How can I tell if I’m going fast enough? Answer: Use data

For anyone other than the very experienced track driver it can be difficult to tell whether you can really go faster or not. It’s also difficult to tell whether you have a lot left to go as far as speed through a turn for example, or not. So the question is how do you learn to do that? Eventually you will be able to determine this through a “seat of the pants” feel by feeling what the car and tires are doing. But until then, how do you work your way up to that? Another question is that you may be timing your laps so you know your best time at a track. But for some reason on this day, you just can’t hit that time any more. How can you figure out what you did before that made you go faster.

For me the answer to both those questions is data acquisition. I’m not talking some fancy, expensive Motec system like in a race car. Most simple lap timers, if they have PC software that goes along with it can give you valuable information. I have a lot of experience with Aim systems since that is what I used when I was racing my Cup Car and the Aim Solo lap timers use the same data analysis software as the full-blown race setup does. With that timer and that software you can gain some valuable insights into how to improve your driving.

I’ve done a lot of data acquisition analysis for other people, including experienced drivers. Over a number of years I’ve developed a set of things that I look at with experienced driver that can tell whether you have things to work on or not and where on the track.

The first is whether you are using the capabilities of your tires to their maximum. If you are running something that is close to a sports car on the track (or in other words you don’t have ground effects downforce!) then your tires can give you only a certain level of grip while braking or turning. This is true whether they are street tires, DOT Hoosiers or Slicks. You’ve probably heard this a hundred times already, but if you are using all of that grip for braking, there is nothing left for turning. But that true statement also provides you with an interesting way to use data to determine if you are simply going way too slow through the turn.

I’ve found that for most people they know how to brake the car hard. They might not know where to brake, or how to transition off the brakes but they can brake the car pretty hard. That fact gives you an important piece of data that you can use for analyzing your mid-corner speed as well. If you can brake you car hard in a straight line you can measure the amount of G’s (in this case longitudinal G’s) that you are pulling when you do that. That amount of grip is close to the same amount of grip that is available to you in mid-corner when you are not braking at all but are in maintenance throttle. So if you measure your max G’s at mid-corner (these are longitudinal G’s) you can then check those two numbers against each other. If your mid-corner number is lower than your braking number then you can go faster.

Next I’ll show you exactly how to do this using ¬†an Aim Solo and the Aim Race Studio Analysis software.

Caveats: The track surface, track camber and so forth have an affect on all of this. So you need to take that into account to some extent. As does the car itself, front engine, rear engine and so forth. I’ll go into the details of that later.

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