Carrera Sauber Petrona C21

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Carrera Sauber Petrona C21

Postby wixwacing » Wed 06 Aug, 2008 1:12 am

Carrera #25724 Sauber Petronas C21 (2003 livery), No. 10

By Rob Wessling



Weight: 83g
Axle Width Front: 58.9mm
Axle Width Rear: 62.0mm
Wheelbase: 91.4mm
Gearing: 22.2MMPR (9:27)

Having recently "discovered" the excellent Carrera Ferrari F1 "No.1" for our F1 field here at Millennium Raceway, I thought I'd try another 1/32 F1 model from the Carrera Evolution line-up…….

The subject of this review is the C21 (2003 livery) Sauber Petronas. Being a fanatic of the 1:1 F1 racing scene, I'm always keen to add a livery that we haven't yet collected for our small F1 collection. So, it wasn't any real surprise that the Carrera Sauber Petronas would eventually find a home here (to my knowledge Carrera is the only 1/32 manufacturer offering a Sauber Liveried F1 model to the buying public).

Displayed in the usual quality Carrera plastic case, the Petronas Sauber made a very favourable first impression! I really love the presentation of both Carrera AND the livery presented, Peter Sauber's cars always look sharp, this livery was no exception. Upon removing the Carrera Sauber from the packaging, the first thing that registered was the "heft" of this particular model. Suspicions were confirmed by our kitchen scales, the Petronas Sauber is one "chunky" 1/32 F1 model, coming in at 83 grams, which is considerably heavier than most of its "class" competition (Scalextric, SCX and even the new Carrera weigh-in anywhere between 60 and 68 grams). NB Just out of interest, the Carrera Sauber came in with a total weight of 74 grams after final tuning.


Overall quality of Tampo and paint is quite good, perhaps the only negative in this area is the apparent mould lines (and associated roughness of paint finish) around the air-box intake. I also noticed what first appeared to be an uneven finish in the dark blue (with fine metallic fleck) base coat on the top surface of the body. Closer inspection revealed the words "Sauber Petronas" laid over this coat. Not having 2003 livery photos to hand (this isn't present on the 2002 livery prototype photos that I have on file), I can't say for certain if this is meant to be part of the actual livery or not.

Carrera appears to have done a reasonable job of capturing the lines of the C21 Sauber, although the rear deck does not have the downward curve of the prototype (no doubt due to the limitations imposed by the models spur gear arrangement). Level of exterior detail would best be described as sparse. An example being the exhaust ports on the rear deck, Carrera preferring to go with the much easier method of adding a decal instead of revising the model's mould to accommodate this detail feature.

Interior detail is equally limited in execution, with a half driver figure rounding out model detail. Finally, a quick word on the scale appearance of this model. The Carrera Sauber appears to be a little on the "largish" side when compared directly to other 1/32 scale models (including the Carrera Ferrari). I cannot say whether it is "true"1/32 scale or not, suffice to say that it looks a little on the "chunky" side to me. It's no major issue for me though, I know what the model represents and it doesn't dwarf other models in this class (like, for instance a VMG Vanquish Can-AM car).

OK, with visual "enticement" over, it was now time to run some SOOB (Standard out of box) brackets to see how the Carrera Sauber Petronas performed. After a few gentle run in laps to get the feel of the chassis on the track, the Sauber produced a best lap of 6.987 seconds and a 45-lap average of7.23 seconds.


It was quite apparent to me that this version Carrera F1 model was nowhere near the standard of the recently reviewed Carrera Ferrari regarding on-track performance. Lack of grip, general lack of stability and the overly long (for Scalextric Sport track) Carrera guide blade made for a difficult SOOB test. I had a great deal of trouble in getting consistent (and quick) lap times from the Carrera Sauber. The model just wasn't working for me the way I wanted, being extremely difficult to control through the technical sections of our layout, a steady hand (and overall pace) being the order of the day.

The one (major) redeeming factor in all of this was that the excellent Mabuchi motor used by Carrera in all of its 1/32 models was having no trouble in shifting the bulkiness of the Sauber Petronas at a good rate of knots on the straights of Millennium Raceway.

I'll break with protocol here a little and mention a very easy way of making a quick fix to remedy the ordinary performance of this model in SOOB form. To gain more on track pace in non-tuned configuration, just ease off the rear magnet housing screws by a turn to a turn and a half. This lets the rear magnet sit closer to the track rails, which increases magnetic traction, a crude form of adjustable magnet pod if you will. By making this quick and easy adjustment I was able to run a best lap of 5.856 seconds and a 45-lap average of 6.05 seconds! This is a much better result, and should please those of us that prefer to run our models in non-tuned form…..


OK, time to get this model apart and see what needs to be done to wring a little more pace from the package! Three chassis screws and the tension from the front spoiler assembly hold chassis and body together. I found with my model that the front wing assembly can be gently eased out of the nose of the body (post and socket arrangement) by gentle finger pressure combined with a small amount of side to side "wiggling" (it is an interference fit).

