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


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Post #3 – Lots and lots of data on the cheap

Now I am breaking into something new, a device that automatically and electronically records data for you.  Something that takes samples at least 5 times a second of additional parameters you cannot see easily with the human eye.  75 years of electronics development has given us tons of options to look at our race cars in different ways that were only a dream in the 1950’s.  And stuff has gotten so cheap, most everyone uses something more than a tire pressure gauge and pyrometer these days to analyze performance. 


First up let’s talk cameras, both still and motion.  Cary has posted on this subject many times in this forum and I think it deserves its own section here.  I am going to consider this really the first step into electronic data analysis.  There is just so much knowledge that can be gained with so little money.  From Cary:


“It also important to get pictures from the event where you can see your car loaded up in a corner as well as those that are faster than you or in the same class.  There's a lot that can be learned from these photos.  And ideally have someone take video of the same cars and if possible use a tripod so you can tell what are and are not trying to see if the car is hopping or the camera operator (phone owner) had too many lattes.  These days almost everyone has a camera and most of these also capture video and those get shared on social media, which makes it easy to collect this info.  “


I will also add, you don’t need any fancy equipment here.  Obviously phones can do this well,  everyone has one, they process the video immediately, and have big screens to review, but they do tend to be expensive and can be tricky to mount. Go-Pros are nice since they are hi-def, image stabilized, auto correct sound levels, etc.  If making high quality social media posts and movies, these are the best, but for extracting basic info they are kind of overkill and they are also expensive.  There are many Go-Pro clones out there and mini video cameras that are super cheap. Especially on the used market.  And 720p resolution is fine for most analysis. Over the years I have collected a small box full of video cameras that I use in various applications. Many are in the $25-30 range and I don’t care if they get destroyed in action. Some have small display screens so you can review the video immediately.


These are some examples of analyzing video:


1.     Facing the front you can analyze your racing line and track conditions. By freezing the frames you can look at distances to objects and the sound can indicate shift points and lifting points.

2.     Facing the dash you can record all the gauge readouts.  Minimum speed, maximum speed, RPM, shift points, etc.

3.     Facing the driver you can analyze how the 4 inputs are used.  Gas, brake, steering, and shifting.  Also eye placement.

4.     Under the hood you can look for leaks, smoke, strange sounds, vibrations.

5.     Aimed at suspension you can look at displacement, roll angles, shock travel, binding, vibration. Some distance markings or a ruler in the background for reference helps. I drop these videos into PowerPoint and create reference lines on top of video to scale.

6.     Aimed out back you can get a different perspective on the racing line and understand what happened when other drivers pass or attempted to pass. Also look for smoke!


And the list can go on.  Sometimes you can angle a camera to pick up multiple views. Or you can use a software like RaceRender to synchronize multiple videos together. About the only difficult thing is the more cameras you use, the more you need to plan ahead for.


1.     Making sure all cameras are fully charged and have memory capacity

2.     Making sure they are aimed in desired location

3.     Turning them all on at the proper time.  For a big race I have my crew person do a walk around before I go to grid.

4.     Turning them all off and extracting memory cards after the run.

5.     Downloading and then finding time to review the data.


Once you start collecting electronic data you will find it is easy to collect way more than you need.  Same with cameras.  They are so cheap and easy, I always run at least 1.  For big races I will run 2 or 3.  If only using cameras, it is best to think about what you want to gain from reviewing.  Have a plan before you go out.  Once you start reviewing it is easy to get hypnotized by the fun you were having. 


Enough for now.  Data systems next.  Tons of good stuff already posted by you guys so I don't need to write much.


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