YOUR TRANSPONDER IS SPEAKING TO YOU
Are You Listening?
By Mike Unger
A few years ago I wrote a piece on transponders and the information it had to offer. It has been something that drivers and crew members have asked me about ever since, so I thought it might be a good time to review that information and update it as necessary.
As you know gathering data is a very important part of racing. I recently heard a great saying that I kind of live by, ‘In God we Trust, everyone else needs data.’ Data gives me clues to all that goes on with the world.
Without data, I am lost. I take close notes of everything that goes on with the kart.
I use some of the best data acquisition on the market. I have a weather station and I am constantly looking for more data to find that elusive .2 secs that I need to win.
Well just when I thought I had all the data I needed, I found a brand new source that has been around for some time. I just never looked into it; my transponder. That transponder that I bought a couple years ago is a great source for data and recently, I was surprised how much I can learn from it. The source of this new data is www.mylaps.com. This site is dedicated to all AMB transponder users, and is available for you to review as long as your race series submits the info from your race you can look up all the laptimes from all the races you’ve ever entered, and much more.This is how it works. First you purchase you own personal AMB transponder.
Most of today’s race series require transponders for scoring, so a lot of us already have them. That transponder you have is unique to you, as it has your own personal frequency. Your race series uses it to identify when you cross the start finish line in order to keep track of your track position. The transponder system records your laptimes, as well as all of your competitors lap times too. At the end of the race day your race series can post all of the results on www.mylaps.com for you and everyone else to see.Now this is where it gets interesting. On their website you can register your own personal transponder number, team name, sponsor and even a picture for free. This is the first step in unlocking some of the most interesting data you will find. What you can do after you register is go to ‘my results’. Here you will find every race that your transponder has ever been in. It doesn’t matter when or where as long as the race series posted the results. So, if you select one of the races you can pull out your finish position, lap times and most importantly the laptimes of everyone else that you raced against. This is where you can really learn something. You now can compare your times to everyone else that was in your race and therefore learn a great deal.
Let’s take the obvious first. If you finished 7th you can compare your laptimes to the winner and get some idea of how much faster he or she was than you. But, just looking at one single fast lap does not tell the whole story. When you compare your laps to the winners, you not only can see how much faster they were, but also at what lap or laps they were quicker. Next, look at those racers who finished right around you. Were they faster than you at the beginning of the race and you got a little better or vice versa?Let’s look at what I learned from an event I attended at New Castle Raceway Park a while ago. First of all, let me say that I raced in the G1 class, which was the 125cc shifters with drivers 35 years and older, although that is somewhat irrelevant to this article as I’m discussing learning from what your transponder is telling you, more than any personal information.I ran well, but finished ahead of mid-pack. Not bad, but I know I could have done better and was confused as to why I was off the pace.
I decided to take another hard look at my laptimes to see if anything was obvious. Looking at my lap times for both races I noticed that I ran my best laptimes toward the end of the race. In the 10 lap Prefinal, I ran my fast lap on lap 9 and in the 16 lap Feature I ran my best on lap 13. Just looking at that trend tells me that my new kart tuned the way that it was, ran best at the end of the run. Looking at my post race notes, (you do take notes don’t you?), I see that I complained that the kart didn’t have much grip at the start but then came in at the end of the session. This is supported in the laptime data also. But of course, other things could have done it too, the sun came out, the track got faster, etc. By comparing my laptimes to the racers laptimes that finished around me, it shows an interesting trend. It all shows that they were faster than me at the beginning of the run but I was faster than them toward the end. Looking closely at the data shows that in some cases I was giving up nearly a second per lap at the beginning of the run. Then after my kart came in I was running nearly 0.750 seconds faster on a lap by lap basis. Unfortunately for me I had given up too much time at the beginning of the race to make up for it at the end.
What did this tell me and how will I use it in the future? Well, first of all it tells me that I need to tune my kart a little differently than Idid for that particular day and conditions. My previous kart was a Biesse SGM. That kart and tire combination was extremely quick early in the race and then tended to understeer or tighten up as the race went on. The Kosmic TM kart that I ran in this race using the same tire appeared to be exactly the opposite. It lacked a bit of grip at the beginning but then came in nicely toward the end of the race. This is an important thing to note in how I will go about tuning that kart in the future. Since my laptimes continued to get faster throughout the run.
I don’t think I ever reached my peak laptime in the race. From looking at the data and reading my post race comments the chassis was setup too loose at the start of the run. Again, this was my mistake because I was tuning my new Kosmic like I had always tuned my Biesse. Now that I have seen this I will setup it up to come in a little earlier in the run. OK, I learned that my new kart is different than my old kart and I need to adjust my tuning and driving style to it. What else did I learn from my transponder? Well again looking at all of the data and comparing my laptimes to those that finished in front of me I learned that in the races I was generally faster than the racers even 2 or 3 positions ahead of me. What does this mean? This means 2 things. I need to qualify better and that comes down to tuning the setup of the kart and improving handling. While my previous kart was very quick right away and was great for qualifying, my new kart needed more thought put into the setup for qualifying. Now that I know that I have the speed on longer runs I need to work on a setup for short runs. Assuming that my driving style hadn’t changed much from the beginning of the race to the end, the only thing that could have changed was my tires.
So spending some additional time getting to know how they react to varying track conditions is what I need to focus on in order to improve my times at the beginning of the race. That of course can mean I need to look at ways to tune the chassis to allow those tires to work better as well. That really comes down to spending more quality time during my testing laps either prior to qualifying or during the day before. While I was turning 400 laps learning the track, setting up the engine, etc., I need to allocate enough time to run enough laps that would simulate the start of the race so I would know when the kart and tire combination would begin to work its best, then start to tweak until it ran more consistent time from the start to the finish.Often times I think drivers forget about that…I know I did. Most set their karts up to run as fast as they can, but what they neglected to learn was how it reacts throughout the entire course of an event. They might be blazing out of the gates, but end up finishing off the pace due to the fact that they wore out their tires.As you can see I learned a lot from my transponder. I learned that I need to setup my new kart much differently than my old one. I learned that I need to do some testing to find out a good 2-3 lap qualifying setup, and a need to race more. Having pointed out those 3 things to improve on could apply to any racer in the world.Data is knowledge; It’s just knowing how to use it that can make the difference.
The other thing I learned was that I need to work on my race craft a little bit more. Last year I only raced 4 complete races and the lack of race craft showed in the first race. The only way to cure this is to race as often as possible.