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How much does data help?

 
Old 03-10-2019, 11:04 PM
  #1  
alexaqui
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Default How much does data help?

My car is in the shop finishing final prep for the season and I am on the fence whether I should get data now or not. My investment in my car to date has been to make it reliable and safe; to that end, I have done everything I possibly could at this point. After a few years off from the sport due to family and an incident, I am looking to get to the next level and feel that data might be a huge accelerate in the learning process. I currently run in black in PCA primarily because I am safe, aware, and can handle open passing. I am not very fast though. I have a friend that borrows my car and is anywhere from 1-4 seconds per lap faster than me on the same day. I know my car has even more left to give in the hands of a more competent driver.

Does data truly help an "intermediate" driver develop or should the focus just be on continuing to do more events and ask people to sit in the right seat with me? Out of the 5-6 people who sat in the right seat with me, only one of them truly pushed me and offered me real advice. I think everyone else toed the line of "let's just keep it safe." My ultimate goal is to do AER and possibly NASA GTS and similar. I want to improve with the time that I do have on track. I do not see my seat time being impacted by this purchase... I will probably do the same number of events that I would regardless of this purchase.

I currently plan on purchasing from one of the regular posters here and have a quote ready to go. It's a fair bit of money with shop labor to get the sensors installed, so I am unsure.

Thanks for any advice.

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Old 03-10-2019, 11:30 PM
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Based on where you are and where you want to go, yes. It will help.

PM me for personalized recommendations. Lots of options.
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Old 03-11-2019, 12:00 AM
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Great questions! I'm sure this thread will help you and lots of other people who look at it later. Hopefully some other folks who have been in in a similar situation share their experiences as well as some of the data guys, coaches, and others.

Data would certainly help! I think it's important to remember that data doesn't replace coaching, right seat instruction, classrooms, or anything else. All data does is record what you did. But, if you can measure things and quantify them, you can compare them to best practices, other drivers, and yourself!

You are in a great spot sharing your car with someone. With two drivers, you'll be able to overlay data and see where each of you performs better. That is a great starter to a conversation where you can then "compare notes" to see what each of you is doing. Do you have different references? Position the car differently? Feel different things? Have different goals for that corner?

So then what data would you want to look at? The end all, be all is speed. D=RT (distance equals speed x time). The faster you go, the lower the lap time. But why? In the speed trace, are you coasting? Are you braking at a sustained level? Are your corner speeds consistent? Do you have good speed feel?

You can then look at long G to see are you braking efficiently? Is your heal and toe effecting your slowing? Are you braking a consistent amount? Many people never approach the slowing potential of their car because it's so far beyond what you do in every day driving.

You can look at Lat G and see if you consistently cornering near the limit of the car or what you *perceive* the limit to be. This is another place where many people find themselves. You'll also be able compare yourself to your friends performance and see if you are attaining the same lat g levels as your co-driver.

You'll be able to look at segment times to compare which line is quicker in different sectors, what sectors are most important to you being consistent, seeing where you struggle, and which areas take the longest to complete (and have the most room for improvement). In AiM, you'll also be able to put things like min and/or max speed, driven corner radius, lat G, long G, and more on a heat colored map. The visuals like that can be really powerful in showing you areas where you are doing really well (don't forget that you are doing things really well) and were you can improve.

All this and all you've used is a GPS! If you add in TPS, brake pressure, and a camera, we can keep digging in more and more. There are so many resources to help you use the data to get faster. Books, online videos, blogs, this forum, and more!

If all the materials here don't have you convinced, I'll loan you a Solo 2 to try out for a weekend. That gives you the GPS measures, great in car predictive time so you can see the results of your driving real time, and the opportunity to review everything after the session.
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Old 03-11-2019, 08:41 AM
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What car do you have and what are your lap times?

