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Incredibly happy to be writing this blog entry to introduce the Track Attack Analytics App into a public Beta!  We’ve been working on this for the past 6+ months and glad to finally get it to more people’s hands.

What is it?

First, it’s a companion experience.  Our goal with Track Attack has always been to be more than just an app and this is one big step to proving that.  When you become a Track Attack user, you get a great app to record lap times and video, a place to store your entire history, share easily with friends online and now, a place to analyze your data in the easiest way possible.  It is initially available for Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 tablets, laptops and PC’s.

We’ve been working with leading minds in the motorsport industry (coaches, drivers and instructors) on identifying the most critical views of data and things to focus on for the vast majority of drivers.  We then took those views and made those the center of the app experience so that anyone can easily analyze their data.  No need to be a tech wiz or a race engineer to ‘play with data’!

Home Screen - Pin Favorites

This is not data analysis for pro-racing teams making a living from racing.  This is data analysis for the rest of us.  We will continue to improve and tweak based on your feedback but our goal is not to be another AIM Race Studio or Motec or Pi.  We will focus on the making the core views on data easy to gather, easy to use and easy to share/compare.

Single Lap Analysis

The first view in the app is the ability to view a single session/lap in isolation.  The point here is really to zoom in on you and whether you are driving at the limit.  When we talked with driver coaches and instructors, they told us that after they’ve covered the basics with a driver and they knew the driver understood the track, braking points, turn-in points, the line, etc… they would then turn their focus to the traction limit.

Single Lap Analysis

How much of the traction limit is the driver using and how consistent are they?  This is where we focus in on the traction circle.  The accelerometers in most smartphones aren’t great but they can get the job done.  The goal here is to see if and how that little dot in the traction circle is moving around?  Is it transitioning smoothly from braking, to turning to acceleration – around the traction circle in a nice arch?  Or is moving forward under breaking and then back down before shifting to the side for the turn?  That’s the difference.  Coaches told us that many times, they will prefer to have a driver, driving at the limit across the track over driving the perfect line around the track.

Multiple Session Analysis

Alright, you dug into your laps and you think you have a handle on the traction limit.  Now, you want to see what you did different in that one magical lap.  You did something and got faster but you have no idea what.  This is where the multiple lap analysis view shines.  Here you can select any two laps within a session and compare them on top of each other.  You can watch the laps play real time and see the differences in the video, see the differences on the map and figure out what’s going on.

Now you know!

Multi-Lap Comparison

Segment Report

This is the crown jewel!  In the analytics app you can go into each of the tracks you’ve driven and create segments.  Those segments are then applied to all of your sessions and this really shines in a few places:

  1. When you’re comparing two laps, we calculate the differences in segment times automatically and you can zoom in immediately and see where the biggest differences in time are.  This is even more powerful if you are able to get a driver coach, instructor or just a faster driver to drive your car in a session or split a session together.  You then have their data and can see exactly where the gaps in lap times are – instantly!
  2. Continuing on the theme of having someone else drive your car in a given session or comparing two sessions (one where you drove and another where the other person drove), you can now pull a segment report across all of that data and come up with a virtual fastest lap.  This is where we take the fastest times for each segment and put together a virtual fastest lap (or sometimes referred to as a theoretical fastest lap).  Great but this is available in other places.  Well, we go one step further!  If you have the video for each of those sessions uploaded, we then piece together the video of all of those fastest segments and compile a video that virtual fastest lap.  Now, you can see exactly what that lap looks like.  This is even more powerful when you use a GoPro as your camera source, getting a shot of the driver (for the driver inputs) and looking out the front windshield.  There is nothing more powerful that you can use for a visualization tool!
  3. Lastly, you can do the above in #2 for just your laps.  Take any single session and analyze your segments, the virtual fastest lap, the corresponding video and even drill into any individual segment cell, not just the fastest ones.

Segment Analysis Sector Management

The last thing here is that you find that in a given session, where you might have focused only on the fastest lap before, now you know that there is a ton of value in the other laps.  Maybe a lap wasn’t the overall fastest because of traffic or a mistake but you could have had a great segment time there.  Now you will know and it’s time to put it all together!

How To Videos

Even though we made it a goal to have this be the easiest to use analytics tool in motorsports, it’s new and we wanted to show you all how to use it.  So we shot a bunch of How-To videos and put them directly in the app!

How-To Videos

Let us know how to make it better!

