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Just How Consistent Are You?


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or even: how do you measure your progress?

 

First of all, apologies my initial ramblings -

 

When I first started riding on a track, my first "measure" of how good I thought I was, was whether I could get my kneesliders to "touchdown" (insert loooong period here. think a crash + a couple of years). Once I was comfortable with the sensations of getting my knee down here and there, the goal became to get my knee down in all the corners. But for a measure of riding skill, getting your knee down is not exactly an accurate measurement.

So I decided to use a more objective measure: my laptimes. In the beginning this involved friends who were riding in a different group to sit with a stopwatch and hand-clock your laps, and I would clock them.

But the feedback loop only got closed once every session, when I came into the pits and looked at the laptimes that my friend had written down. But some of the more veteran guys had laptimers on their (gasp) trackbikes. Thus the idea of getting a real laptimer was born. Enter my Rollcentre T200 laptimer, which used an IR beacon. The T200 (in all it's glorified simpleness) allowed me to see on a lap-by-lap basis - while riding- whether what I did actually improved my laptimes. I guess I spent the next 5 seasons using the T200.

 

But then someone showed me a GPS-based laptimer/datalogger. Being an engineer, this immediately struck a chord in my nerdy side - c'mon you really can't have enough cool gadgets, can you? The GPS laptimer doesn't need an IR beacon (nice), mine allows me to set up to 3 intermediates (cool, just like the big boys!) and the accompanying software allow you to plot the trajectories of multiple laps on top of each other and compare them! - and this is where it gets interesting and I'm getting to the point:

 

While at Most during Easter, I was looking at the trajectories of two laps that were virtually identical, except for one section: in that single section, I was a whopping 0.3 seconds quicker on the 2nd lap! Why? because I was simply giving it more throttle out of a particular corner!

 

After looking more into the GPS-plots, it has become blindingly obvious to me that even when I'm running laptimes within 1/100th of a second, I'm still wildly inconsistent!

 

How can both be true at the same time? Simple. Seen over the full lap, my times may be almost identical, but if I use the GPS data to look at the individual sections (turns, chicanes and straights), I am easily winning and loosing 0.3 second per track-section, when I start comparing section by section, between laps. On the Most track, I can easily cut it into at least 10 sections for my analysis purposes.

If I'm good at applying the throttle out of a particular turn, I can win around 0.3 seconds down to the next braking zone - which is the place where go about throwing all those hard-earned 1/10ths away by too early braking or too much braking. And the GPS shows it - plain as plain - that I can actually do that braking better - and I'm doing it better from time to time.

 

So if I took all my laps and put the best of each of them together, I could probably reduce my laptime by around 3 seconds from 1:55:44 to the 1:52 or even 1:51 zone - quite a feat, considering that the fastest 600cc guys ride at 1:41 on the same track, and I can do this by doing what I do today. "All" I need to do is to put together a lap where I do everything to the best of what I'm doing today. And that doesn't seem like an insurmountable challenge to me.

 

Now, the only reason that I can pull off 3 seconds is that I'm 14 seconds behind the leaders - obviously this would be different if I was significantly faster, e.g. 5 seconds behind the leaders.

 

As an example of what I'm talking about, I've attached a (scaled down) screenshot showing two laps on Most, at 1:59:04 and 1:59.05. The red trace is the faster lap, but if you look at the traces, you can see that my speed in the hairpin was significantly slower than on the "slow" lap. From the hairpin and up to the point where I've put the vertical cursor, I am actually going from being 0.68s behind to 0.16s behind, on a stretch of less than 400meters (1/4 mile). Over the remainder of the lap, I go to being 0.28s ahead, to loose it all and end up a meagre 0.01s ahead. From -0.68s to +0.28s and back to +0.01s. So that second lap could actually been around 0.96s faster than it was - if only I hadn't made those mistakes.

 

My conclusion from this is that if you would like to improve your laptimes on a racetrack and are just a little bit technically inclined, do yourself a favour and get a GPS-based laptimer that can work as a datalogger too (mine is the bare-minimum that will just log the coordinates, bearing and speed), and start comparing what you're doing inside the laps, not just the laptimes. It was for sure an eye-opener for me, that I could pinpoint a particular place on the track, where I was winning 0.3seconds, with a fairly low effort and I was able to replicate that immediately in the following session.