Iíd start with just laptime and a real time predictive laptime. This way you can get feedback after each braking zone and corner if you are going faster or slower. More advanced data is great, but is more helpful finding little things like Matt mentioned. If youíre 4 secs off the pace, predictive laptime will be the most helpful. You should also try rides with the fast people at your events. Iím not talking about fast cars, but the guy/gal turning good times relative to the car.

also donít forget that data requires work. You have to download and look at it after every run. Waiting until the end of the day will diminish the value. So really think about how you want to spend your time st the track before investing.
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Old 03-11-2019, 11:40 AM
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I got the VBox HD2 middle of last year and it has been a huge help in analyzing what I'm doing. Besides what is mentioned above, if you have the CAN data, it will tell you better truths about how you're driving than you can remember. When you think you're really flat through a sweeper, but you're really at 80%, when get on the brakes earlier than you thought, when you're coasting, etc. Interestingly, I've had situations where coaches "mis-remembered" how I was taking a turn, and I was able to self correct by looking back at the video. I've found that real-time feedback and coaching is fantastic. However, when you couple that with the ability to go back and look at your line and all the inputs, you can improve much quicker.

I'd also reinforce the power of predictive lap timing. When you're on track you can't really work on every turn at once (mentally I mean). But, if you've got predictive lap timing, you can look at what it shows before and after a turn you're working on, and see if the way you just did it was faster or slower. That's hugely powerful in real-time, and allows you to improve on the go, instead of doing a full session, coming off, doing data analysis, and then trying again.
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Old 03-11-2019, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by CrazyFast View Post
I got the VBox HD2 middle of last year and it has been a huge help in analyzing what I'm doing. Besides what is mentioned above, if you have the CAN data, it will tell you better truths about how you're driving than you can remember. When you think you're really flat through a sweeper, but you're really at 80%, when get on the brakes earlier than you thought, when you're coasting, etc. Interestingly, I've had situations where coaches "mis-remembered" how I was taking a turn, and I was able to self correct by looking back at the video. I've found that real-time feedback and coaching is fantastic. However, when you couple that with the ability to go back and look at your line and all the inputs, you can improve much quicker.

I'd also reinforce the power of predictive lap timing. When you're on track you can't really work on every turn at once (mentally I mean). But, if you've got predictive lap timing, you can look at what it shows before and after a turn you're working on, and see if the way you just did it was faster or slower. That's hugely powerful in real-time, and allows you to improve on the go, instead of doing a full session, coming off, doing data analysis, and then trying again.
This is all true. Reviewing the relationship between the car's position laterally on the track at any given time, the heading at any given time, and the driver control inputs before, during and after are huge.

Let's not forget that most experienced drivers have a pretty good idea of what they wanted to do. The key is whether they, in fact, did it.

Armed with knowledge and objectively presented information showing the most glaring disparities between the two, a good driver can formulate a plan for the next session very quickly.

Matt's synopsis is very complete and accurate, but there are many, many choices of hardware and software available to you that can show you what you need to know.

It's worth it to do some research and homework. 38D hits it on the head in his last paragraph...
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Old 03-11-2019, 10:12 PM
  #7  
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Thanks all for the responses. This is really good and helpful feedback.

I currently drive an E36, so to add full data is a bit of a job. It’s been on my list of “to dos” for a while, right behind the cage and all the associated safety gear (I have everything at this stage). My car is a race car in need of a race car driver.

Someone asked for lap times... I’m off the pace of a well drive car by a lot of little losses here and there. My thunderbolt time is mid to upper 130s on street tires depending on the day. WGI I am in the upper 2-teens. Lightning is my worst track relative to what I think the car can do and am also usually in the upper 1-teens.

I have been using Harry’s Laptimer with an external gps transponder that offers a much higher refresh rate. I love the predictive lap timing. I do not love the lack of fidelity when it comes to the data readily visible within the app. I would look at individual laps after every day and sometimes between run groups to try and determine differences with the faster driver. There is just not enough there within the app to make a determination. The difference between a good lap and a bad lap is a lot of little things here, with few glaring mistakes with what the data provides in app. Downloading the data and matching to GoPro video is a tedious chore and quite frankly sometimes never happens.

