More information on the New Directions Transponder














The TRANSPONDER comes in two basic styles.

One is designed for Flat-bottomed tracks, which includes the Microwizard Freedom Aluminum track, all plastic tracks, and all plywood tracks. The sensors are located in a thin rugged arm attached to the control box.

Flat bottom design on left, BestTrack on right.

The other is designed specifically for the BestTrack. The sensors are separate, and are permanently mounted inside the BestTrack. Details HERE.

For wood tracks with stiffening boards on the sides, order your Transponder to mount inside the track. The green LED is brought to the outside with a flexible cable so the race starters can verify the timer status.

Having the entire timing system permanently inside the track is the ultimate in compactness. Also, we offer other battery choices.


On a flat-bottomed track, the preferred attachment is with widely available double-sided foam tape. Apply small rectangles of tape on the Transponder arm, and peel off the wax paper. Align the sensors to the hole centers, and press in place.

After the race, just pull the TRANSPONDER off, and remove any tape residue with your fingernail. The tape is inexpensive, and nothing is faster to set up and take down.

Add the Illuminator

You must supply the illuminator. This is usually not a problem

It's just a single light bulb over the finish line. Click HERE for more information.

Flourescent, either tubes or compact, will not work. Nor will LED. It has to be incandescent (hot filament).

A physically small bulb is better. Clear glass is better than frosted. A small reflector spot is great. A small halogen is ideal.

Get creative. A lampshade with your troop number?

What is the difference in the displays when using the Transponder vs. using The Fast Track or other finish line?

Great question!

Here's the displays of the Transponder and the Fast Track, side by side, using GrandPrix Race Manager.

There are no differences.
The Transponder, like all finish lines, sends Lane number finishing order, and elapsed time to your computer. The race software incorporates this data identically into its processing and display formats.

You see exactly the same thing no matter what finish line, or what software you use.


Flat Bottom Track

Model TRW

Dimensions, electronic enclosure HWD: 2"x1.5"x1"

Battery: 4LR44  6Volt Battery sold separately $3
Equivalent: PX28a, A544, L1325

Computer signal: Serial 9600-8-1-None

Resolution: .0001 seconds

Specify track length when ordering. We also need exact dimensions if your track is home built.

To order, call us. That is the way to be sure that everything is correct.

Flat Bottom Track

Lanes     Price




Some Pinewood Derby History

The iconic Pinewood Derby finish line was not always around. It was originally developed by Stu Ferguson of Microwizard in the early 1990s. The new availablity of large seven segment numerals lent itself well to a billboard-shaped structure.

Etek Gadgets was quick to notice the success of Ferguson's design, and stepped in with essentially the same design in the late 1990s.

BestTrack, looking for a "one stop shopping" for the Pinewood market, purchases the Etek Gadgets' electronics, assembles it into a custom aluminum housing, and calls it The Champ.

Along the way, two other manufacturers tried the same design, but did not turn the corner on success, and finally dropped out. The reason was the high costs involved in this display technology.

Nevertheless, the billboard design with the red 7 segment numbers has served the Pinewood market now for 20 years.


It is an odd sight when you really consider it. No other race event has anything that looks quite like these things. For example, a real NASCAR finish line looks like this:

Think about the finish line of a track and field event, or a horse race, or a bicycle race, or a boat race. No other vehicle or athlete goes under a billboard with red numbers.


The Transponder does not look like what some people associate with Pinewood racing. But ten years ago, nobody had affordable projection equipment. Big screen TVs were just coming out, and astronomically expensive. And ten years ago, running your derby under computer software was in its infancy. What was then novel is now routine.

So don't let "tradition" get in the way of thinking. Remember, if you are reading this, you are already advanced, and interested in the state of art. And that includes performance divided by price.

Advantages of The Transponder

One third the price of a 7-segment display that nobody looks at.

The Transponder runs at 5 milliampere. Ice cold. The Champ and other 7 segment displays are hot to the touch. This has reliability implications.

More realistic. Mark your finish line with a black line, or put some little checkerboard flags (included) on each side. There is nothing blocking the view, and the overhead light attractively brightens up the finish.

Few, if anyone in your audience understands or cares about the elapsed time. Just more wasted money. The Transponder transmits elapsed time to the big screen for anyone really interested.

Very small: Fits in your shirt pocket, yet does everything the Champ and other systems do. Fast to set up: Under a minute, no tools.

Immediate swap on any malfunction. We make electronic systems here, we don't just repackage them.

Do you have a Plan B?

If any Pinewood finish line fails catastrophically, then you will have to either reschedule your event or use eyeballs like in the old days. For this reason, you should have a back up plan. Frankly, computer race management programs have spoiled us a bit. There is really no hope of duplicating the advantages they bring to the event. Human scoring is simply incapable of doing better than some sort of elimination tree. But you do need to consider this, and have a plan in place if the worst happens.

What about if the finish line is fine, but the computer crashes, or the Derby software becomes corruputed during the event?


Plan B is a display option that you might consider when ordering. It shows the finishing order of the lanes, and is useful in illumination adjustment. It cannot be added later.


The Transponder has a Plan B

Plan B Option eliminates eyeball judging at least. A series of LEDs provides visual indication of the finishing order should you lose your computer or software. So you are not worse off than with any other finish line if the computer or software fails.

This is not an audience display. Someone just looks at it and calls out Win, Place, and Show results to the your scorekeeper to enter into your Plan B system.

Computer failure probablilites are in fact quite low. So rather than install it as standard, increasing product price for everyone, we are letting you make the decision. You can order Plan B as an option depending on your own risk assessment.

A word about computer reliability:

If you are responsible for running a Pinewood Derby, that can seem like an awesome responsibility. You don't want to worry about the equipment, even if you have your Plan B in place.

It is true that sometimes equipment fails. Almost all of us have had a crash of a hard drive, and had that "lost life" feeling if we were not backed up.

Actually, computers are quite reliable. People use them sometimes for years without a single hiccup. Important business deals are made every day by high-salaried people flying around the country and conducting critical Power Point pitches. If equipment was a weak link, people would not be doing this.


Scouts are Prepared

Allow Plenty of Time to Re-Derbyize

In the case of the annual Pinewood Derby, it is a little different. Typically, the equipment is brought out only a few days prior, and it is all new again. Computers might have changed in that year, a software driver is missing, a manual is lost,. A lot of forgetting can take place over that year, maybe new personnel are involved. Everyone is rusty. So it is not like putting on just another routine Power Point show.

If the Derby gets messed up and it has something to do with the computer or the software, the failure is usually charged up to "Computer Fail" The computer gets a bad rap and a bad rep.

In the vast majority of such cases, the fault lies in not allowing enough time to relearn the Pinewood routine.

That is the real responsibility that must be accepted.

Battery for Transponder: 6V, 180 ma.

Panasonic 4LR44


Radio Shack 23-469
Vinnic L1325



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