 

Kai

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I've wondered about this... I'm at the point where if I'm lucky someone can measure lap times with a stop watch but this tells you what you are doing but not much of the why as you describe. A lap timer with the details will probably help me more than some carbon-fiber part!

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Check out www.racechrono.com

 

Download it into your phone and away you go. They have even now up'd the capabilities to not only log GPS coordinates but with a bluetooth connection to a OBD Key on newer bikes (not mine :rolleyes: ) you can log what your bike is doing too (i.e. engine revs etc). You can download tracks/edit tracks/create your own, think you can have as many sectors as you like and you can plot your laps over on Google Earth so you can see where you have gone on the track (different lines). It also has performace testing modules on there. It also works with a few other programs for analysis but I haven't used them yet.

 

I haven't used it yet on track but know quite a few that do and they quite like it.

 

If you like it so much, get it in a dedicated lap timer here www.racechrono.com.au

 

Go get your nerd on :D

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Check out www.racechrono.com

 

Download it into your phone and away you go.

Yup, racechrono is a nice cheap option - I tried that for one trackday before dropping the solution.

You need a Nokia S60 phone (you can probably get one cheap off, say, ebay) and secondly you are most likely to require an external GPS. At least the GPS built into my E52 had an accuracy of ~25meters :blink: and a slow update rate (1-2Hz) - not very usefull for tracing a racetrack. An GPS-Bluetooth device improved the accuracy to ~6 meters, and to get down to the 3meters, you need a fairly expensive external GPS. That's why I opted for a complete solution that comes with analysis software.

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Yeah using just the phone has its limitations but you can pick up GPS Bluetooth devices with 10Hz refresh rate ($100 Aussie/US), which I believe is more than accurate enough before getting in and spending big dollars.

 

With the S60 software, they also have the Windows version for the Blackberry and other phones. But now Nokia is changing so is Race Chrono, Race Chrono is going to target Android for those with that software. No idea on when that is being released though.

 

Was just putting it out there as another solution for those new to all things GPS (like me, I just bought a new phone a couple of weeks ago for the first time in 6 years!!!).

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I had a great conversation with an old friend the other day. He decided to get back into track riding after a three year hiatus. He asked me about lap timers and how he thought he might want to get a GPS timer with track mapping. Why? If you are running lap times that are 15 seconds slower than the fastest guys in your group, you need to go faster everywhere. We laughed about it together and after a few days he called back remembering our conversation. He said "You know you are right!" He said he needed to work on the basics and bought a lap timer that was easy to use, easy to see real time lap times and easy to access when he got back to the paddock.

GPS lap timers are great. They are a valuable. The point is to work on your riding skills. When you get to a point where you are pushing for that extra second, then go with the gps.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had a great conversation with an old friend the other day. He decided to get back into track riding after a three year hiatus. He asked me about lap timers and how he thought he might want to get a GPS timer with track mapping. Why? If you are running lap times that are 15 seconds slower than the fastest guys in your group, you need to go faster everywhere. We laughed about it together and after a few days he called back remembering our conversation. He said "You know you are right!" He said he needed to work on the basics and bought a lap timer that was easy to use, easy to see real time lap times and easy to access when he got back to the paddock.

GPS lap timers are great. They are a valuable. The point is to work on your riding skills. When you get to a point where you are pushing for that extra second, then go with the gps.

You're right - if you're 15 seconds (heck, make that even 5 seconds) slower than the fastest guys, you need to go faster everywhere. But how do you do that, safely and methodically?

The same way you eat an elephant - one bite at a time. For a racetrack, that means focusing on one turn at a time, and with judged speed increases.

 

As for a "simple" vs a GPS laptimer, my only comment is that a GPS based laptimer can be every bit as simple to set up and use as the "simple" ones (mine sure is). I was merely point out a way to track my own progress and consistency which I thought might be useful to others. You're welcome to disagree.

 

Kai

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