Lastly, this experience is in public beta and it will be for a while, for a reason.  We want to make this better with your input and feedback.  Check it out, use it, beat it up, break it and tell us how to make it better!  Tell us and share your thoughts with everyone else here on the Support Forum!

 

2014 on the racing front was a great year, with a lot of highs and a few lows but all in all, a great year.  After an eventful end to 2013, the focus moved from competitive time trials in a relatively high horsepower car (NASA TT3 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) to the world of competitive spec racing. Why the shift?  Having the ability to start a fresh, I wanted to focus on becoming the absolute best driver I could be in one year.  This would encompass a number of activities but when it came to deciding on the car to drive, it came down to one make and model, a BMW E30 race car.  The E30 is an iconic car across the world but here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, one of the largest and most competitive club racing classes exists – the PRO3 racing class.  This is essentially a spec class (with the pro’s and con’s associated with any spec class) with over 70 known built race cars, 16 races over 12 or so race weekends and each race weekend having between 25-45 PRO3 cars on the grid, in a multi-class field as part of the International Conference of Sports Car Clubs (ICSCC). What’s a blog post without some cool videos?  Here’s an awesome documentary put out on the E30 car and PRO3 racing is featured about halfway.

Here was the plan for 2014 on the driver development front:

  1. Earn a full competition license for wheel to wheel racing.
  2. Drive a full schedule of NASA TTC events (more available track time to focus on my driving versus congested practice and qualifying for a race).
  3. Compliment NASA TTC with 5-7 PRO3 race weekends.
  4. Go Kart during the winter (indoor) and in between race weekends (Summer) in the respective racing leagues.
  5. Train for a half marathon in preparation for an 8 hour endurance race at the end of the season.
  6. Get within 3 seconds of the top 5 drivers at each race track.

So, how’d it go?

Earn a Full Competition License for Wheel to Wheel Racing

Mission accomplished!  In 2013, I completed a 2 day racing school and 2 of the 3 required races to obtain a full racing license with ICSCC (I could have gotten a NASA or SCCA license in 2013 but that’s a story for another post) and would have completed by 3rd race but the spectacular end to the 2013 season stopped me from being able to race the final race of the season.  So in April of 2014, I completed 3rd and final required race and a couple months later (due to additional volunteer working requirements), I finally got my license.  Here is the video of my final race where I started second from last as the licensing director staged us in a reverse qualifying order.

Check out the full race at the link above!

Check out the full race at the link above!

 Drive a Full Schedule of NASA Time Trials (TTC Class) Events

Though I shifted my focus to wheel to wheel racing, getting quality track time was also critical.  I love NASA and the NASA Northwest crew.  They put on a really good program which lets prospective racers or just drivers, experience and be around everything from their first time on the track, competitive time trials and even full on wheel to wheel racing.  A person can see the progression in person and it feels less daunting to move through the ranks.  I believe that because of this, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed, there is a good amount of drivers but not too crowded and therefore, you get real quality track time.  I ended up doing all NASA Northwest weekends except the last one of the year at Portland (more on that below).  Each weekend prove valuable for working on my driving but also on-track testing of Track Attack builds.  Here are a few highlights from the year:

Big improvements in personal best lap times:

After the first race in April, we had the first NASA event at PIR (same track) but using the chicane configuration.  Once that first race was over, I had a ton of things I knew I could do better in but just wanted more track time to be able to implement.  So with the pro’s I listed above about NASA events, I made the most of them and dropped substantial time off my personal best lap times (in a PRO3 car the year prior that I had rented, in the low-1:38’s) hitting a solid 1:34.949 (not super fast but a huge improvement).

Fastest lap in 2013 - Right Click and Open in New Window

Fastest lap in 2013 – Right Click and Open in New Window

2014 Fastest Lap with NASA Northwest - Right Click and Open Link in New Window

2014 Fastest Lap with NASA Northwest – Right Click and Open Link in New Window

 

At some point, power matters:

In a mostly spec class, every detail makes a difference and I learned a year earlier than I had wanted that power is more than a detail.  The PRO3 car I purchased was built several years ago and while it was well set up, the engine pretty much original and tired.  The head had been replaced and ‘built’ but the bottom end was original with 230k+ miles (the odometer stopped working well before I had the car and it read 230k).  I knew I was going to be down on power from the get go but I was ok with that as long as the engine lasted the whole season.  It was not meant to be.  First, at the PIR NASA event above, we dyno’ed the car on a NASA standardized dyno (the one dyno used for all official dyno pulls to determine if a car is legal in class) and it put down 148whp – about 16whp below what a front running Spec E30 car puts down and between 30-40whp below what a front running PRO3 car puts down.  Disappointing but it at least provided perspective on what to expect. Second and finally, at the following month’s June NASA Northwest event at the Ridge Motorsports Park the engine decided it had enough.  After a day of testing on Friday which went well (made some progress on goals – a 2.5 second improvement from a year prior in a much more powerful PRO3 car I rented for a day), on the third session of a beautiful Saturday June afternoon, a rod decided it need to see the world.

