'long-can' 28rpm motor, a great racing platform.  The Apache motor is very brisk but still manageable for large scale home tracks.  I had read previous reviews that started this motor was too powerful and not suited to home track racing.  Perhaps if you have a small oval or figure eight track but not the case if you have a decent sized layout.

It's worth mentioning that this slot comes standard as non-magnetic, in fact there is actually no allowance for a magnet even if you wanted to install one.  That being said, the DBR9 could be made into a magnetic racer and a damn fine one it would be with all that power and weight distribution.  Likewise there is room to add some weight to the chassis if you wish too.  I have run the slot for several hundred laps but haven't felt the need to get my box of weight out as yet.

The DBR9 moves briskly (and quietly) down the long straights of my track and is super smooth through the more technical sections.  My track has a good balance of technical elements like reverse curves while still having several long straights up to 4.5 metres allowing slots to stretch their legs.

For more specific information on the track used in this review, please have a look at my track layout here.  
In terms of gearing, the pinion is 13 tooth combined with a crown gear of 37 teeth, looks impressive doesn't it?  The Apache motor is well secured (fixed with a pair of T5 screws at the rear) in the motor pod resulting in zero motor rotation under power, impressive engineering.

The weight distribution of the slot is impressive, the upper body is super light.  It's when you remove the body from the chassis that you realise just how light this body is and that means a low centre of gravity.  The DBR9 is low and wide sitting on the track, also a great thing when it comes to being a quick performer. 

The body is held on to the chassis by 4 long (approx 12mm) T6 screws, from the box these screws are screwed almost completely in allowing for little to no body roll.  On my track, the rear body of the slot dragged on the track making it noisy and not drivable.  A slightly frustrating situation when you have no Torx drivers, I had to put the slot back in its box for another day.

Once I had the Torx drivers, this situation was easily fixed and I was able to adjust the ride hight of the slot to suit my track - very nice!  The chassis is described by Black Arrow as a 'flex' chassis and when you loosen the body screws (allowing the chassis the freedom to move) you know why.  The small longitudinal slits (see 2 photos above) in the chassis that look super cool actually serve a purpose, they allow the chassis to twist or flex as the slot runs.
  The standard rear rubber is not that impressive on my plastic track and this was the only area I felt needed upgrading to get the best from the slot.  I put a set of rubber on the rear and instantly found a second on my layout.  The rear Black Arrow rubber isn't bad but I could see the rear end of the slot hanging out too much as I pushed through the corners in search of quicker lap times.  This is perhaps also partly the result of such a powerful motor, rear grip needs to be maximised.

In terms of non-magnetic on-track performance, how does the DBR9 perform?  Well excellently, lap time are knocking on the door of 7 seconds and that's a quick non-mag time on my track.  The non-mag lap record on my track is 6.77 set by a Audi R8C "RAW' with a thousand laps on the counter (NSR Mosler EVO2 A/W at 6.95) so the DBR9 is pretty quick.

For a more detailed lap time comparison, have a quick look at the 'lap times' page here.

The motor pod comes standard with suspension and Black Arrow provide 5 spring options (super soft, soft, medium, hard and super hard) if you wish to configure the strength of the suspension to better suit your track requirements. The rear springs on the DBR9 are soft (green) and can be seen in the below photo.  The front springs are super hard, (white) the springs can be adjusted using T6 screws from underneath the chassis.

Does ManicSlots recommend adding a Black Arrow Aston Martin DBR9 to your line-up?   Without hesitation, as previously stated, this is a special slot car and yes, perhaps it's not for all in our hobby.  Yes, you could perhaps purchase 2 cheap slots instead, but I guarantee you that combined, they won't give you half the enjoyment of the DBR9.

What's worth remembering is that this slot comes with a whole heap of high-performance options as standard; flex chassis, motor pod with suspension, 28K motor, professional screw guide, zero grip front tyres, light weight racing interior, beautiful gearing and a 4-way adjustable front axel.  Combine those standard features with the DBR9's smooth, quite and high performing charastics and you have a hell of a slot car!
  • Sex Appeal: 6th gear
  • Collectability: 5th gear
  • Build Quality: 7th gear
  • Attention to Detail: 7th gear
  • 'RTR' Performance: 6th gear
Overall Manic Slot Score: 6.2 Gears.

Want to see the Aston on the track, check-out the below video.
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