Performance Measurement and Race Engineering Using Data Acquisition Equipment for all kinds of motorsports. Specifically about motorcycle racing and how it would relate to dirt bike racing.
Give us some background information on yourself and how you got into using data acquisition.
Well I started racing myself on motorcycles and then graduated to go-carts, then formula cars, oval track cars and all the while pursuing a technical career in Silicon Valley so my attentions were divided. I couldn’t race sometimes because of work and other times I didn’t have any work so I raced a lot. But eventually I came around to combining my background, talents and skills for data acquisition.
What is data acquisition and how do you use it for the racers?
It is trying to quantify performance parameters that we all talk about in qualitative terms—things like speed, acceleration, deceleration, turning rate and all the things that go on with racing. So what I try and do now is help riders, and specifically racers find where in the lap or where on the track they can go faster and gain time with the minimum amount of effort and risk. Its helpful because they aren’t just going out there and trying to go faster everywhere—but they are able to identify the parts of the track and the functions of their racing where they can spend the most time improving and gain the most benefit.
How often do people disagree with what you are telling them based on your information?
Well, a lot of people doubt if the data can be right—particularly if they have more experience and more background. Sometimes racers are used to doing things in a certain way. And I can’t argue with that so I let the data stand for itself. For example, a guy says, “I’m always wide-open throttle through that corner,” and I say, “Well maybe you are and lets see what the data says.” And usually people will come around say, “Oh, that’s telling me something new that I didn’t understand before.” Often I like to work with less experienced or younger racers because; A., they don’t have any bad habits; and B. they are more than willing to learn and try a lot of new and different things if they think they will become faster and be more successful. And that is really the most rewarding part of it is to see a young racer improve, do it safely, quickly and in a methodical way. It’s also a great benefit to see an older racer or someone more experienced exceed their expectations.
On motocross or off-road bikes which data types are you able to record?
There are aspects of racing that are common to all types of vehicles and all types of tracks. So using GPS systems to measure speed, draw a track map, measure entry lines, apex lines and exit lines—those are available now. Certain vehicle parameters like wheel speed censors, throttle position and brake pressure are also available on a motocross bike because they are pretty standard censors. The challenge here has always been the suspension because motocross bikes have such long travel and high rates of speed because of the impacts. Also the harsh environment; the dirt, moisture, water and roost from other bikes. So the challenge for modeling and logging suspension data has been the availability of durable, rugged, long-stroke and quick response censors that Race Tech is actually working very hard to develop.
What is a solid entry-level setup going to cost?
A good place to start is the XT Pro from XT Racing. You can get into a four-port XT Pro dashboard with four censors like throttle position, break pressure, wheel speed or maybe a shock censor for under $1,500. And that would give you a lot of the parameters that would help you improve. Now that also gives you a dash board that you can use on the bike. Conversely for a Race Technology system you can get the logger and the censors for roughly the same price. Now the downside is you don’t have the dashboard to go with it. The upside is you have a lot more sophisticated software. So you trade off the value proposition about do I want the dashboard and the ability to replay laptimes and sector times immediately—sort of the instant gratification after coming into the pits versus not having the dash board and having to become more involved with detailed software to get a higher level of analysis.
Note from Kamal:
In considering data acquisition equipment there are two major hurtles that racers and teams have to get over in order for these advanced systems to work. The first is buying all of the sensors, loggers and dashboards where you can spend a thousand or ten thousand dollars on this equipment. There are also a lot of systems that you can spend a few hundred dollars on that might disappoint a serious racer. The next is the investment in time that you have to spend to learn the software because the heart of anyone of these systems is really the ability for the software to turn raw data into useful information and present it in a way for the mechanic and racer to understand. It’s also tough in between races at the track when the rider or mechanic is busy preparing for the next session or race.
So the business model I’ve adopted at the beginning is that I want to be the turnkey engineer. I will come with equipment, censors, I’ll set up your bike, do the installation (usually done in advance). And then I come and download the data and present it. I answer the questions and basically become the engineer for that rider or team. Then I’m going to go down the pits and work for the next team and the next team and so on. The idea is everybody gets the opportunity to get the advantage of data acquisition and analysis without the initial cost, without the hurtle of learning the software and by having somebody at the track do it for them in exchange for sharing those resources amongst several other teams and competitors at the track.
For more information on Kamal Amer and Kinelogix you can visit www.kinelogix.com or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now it’s time to get smart and have Kamal go to technical town on your machine.