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Engineering Services

We would all like to think that we only need to prepare our race cars to be mechanically perfect and then go on to the track and put in 18 perfect laps in a row to win the race.  That scenario may have once been true, but with the proliferation of computers and the information age, it is now a sure way to run dead last.  Today, the use of computers to log and analyze data is applied to almost every form of machinery in use.  From farm tractors to the space shuttle, computers are everywhere.  It should be no surprise that they have such a large impact on auto racing.

Just having data acquisition equipment on board your car is no guarantee of success.  Data systems only store numbers.  Once that information is downloaded to a computer with the software required to analyze the data, then you can begin to make progress.  With simple and repetitive tasks such as an automated can filler at the local beer distributor, the computers themselves can analyze the information and make automated changes to improve efficiency.  The vehicular dynamics of race cars and the actions of the drivers who control them is such a complex tangle of mechanical relationships, though, that it still (for now) takes a human to understand it all.  Unless a person has training and experience using the data systems, it can still be a daunting task.

This jumble of squiggly lines may look like a foreign language, but to a racing engineer
it describes a great deal about what the car is doing and why it is doing it.

Two Primary Areas of Benefit

The first method in which data acquisition can help you to be faster is through driver coaching.  I have found many times in my experiences as a racing engineer that it was necessary to "change hats" and become a driver coach for a time.  One example comes to mind:  One season I worked with a couple of up and coming young stars in the Star Mazda series.  We found ourselves at Road America where one of them was running in the top three in practice and the other was between 10th and 15th.  I worked with the slower of the two on chassis setup, going over data and asking questions about car behavior when he suddenly said, "Don't change anything on the car.  It's perfect!"  My reply was, "How come you're 13th, then?"

I put on my driver coach hat and went back through the data again, this time looking for differences between what my hero driver was doing on the track and what his faster teammate did.  When we came to Canada Corner, it was obvious he was actually braking later, but getting the car crossed up, sacrificing speed through the corner and coming out slow.  For the remainder of the weekend we worked on smoothness and carrying speed through the corners and he did pick up some time, although he never equaled his rival's lap time.  Data acquisition can be a very valuable tool to improve your performance as a driver.  Every pro driver today regularly makes use of both driver coaching and using a data system as a coaching tool.  With costs coming down so far in recent years, data systems are now within every racer's reach.

The second area in which data logging can benefit you is, of course, in setting up the car.  Many years ago, when I was young and thought I knew how to drive a race car, I had the unsettling experience of being regularly outrun by friends for whom I had set up cars.  It eventually occurred to me that I had become a better engineer than I was a driver.  I hung up my helmet to concentrate on learning engineering properly.  Had I known then what a complex field it would turn out to be, I might have taken a different path.  In the three decades since then, I have learned a great deal about the dynamics of four wheeled vehicles and much of it I learned from what I saw on computer screens.

At any given time, you must set your car up for four conditions:  The track - obviously the Indianapolis Motor Speedway requires a different setup than St. Petersburg.  The car - a Citation will respond differently to changes than a Van Diemen.  The weather - a car will work differently in the cool morning air than on a hot afternoon.  And the driver - I once had two drivers drive the same car in back-to-back sessions.  With no changes, one complained that it pushed while the other said it over steered badly!  With so many conditions for which to set a car up and so many adjustments which have multiple effects, it takes data logging and analysis to make sense of it all.  Have you noticed that Penske and Ganassi have been winning all the IRL races lately?  Even though there are some very impressive drivers on other teams, the teams which get the engineering right cross the line first.

We have been working out the engineering of race cars for quite a long time now.  We don't know it all - no one does.  But we have gotten pretty good at sizing up the major factors and working to optimize those rather than wasting a lot of time on the little things which are less productive.  We have experience with the major data systems like Pi, Motec and CDS and many of those which are lesser known use similar methodology.   We can also translate those squiggly lines on the screen into concrete changes to the set up of a race car which will make it respond better to the driver's controls on any given day.

If your car gives wheel spin on the exit to a slow corner, we know what to do to fix it.  If it feels unstable under hard braking, we know how to handle that.  If it under steers going into a corner and is loose coming out, we can improve that one too.  Those things are relatively easy and, many times, worth a second or two (sometimes more) a lap.  The smaller things are more difficult because they are usually buried in the data, but finding them and making changes to the car to make it respond better may move you from third into the lead.   Our engineering has helped drivers to win three national championships (one in Pro Racing) and well over a hundred race wins.  We lost count a long time ago!  If you are ready to move up to the next level, put our engineering experience to work for you.  Click here to tell us what you need.