I built my car last year from scratch and the season was all about getting comfortable on track again, learning a new platform, and making sure the car is reliable. This year, I want to focus on getting to the next level. I have been humbled by a concrete wall and to this day I do not know why the accident happened. How can I learn from the mistake when the car behaved opposite from what one would expect? I have been very methodical about approaching the limits from the bottom-up and saw improvements at every track event. This year, I have a bit less time available to me and I really need to maximize my time while at the track. Every day away from my 6 year old daughter has a real cost and I need to make sure it is worth it. I’m not going to the track to go hang out and BBQ and grab some drinks. I’m the guy putting the car on stands at the end of the day and making sure everything is okay and then looking at lap times to figure out how and where to improve.

I’ve looked into hiring private coaches and right now my financial situation is probably such that I cannot afford both it and data this year. Next year is looking better. What I can do is put a faster driver in my car and set lap times for me to compare and ask a few people I know to sit right seat with me. Very few people showing up to a DE really approach data (or safety...). While I may get lucky and get into and pass a race school this year, I want to make sure that I am *really* ready.

Thanks again for the help. This is an expensive sport and there are huge trade offs with everything. Appreciate the candid responses.
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Old 03-11-2019, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by alexaqui View Post
Thanks all for the responses. This is really good and helpful feedback.

I currently drive an E36, so to add full data is a bit of a job. Itís been on my list of ďto dosĒ for a while, right behind the cage and all the associated safety gear (I have everything at this stage). My car is a race car in need of a race car driver.

Someone asked for lap times... Iím off the pace of a well drive car by a lot of little losses here and there. My thunderbolt time is mid to upper 130s on street tires depending on the day. WGI I am in the upper 2-teens. Lightning is my worst track relative to what I think the car can do and am also usually in the upper 1-teens.

I have been using Harryís Laptimer with an external gps transponder that offers a much higher refresh rate. I love the predictive lap timing. I do not love the lack of fidelity when it comes to the data readily visible within the app. I would look at individual laps after every day and sometimes between run groups to try and determine differences with the faster driver. There is just not enough there within the app to make a determination. The difference between a good lap and a bad lap is a lot of little things here, with few glaring mistakes with what the data provides in app. Downloading the data and matching to GoPro video is a tedious chore and quite frankly sometimes never happens.

I built my car last year from scratch and the season was all about getting comfortable on track again, learning a new platform, and making sure the car is reliable. This year, I want to focus on getting to the next level. I have been humbled by a concrete wall and to this day I do not know why the accident happened. How can I learn from the mistake when the car behaved opposite from what one would expect? I have been very methodical about approaching the limits from the bottom-up and saw improvements at every track event. This year, I have a bit less time available to me and I really need to maximize my time while at the track. Every day away from my 6 year old daughter has a real cost and I need to make sure it is worth it. Iím not going to the track to go hang out and BBQ and grab some drinks. Iím the guy putting the car on stands at the end of the day and making sure everything is okay and then looking at lap times to figure out how and where to improve.

Iíve looked into hiring private coaches and right now my financial situation is probably such that I cannot afford both it and data this year. Next year is looking better. What I can do is put a faster driver in my car and set lap times for me to compare and ask a few people I know to sit right seat with me. Very few people showing up to a DE really approach data (or safety...). While I may get lucky and get into and pass a race school this year, I want to make sure that I am *really* ready.

Thanks again for the help. This is an expensive sport and there are huge trade offs with everything. Appreciate the candid responses.
You can make a big jump in information for relatively little money with an AIM Solo2 and a faster driver to compare data. The data and the software are good enough to allow you to find the low hanging fruit fairly easily. Next step up would be a system that allows you to log brake and throttle. Iím not familiar enough with the e36 platform to know if you need analogue sesors to do that, or if itís accessible via a can connection. If itís the latter, a Solo2DL could do it, still for not huge dollars and nominal installation
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Old 03-12-2019, 08:16 AM
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Data is cool and is always objective....
You say your friend is 1-4s faster ( at NJMP thunderbolt I assume)

That's a pretty big variation. Is that caused by traffic or is one of you not consistent?
You should be able to repeat laps within a few tenths

Data is very helpful to get faster but it's critical that you get a data setup that's easy to use and gets you the data in a way that you understand.