The usual abundance of Carrera wiring, motor capacitors and switchgear was removed, leaving only the two motor wires in place. The motor was glued to the front chassis mount only using Superglue (the chassis clip to motor end-bell was found to be quite loose on this particular model). The front adjustable magnet and plate was also removed at this time, as I find no real need for these items after tuning (the rear magnet offers enough down-force on its own).

Front wheels and tyres were disassembled, rims were found to be quite round, only needing a light touch up with fine grade sandpaper. The front tyres needed some attention though, which was OK as I intended to take them down to an overall diameter of 20.1mm (from 21.1mm). I do this to assist in helping make good braid/rail contact and to lower the overall stance of the chassis. Please note that the front-end used set-up used in the Carrera Sauber differs markedly from the Carrera Ferrari. It is not as well designed in my opinion, making for a very loose fitting front axle, but more on this later….

The length of the guide was then cut back to 16.3mm and guide blade re-profiled to suit the Scalextric Sport track system (I do this with all Carrera models in our collection to stop binding on tight radius corners).


The rear-end was then disassembled, axle to bearing fit was found to be very loose (some of the worst fitting axle bushes that I've seen to date) and bearing to chassis fit was also found to be as equally poor. Not having any better Carrera bearings on hand, I made do with what I had, needless to say that Loctite 480 was the order of the day for securing the bearings into the chassis clips!

Rear hubs were found to be quite true. The rear tyres were reasonable regarding concentricity, but the compound used was very hard in comparison to others in use at the moment (the Carrera Ferrari has a softer compound, it may be worth checking to see if the two tyres are interchangeable). Rear tyre diameter was reduced to 20.3mm, in order to provide a lower overall stance for the model.

The whole lot was then re-assembled, with a dab of superglue on axle/spur, pinion/motor shaft (to ensure they stay where they should). A quick lube of all bearings (axle and motor), rear magnet reset (to a turn and 1/8 off tight) and it was time to see if any gains had been made in the Carrera Sauber's on track performance.

The revised chassis produced a best lap of 5.602 seconds and a 45-lap average of 5.82 seconds. The Carrera Sauber was a much-improved model around our Scalextric Sport layout, being quite quick in a straight line and reasonably well behaved in the technical sections. Traction via mechanical grip from the rear tyres was still wanting when pushed to the limit, but nothing short of a rear tyre change was going to bring improvement in this area. The front end, whilst showing some improvement did still tend to hop around, unsettling the whole package in the process.


In my opinion, this earlier style of Carrera front end is not a good design. There is way too much movement involved for my linking, I felt that some improvement in this regard could help reduce lap times further, so this is what I did….

Firstly cut two pieces of .32mm copper shim stock into 7.7mm X 2.5mm rectangles (you can use plastic, but seeing as how this will become a bearing surface for the front axle, I'd suggest metal).

Remove the front axle from the chassis bracket. Glue the two pieces of shim stock into the corresponding moulded groove on the chassis with Loctite 480 "Black Max" (an RTR chassis tuners BEST FRIEND). Let dry, then re-assemble (front chassis screw a half turn off firm, rears a 1/4 turn off firm). You will find a lot less up and down travel in the front axle assembly than before, not perfect, but reasonably close to it. Please note that the final rear magnet setting after these modifications was one turn off firm (a better-balanced chassis needs less magnetic down force than a poorly tuned one).

Further testing after this minor modification yielded a best lap time of 5.323 seconds and a 45-lap average of 5.53 seconds. Not earth shattering, but quite respectable considering the models overall weight, rear tyre compound and basic chassis design.


In conclusion, I'd have to consider the Sauber Petronas from Carrera to be a bit of a mixed bag.
Exterior paint and Tampo are quite good, level of detail and perceived scale issues, not so good.

Mechanically, parts ranged from very good (wheel/axle concentricity) to poor (bearing to axle and bearing/motor end-bell to chassis fit) in my particular test sample. The front-end design on this model is also poor in comparison to its Ferrari sibling. I for one will be very happy when Carrera switches over to the revised chassis design as found in the Carrera Ferrari!

Excessive model weight and a hard rear tyre compound also exacerbate the problems encountered with this model.

The Carrera Sauber Petronas would more than likely make a decent "opponent" for a tuned but stock SCX. However, it would be no match for a Scalextric, SCX (with optional Pro-Turbo Plus motor) or a similarly tuned Carrera Ferrari F1 on Scalextric Sport track as per our layout.

Am I happy that I purchased this model? Well, yes I am, mainly because I finally have a beautiful and eye catching Sauber livery to add to our F1 shelf!!!


When I'm not racing slotcars,
I'm out in the back yard, burning food!!

When I win, it's because of my talent, not my car or my controller!
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