British Formula One hero Lewis Hamilton has put Scalextric back in pole position at toy maker Hornby, helping to drive up sales by 37% in the last six months.
* Turnover up by 37% to £24.6 million (2006 - £17.9 million)
* UK and Overseas subsidiaries delivering sales growth
* Pre-tax profits up to £2.6 million (2006 - £1.8 million)*
* Earnings per share up to 3.84p (2006 - 3.16p)*
* Digital Technology Platform driving model railway and slot car demand
* Airfix and Humbrol brands re-launched
* Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Team and Transformers licences boost slot car product sales
* Interim dividend of 2.7p proposed (2006 - 2.5p)
The model toy company said it expects the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Team F1 Scalextric set - which costs between £100 and £250 - to become a best-seller this Christmas.
Frank Martin, chief executive, said: "There has been a huge resurgence in motor sport - literally driven by Lewis Hamilton. He's a great, young, iconic role model."
Scalextric sales in the UK climbed £1.8m in the six months to the end of September, while overall sales grew to £24.6m, the group said today, helping to boost pre-tax profits to £2.6m, up from £1.8m in the previous year.
Mr Martin said: "People thought we'd maxed out in the UK market because we dominate it so much - but last year's acquisitions Airfix and Humbrol have been extremely well received."
UK sales climbed from £13.1m to £17.3m in the period.
Outside the UK, Hornby has managed to penetrate the US market, securing a trading relationship with Toys R'Us for the first time - thanks to the success of its products linked to the Hollywood blockbuster Transformers.
However, Mr Martin said Hornby is not making a big push into the US - where growth is at its lowest level for the group.
Mr Martin said: "Our acquisitions in Spain and Italy are seeing the biggest growth - the brands were in trouble, so there was a massive undersupply on the market. We've reintroduced them and they are performing very well."
As the group looks towards the key Christmas period - when it makes 40pc of its sales - it expects to secure full-year sales of between £56m and £60m, up from £48m last year.
Mr Martin said it would be complacent to brush off worries of the current consumer squeeze. However, he said; "History tells us that toys at Christmas are the very last things to be sacrificed."
The group plans to pay an interim dividend of 2.7p on January 25. Shares in Hornby rose almost 4pc, up 9, to 252p.
Other news on trains:
Hornby Italia increased sales significantly in the half and is on track to
continue this trend in the second half. Very encouragingly, sales growth in
Italy is being derived not only from the re-launched model railway ranges under
the Lima and Rivarossi brands, but also from significantly increased sales of
Scalextric and Hornby branded products. In particular, the Thomas the Tank
Engine range is gaining wide popularity in Italy, as a result of regular
transmissions of the eponymous children's television series.
Hornby France increased sales at a lower rate than Italy and Spain, but, with
the majority of new launches of Jouef model railway products taking place in the
second half, we are looking forward to a strong full year performance in France.
Hornby Deutschland continues to establish itself as a credible supplier to this
important market, which is the largest model railway market in Europe. The
response to our re-launched Lima, Rivarossi and Arnold ranges has been good. It
is clear however that, given the competitive pressures in the market, great
emphasis will be placed on the successful launch of newly tooled products. In
this connection the first such product, a BR58 steam locomotive, will be
launched in Germany prior to Christmas 2007. This product features a die-cast
body for both locomotive and tender. This is the first time Hornby Group has
introduced such features.