Virtual Scalextric plan turbo-charges Hornby

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The Independent Online

The toy maker Hornby yesterday unveiled a new gizmo that will enable owners of its Scalextric race tracks to race each other on the internet.

The "Sport World System", which will be shown at the London Toy Fair at the end of this month, connects a user's Scaletrix track to their PC and means they can race others with the same tracks online.

Frank Martin, the chief executive, said: "We are confident that by combining interactive technology and actual track layouts, that we will start to develop an active community of keen Scalextric racers and enthusiasts, who are able to race against each other all over the world in virtual reality." Hornby also announced the launch of its "Sport Digital System" - a gadget that users plug into their tracks which enables up to six cars to race on a single lane and to overtake each other on certain bends.

Mr Martin said he was "confident" that many existing Scaletrix users would upgrade to the new systems. "We are confident that they will be received well and early indications from our retail customers are very encouraging," he said.

Hornby said that both new products would be available in the autumn although they are not expected to contribute materially to earnings in the year to 31 March 2005. Never the less, shares in Hornby moved up nearly 4 per cent, or 45p, to close at 1,230p.

The company would not comment on how much the new kit would cost.

Its boxed Scalextric race tracks range in price from about £35 to £100.