I usually know how well I am doing by glancing at the tach or speedo at certain reference points.

Initially my big gains came from an in car coach. Then for a while I used the glancing combined with light data to improve. I also used lead/follow to see where I lose/gain on a lap

When I switched to a new car I used an in car coach twice to get direct feedback on my interactions with the car

Now that I am getting better with the car I am using data (and once a year a data coach)

Have you looked at similar cars as yours and see what people use for data systems and how they like it? Being able to compare data is often useful too
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Old 03-12-2019, 10:35 AM
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The E36 is a wonderful platform. I bought a new M3 LTW off the showroom floor in 1996 and really enjoyed my time in that car on track. In it's day, it was a supercar!

I think you can start simple with something more serious, reliable and dependable, not to mention more powerful, than HLT. An entry level device like the AiM Solo 2 or VBOX Sport could be a simple standalone device (and with some work, integrate data collected with GoPro or other video to come up with some valuable footage) for around $400. Plus, you could pull the device and stick it in someone else's car in about thirty seconds, send them out and then compare.

Next step up would be a Solo 2 DL/SmartyCam combo, but the only information available is engine RPM from the diagnostic connector or the instrument cluster. This would yield a fully rendered video with lap times, g-loads, speeds, track map and RPM for optimal gear selection and comparison. An alternative would be the two-camera video-centric VBOX Lite, which unlike the AiM, would have all the data and video on one SD card, and would be capable of comparing video and data in the same window side by side, either after identifying your own exemplary performance through a corner or corner complex to see what you did, or comparing yourself to another driver. Standard definition video, but powerful tools, and RPM and throttle position could be added from the E36 for not much money. The range on these is around $1800 for either one.

I've had a few E36 M3's lately go from Solo's and Solo DL's to the VBOX HD2, simply because of ease of use for self-coaching. Its a fair bit more, but an investment that is not out of reach and will pay back for years to come. Drivers routinely come in, and in ten minutes have a very detailed idea of specific, targeted opportunities for improvement for the next session, and then they MEASURE and compare if they DID better the next session!

Lots of good choices for your car. Please PM and we can talk about options, costs and use of all of these.
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Old 03-12-2019, 10:39 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by alexaqui View Post
Someone asked for lap times... Iím off the pace of a well drive car by a lot of little losses here and there. My thunderbolt time is mid to upper 130s on street tires depending on the day. WGI I am in the upper 2-teens. Lightning is my worst track relative to what I think the car can do and am also usually in the upper 1-teens.
Data can point out big flaws, but itís much more useful to help find the little things. Big flaws are hard to break through by looking at squiggles lines. Where you are sounds like feeling and generating more slip angle should be the main priority, which data ainít going to help much with. Get a good predictive laptimer, and ride with fast people. When you can run 2:14s at the Glen or a 1:34s at Thunderbolt, consider data.
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Old 03-12-2019, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by 38D View Post
Big flaws are hard to break through by looking at squiggles lines.
I disagree completely.

I and many others have been showing drivers how to ďbenchmarkĒ their performance and again, gauge their ďbest execution of fundamental skillsĒ using squiggly lines and data ON video for decades.

Slip angle SUSTAINED is a goal, and the difference between good and great, but if you improve EACH operation and skill execution in the car, you can go faster in ANY car, on ANY track.

We all operate in a little bit of a vacuum. We see other people on course in similar cars walk away slowly (or quicker), but we assume their car has some better capability or they have more ďtesticular fortitudeĒ than we do, when itís simpler better execution, more urgency and less wasted time and most of all, better and more full use of the tire contact patch.

The last being a measure that even the least expensive devices like the Solo 2, Apex Pro, RacePak CL2 and VBOX Sport ALL will show you, in excruciating detail. I assure you that these devices can show you how bad almost any driver sucks!

The greatest gains are from the drivers who have the most to gain. Simply making sure that the transitions between full acceleration and full deceleration are crisp and clean (rarely the case, and almost never in drivers that are off the pace), that shifts arenít overly slow (most are), that deceleration, if there isnít lateral loading, be high initially and sustained through the transition to peak lateral loading (graphically illustrated by walking the friction circle ball around the edge of the peak grip periphery), and many, many more.

