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Data Acquisition, fact or fiction, requirement for any car, or advanced.

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Starting a new topic based on hijack of Ben's FP 280 thread. There are a couple people, including me, building competition cars or running them at this time. Scope of this thread should define minimum requirements of an autox, time trial, or race prepared Nissan Z car along with advanced path for future upgrades. But mostly minimum requirements suggested for competion based applications. Hence the post under the Motorsports heading.


First observation, amazing how long it's been for activity on this topic. 

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My first comments are I posted a primer on analyzing basic data a few years ago but cannot find it on any of my searches. Please post a link if found.


Next comment, data collection and analysis should be super quick, accessible, and comprehensible for autox and time trials. 


Next comment, overall data analysis is 80% driver, 20% car 90% of the time.


And finally, if starting out, what data is needed? Where would you start with a new car and new driver? 

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Thx for taking the time to continue this important discussion, Clark!


At the risk of publicly making a fool of myself, I'll go first.  I was thinking that it would be useful to talk about how much great data can be collected & recorded with just simple hand tools, vs sophisticated data loggers, video devices and smart phone apps.  Attached is photo of roughly $60 worth of simple tools readily available from multiple vendors (including your local hardware store).


As @clarkspeed mentioned in a previous thread, there’s no limit to amount of data one can easily collect & record at each and every track session to help improve your driving  performance (e.g. lap times, driving smoothness, capability of the car, etc). 


Here are just a few of the data parameters that I have found useful, FWIW:


Suspension setup.  This is a BIG system, with LOTS of variable parameters that can be measured and tuned to achieve your best performance.  This can also vary widely – no single setup will rarely work optimally at every type of event (auto-x vs road course vs straight-line vs oval track, rough surface vs smooth surface, variable weather conditions, etc, etc).  Camber (front and rear, left and right), caster, front-end toe, ride height (front and rear, left and right) can all be measured with simple tape measure and angle finder.  A cheap, accurate digital angle finder is $20.  A tape measure and some ordinary string can be used to accurately measure your front-end toe; and after doing it a couple times, it becomes second nature to quickly and accurately measure and adjust your toe settings.


Tire pressures and temps.  ALWAYS measure tire pressures, hot and cold; to determine what pressures work best for any given surface and suspension setup.  Equal pressures on all four tires is not necessarily the best solution….you can vary front vs rear pressures and right vs left pressures to achieve different handling characteristics.  When measuring tire temps, use a probe-style pyrometer vs surface temp IR gun.  The IR gun can only measure surface temps on a tire, which doesn’t give an accurate indication of a tire’s internal temperature, which is what’s really important.  Additionally, the tire’s surface temperature can change significantly from the time you exit the track to when you actually take the measurement, vs the internal temp remains quite consistent for some time after exiting the track.  A cheap, accurate pyrometer and tire probe costs $20 and a good tire pressure gauge is $10-$20.


An IR gun DOES have many uses, and can be had for $20.  It can measure track surface temperature, which has a huge effect on tire performance (especially short-duration events, like dragracing, top-speed comps, auto-x or time trials).  IR guns can also be used to measure brake temps, differential temperatures, header temps (including individual header tubes) and many other useful mechanical parameters on your car.  It can verify that your coolant temp and oil temp gauges are operating correctly and accurately.  Ambient weather condition will also have an effect on the car’s performance; so be sure to record those, as well.  Ambient temperature, sunny vs cloudy, altitude density and precipitation are just a few of the many weather parameters that can factor in to affect your car’s performance, and these parameters are all readily available with just about any good weather app or website.


Sorry for the long-winded, and rambling, response.  These are just a few examples of the data that can be easily and cheaply measured & recorded; and I’m sure that my feeble-minded reply is missing a whole bunch of stuff….others will chime in, I’m sure.  This is more just to get the discussion going.  I look forward to the ensuing discussion and sharing of information!!  :-) 


Edited by jhm
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No, THAT IS AN EXCELLENT RESPONSE, and the perfect place to start the discussion. What is data anyway? Facts, figures, numbers, words, pictures, video? It's all of the above. Think of it as something to save that describes something that happened that you can refer to later. 


So let's start with the bare minimum. A system for collecting data is #1. Pad and pen, track maps, spreadsheets, etc. Whatever works for you and find a way to keep it organized. I still use a notebook with a pen to record everything I can think of of during a race weekend. Weather, Temps, problems I had, what bolts I had to tighten, things I need to pack next time or discard, parts that need to be replaced, parts I did replace, how the car felt, etc. After a few entries, some patterns appeared. I developed a pre race check list, and a maintenance check list from this along with many other insights. And my main focus is creating an action list to implement before the next event. What do I want to change and why.


If starting out, I suggest trying to record everything you can think of. How to drive the track, how you were feeling that day, what felt good about car and what did not. I used to scuba dive and did the same thing in my dive logs. Some of my entries are numbers, some look like I am writing a diary. And they reflect other sources that are disconnected, like a note that I took video or recorded something with another system and it was successful. Over time you get a better feeling for what you really need to write down. I review it after the event and address the action items. Then I review it again before next event.


I stipulate these are only my opinions, but I say you need to start with the above before you go to step #2, which looks exactly like the picture posted by jhm.

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And more food for thought. When it comes to data, I have 3 contradictory quotes that all apply. They hang on my wall at work so I read every day. 


"You can't improve what you don't measure" - Drucker


"You can't fatten a calf by weighing it" - Anonymous 


"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted" - Einstein

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