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Big men and small cars

Kai Kivekäs's rare Scalextric electric car trackRare collection of slot carsBuilding a race car

Kai Kivekäs owns a rare Scalextric electric car track, collects miniature cars, builds his own racing cars and travels around Europe to find out who is the fastest

Kivekäs is a motor sports fanatic. In his youth he competed in Enduro and motocross, and he has even tried driving a Formula 1 car. However, it was the hobby of electric cars that got him hooked.

“Miniature motor racing is the cheap, safe and environment-friendly way to do motor sport,” says Kivekäs.

Rare collection in constant use

It all started when Kivekäs was a little boy and he and his brother were given an electric car track between them. They really got into the hobby, and this lasted throughout the 1970s. After a ten-year break, his interest in car tracks and collecting them was reawakened.

“I collected Scalextric Super 124 track almost all through the 90s until I had got every single piece. I picked up some parts by fax and Internet from all over the world, whatever the cost. The parts that came from the furthest away were from South Africa.”

Kivekäs has not counted how much money in total he sunk into his track, but he estimates that in view of its collectible value, the amount was not “outrageously expensive”. Nevertheless, this rare collection is not handled with kid gloves, since the track is in frequent use as the home track of the Nokian Tyres Slot Racing Club. The track length is 33.4 meters and includes a 9-meterlong straight that demands power from the cars and bends that test the skills of the drivers.

“As far as I know, there is no other track set up like this anywhere else in the world. This track was manufactured in 1968–70, so the production volumes were really small.”

Handmade racing car

Kivekäs has limited his collection to Scalextric and related products, in other words, the set that started off his electric car racing hobby. Now, in addition to the track, Kivekäs possesses more than 500 different slot cars and a lot of accessories, such as buildings and figurines that can be placed beside the track.

Kivekäs says that he is one of those rare collectors who also compete with his slot cars at interna-tional level. Building a racing car can take hundreds of hours of work by hand.

“First I design the chassis that I am going to race with, and I order the laminated body from a Finnish friend, who does excellent work. The race organizer always supplies the rear wheels and engine,” Kivekäs explains.

Work reaps benefits from hobby

A good racing driver needs calmness and concentration, and excellent physical fitness doesn’t do any harm.

“With an ordinary automobile you get a basic feel, but for a slot car you have to have good eye, finger and brain coordination. A good sense of rhythm also helps in driving.”

Through his hobby, Kivekäs travels to compete in Central Europe, where the level is extremely tough. The best position he has reached in the individual World Championships is third, and in team competitions, his team is fighting this year in the top ten at European level.

“Slot car racing is enjoyed across all continents, so in that way I have made a lot of new friends. My hobby is also beneficial for my day job in product development at Nokian Tyres. When building racing cars I deal with exotic materials, so technology transfer takes place in both directions.”

TEXT: ANNA KORPI-KYYNY PHOTOS: VESA TYNI, TEPPO MÄKELÄ

Kai Kivekäs, Development manager, Nokian Tyres
Kai Kivekäs, Development manager, Nokian Tyres
My hobby is also beneficial for my day job in product development at Nokian Tyres. When building racing cars I deal with exotic materials, so technology transfer takes place in both directions