All these measures need to be good WITHOUT REGARD to a comparison driver lap. Then, one can start on the edgy, butt-gyro development...

Again, after working with a former WDC that found nearly a second and a half at Mont Tremblant just looking at loading on the car at various spots, itís clear ďyou donít know what you donít knowĒ if you donít MEASURE!

Yes, data can help just about any driver, at any level.
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Old 03-12-2019, 12:54 PM
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I agree with Peter. One of the reasons we are putting a major focus of our marketing and business plan for NaroEscape Motorsports toward Data is that we see the huge gains is can make for everyone. We spend tons of money on go-fast parts, but more often than not, the 'go slow' part is the nut behind the wheel. VERY few of us can drive our cars to the CARS limit on a SUSTAINABLE basis. Data can show you "what you don't know" and help you correct those areas.

Two examples: one guy, recently promoted to 'black' group and now an instructor, was getting frustrated with never figuring out how to go faster and get better times at his/our home track. He thought he had the absolute best out of his car, and considered selling it and either getting out of the sport all together, or getting something 'better'... Nadine stuck a simple Solo and SmartyCam in his car for a day, and after each session spent time with him showing points of improvement, where he lacked consistency, and put a plan together for the next session on where to focus on. By the end of the weekend, he picked up 2 seconds and was CONSISTENT, lap after lap.

#2...racer that has been racing the same car (in different configurations) for many years. PCA Race at Road Atlanta, he could not break through a time barrier that has been his best time for years. Figured "that was it" though it was 5 seconds off the class pace. Again, Nadine pulled data and sat after each test and practice session point to turns 1-5 (he was good from 6-12) and they focused on those, one at a time. By the end of the race weekend he picked up 4 SECONDS!! and knew there was more out there.

Many other examples include: you are SURE you are on full throttle from A to B...but data says otherwise. You KNOW you brake at the 2 marker...Data says otherwise. You SWEAR you don't coast...data says you do.

Now...the downside to data? It doesn't lie...and you can't lie to your friends (or coach). trust me...personally it's sometimes annoying that Nadine tells me when I'm wrong (though after 28 years of marriage, you'd think I'd be used to that now!) but now has proof!!

Everyone has their data preferences. We like AiM because of it's expandability from not just driver data, but to car data and more. We're also an Apex Pro dealer and are finding more and more ways this little device can offer simple but powerful coaching aid results.

So tho answer your question "how much does data help"? if used correctly and understood....A lot...
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Old 03-12-2019, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by 38D View Post
Where you are sounds like feeling and generating more slip angle should be the main priority, which data ain’t going to help much with.
Sort of like this?

Dunlop M-section bias-ply tires and the gSum reading in the lower right can be very instructional. And NO connection to the car here...

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Old 03-12-2019, 02:56 PM
  #15  
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I mostly agree with these guys. I personally find that people can get intellectually lazy and use G Sum as the starting point instead of as a tool. In the end, it's speed that makes us go fast (Distance = rate x time). Every other measure - TPS, brake pressure, lat G, long G, etc and all the calculated measures like G Sum, corner radius, coasting, etc - simply tell us why the speed trace looks the way it does. Some folks who do a lot of data (and it's not always just race car data that they look at) can see a speed trace and know what all the other traces look like. Other people need the supporting traces to tell them where the other measures are. As you look for finer and finer improvement, you need more and more information and sensors.

Lots of people can hit a plateau. Many times they have something that is easily corrected found through the data that can make them start improving again. Once in a while you do find the person that drives a technically perfect lap (good brake traces, good speed traces, etc) who is just slow all the time. Perfect G Sum but not at the right level (the whole thing needs to be shifted up). It's actually a fun exercise to do - try to do everything technically correct, but at a slower pace. Good throttle application, good, fast brake application, smooth slow release, proper hand speed, single throttle progression to wide open, then just hold back the straight away speeds. You'll get to make perfect data traces (minus top speed) and build some good habits on how to drive correctly.
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