As you gain experience in your track driving, you will undoubtedly ask “How can I go faster?” Sure, you can track lap times and initially you will see big improvements. But at some point, you’ll find that your lap times hit a plateau. What should you do next? One answer might be professional coaching. And what do a lot of professional coaches use? Data collection. Because in the heat of the moment on the track, it may be hard to grasp what you are doing wrong. But back in the pits, the numbers do not lie. Data can be your friend.
I’m a cheap son of a gun so I thought I’d tackle this problem myself, without using a professional coach. I saw a brief item in Grassroots Motorsports magazine about a crowd source deal for a small firm in the Seattle area that was developing an inexpensive, open-source data collection device. The firm is Autosports Labs, which is headed up by Brent Picasso. His crowd source scheme met with wild success and he was able to release the Race Capture Pro data acquisition and control device. Brent had already been successful with his MegaJolt programable ignition controller. He had a vision to make available a modestly priced data acquisition device that would use open source software. Open source basically means that the software to run the device would be available to anyone and everyone so that the community of users could collectively have input into how the software is developed and the device is utilized. Another example of a well known open source software effort is the Mozilla Foxfire web browser.
Anyway, I decided to purchase a Race Capture Pro (RCP) to use in my Porsche 944 track car. There’s a lot of good info about the device at the Autosports Lab website so I won’t repeat that part here. After I received my RCP I went to their website and followed the instructions for the Quick Installation. After hooking up with a USB cord to my small laptop, I was able to get started collecting data. My first venture was a trip around the block in my street car. I set the GPS antenna on the dash and off I went. Without any external sensor hookups (except the GPS antenna and the USB cord, the device captures latitude, longitude, X/Y/Z/yaw accelerations, and speed. Results are written to a SD card. When you are done with your driving event, you pop the SD card into a laptop to review the results on the Race Analyzer software, available for download from the RCP website. Below is a screen shot of my trip around the block.
What you can’t see in this static shot is that you “launch” the event such that a icon moves along the track map while the data windows show the instantaneous results at the point on the track. A little more interesting is a screenshot from VIR, showing my lateral acceleration (0.98 g’s) and speed through turn 5. The device can also track lap times and split times.
This is just the tip of the iceburg. There is a ton I have yet to learn. I recently purchased a book by Bob Knox called A Practical Guide to Race Car Data Analysis which has me fired up to put data to use to improve my driving skills. Stay tuned!