Grand Prix Starting Lights

This circuit reproduces the starting light sequence currently used by FISA for Formula One racing. It could be used with slot car sets (such as HO scale AFX/Life Like/Tyco sets) or radio controlled cars. IC1, a 555 timer IC, is used as a clock pulse generator. Its output is fed via NAND gates IC2a and IC2c to IC3, a 4024 binary counter. IC2b inverts the O4 output of 4024 binary counter IC3. Initially, IC3 is reset and all its outputs are low, including O4, which causes IC2b to present a logical high to the pin 8 input of IC2c which then passes pulses from the 555 clock circuit to the clock input of the 4024. IC3 then begins counting.

After the count has reached binary 1111, the next pulse sends the O4 output of IC3 high, which disables IC2c and IC3 stops counting. The four used outputs of IC3 are connected to a resistor 'ladder' which acts as a simple digital to analog convert-er (DAC). As the count increases so does the voltage produced at the top of the ladder and this is connected to the inverting inputs of four comparators inside IC4 (an LM339) and to IC5, which is a 741 op amp also connected as a comparator.

Circuit diagram:
Grand Prix starting lights circuit schematic
Grand Prix Starting Lights Circuit Diagram

The positive inputs of the comparators are connected to the taps of a voltage divider, with the tapping voltages set using VR1, a 100kO trimpot. As IC3 counts, the rising stepped voltage from the DAC ladder switches the comparators on in sequence, starting with IC4d and working up to IC5. As each comparator is turned on, its pair of LEDs is lit; first LEDs 1 & 2, then LEDs 3 & 4 and so on. When all five pairs of LEDs are lit, the next pulse from IC1 moves the binary count of IC3 to 10000, so the DAC voltage drops back to zero and all LEDs are extinguished. At the same time, counting also stops, because the high on O4 causes IC2c to block further gate pulses. The circuit then remains inactive until the counter is reset by pressing pushbutton switch S1. This allows a new sequence to begin.
Author: David Richards - Copyright: Silicon Chip Electronics