Things that rule #7: data

Given how much time and money we spend for our precious moments on track, we must really love it. But once we leave the track, the thrill is gone. We might have vivid memories of some of the highlights for a time, but the memories eventually fade. It’s a shame because I think that the most important reason for driving is to make great memories. That’s where data comes in. I think lots of people think that the reason to log data is to improve your driving or vehicle. No, it’s to improve your memory factory.


First off, when I say data what exactly am I talking about? Video and 10 Hz GPS logging. This is the bare minimum, and you need it every time you’re on track. One of the most attractive units is the AiM SmartyCam. It puts both camera and data logger in the same box and overlays data on video. Now you might look at that and think “wow, it’s kind of expensive”. It is. But I’m going to argue that it’s a bargain. The most precious resource we have is time, and a device like that saves you time. That said, I don’t have one. I have an AiM Solo DL, a bunch of cameras, and a few obscure timers. If I started over, I’d just get the SmartyCam and be done.

Data preserves memories

Every time I watch video or examine squiggly lines, I’m drawn back to my memory of the track session. I recall what I was trying to accomplish and what the results of that were. I get to enjoy the day again and again. As I wrote that last sentence, I was remembering a track day a few months ago when Mario and I were at Pineview. So I just watched the video and was transported back in time.

It was a great day. Even though it was just a few laps, the thing I remember most is how differently two identical twins can drive the same car. It was a fairly stock NB Miata that I said was loose and Mario said was neutral. It turns out that we are both right. For my style of driving it is loose and for his style it is neutral. You can see this in how we grip the steering wheel. My muscles are relaxed while his are bulging. I’m fighting oversteer while he’s fighting understeer. Note that on this particular lap I was doing some experimenting and goofing around a bit. I don’t normally force that much oversteer.

Once again, why do we drive? For the good memories. Video preserves those memories. That’s why you should always shoot video.

So why do we need data if we have video? Because data traces are easier to compare to each other than video frames. A lot of the reason I record data is to have a historical log of my driving. How have I changed over time? It’s right there in the traces. Of course I also use data to try to optimize the tuning of the car. But why do I want to optimize the car? To create great memories of driving. So data acquisition and analysis are integral to the memory making machine. A simple lap timer isn’t enough to examine individual corners. If you want to dissect your driving and your vehicle, you need GPS sampling at 10 Hz or so. Ideally you also have steering angle, brake pressure, and throttle position, but those are sometimes difficult to attain. 10 Hz GPS is easy.

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