End of the last lap, engine blows up - Right Click and Open in New Window

End of the last lap, engine blows up – Right Click and Open in New Window

After that weekend, it was time to make some expensive decisions.  Call it a year and start building a front running PRO3 engine or find a backup engine to get through the season?  Like all motorsport related decisions usually go, I went down the most expensive path – both.  Kind of.  I was able to find a decent running street engine that while it had wonky compression, put down a decent amount of power and was readily available.  I also gave a green light to start a front running engine build from Advanced Auto Fabrications in Spokane, WA – a shop that builds and maintains some of the best PRO3 cars around.  The engine would not be ready until the winter so it would be a 2015 investment.

2014 Sovren Historics featuring PRO3 Racing

Part of the reason I bought someone’s back up engine was to salvage the season but another reason was that PRO3 had been asked to be the featured racing class at SOVREN’s 2014 Historics event on 4th of July weekend.  3 days of racing all day long and 20k+ spectators watching some awesome racing and incredible vintage show cars.  I was able to get the new (to me) engine installed and ready to go with only a week to spare before the event.  Not only was it really fun racing the whole weekend but the lap times continued to tumble!  Below is the last race of the weekend, a shorter sprint race where positions were determined by the finishing position the previous day.  With 30+ cars in the field, I ended up just outside of the Top 10 at the end of the weekend.

Almost got them!  Right Click and Open New Link in New Window

Almost got them! Right Click and Open New Link in New Window

I learned a ton during that weekend in terms of my driving, the difference of a stronger engine and the right final drive ratio and tires, can make.  I left that weekend wanting more time on the track to be able to make the changes I wanted in my driving but not having to worry about other cars to protect a position or simply having too much traffic.

Personal Bests!!

With half the season gone, improvement really started happening at a quick pace, which was awesome!  I was able to make massive improvements on my personal bests at the three of the four major race tracks in the northwest.  Wasn’t able to make it out to Oregon Raceway Park this past year, despite it being one of my favorite tracks.

Pacific Raceways July 19, 2014 – 1:39.927

Taking the lessons I had learned from 3 days of hard racing two weeks prior, I put them to good use and squeezed out another almost 2 seconds from my personal best times.

1:39.927 - Right Click and Open in New Window

1:39.927 – Right Click and Open in New Window

 

Portland International Raceway – August 10, 2014 – 1:31.898

A month later I headed back to Portland with an ambitious goal of improving my fastest lap and cracking the top 10 in a dry weather race with PRO3.  The latter didn’t happen but I did improve my best times by another 3 seconds.  Two big differences – first was that I was driving with a new (to me) engine with ~10-15 whp more than the original engine.  Also, I had studied a lot of video and data from some of the front running drivers who had shared data.  My only goals were to have the same or slightly later braking points and carry the same speed as them through each corner.  In the end, due to having much less power than them still, I was able to brake at the same or later positions easily and in about half the corners, carry the same or more speed.  My last race of the weekend ended too early due to pushing too hard after getting bumped off the track on lap 1.  Lessons learned but still a was a blast!

1:31.898 - Right Click and Open in New Window

1:31.898 – Right Click and Open in New Window

 The Ridge Motorsports Park – September 21, 2014 – 2:00.393

Last time at The Ridge for the year and I went for broke.  With the engine developing a slight hesitation around 6k RPM’s in each gear, I knew I would have to push super hard to get some good lap times and perform well in the races.  Specifically at the Ridge, there are two somewhat significant up hills where being down on torque to other cars is a big disadvantage, so my goal was to carry as much speed as possible as I approached the hills.  All in all, it paid off in that I was able to improve my best lap time by 1.5 seconds from my last time out at the Ridge in August.

2:00.393 - Right Click and Open in New Window

2:00.393 – Right Click and Open in New Window

 How’d the rest of the plan go?

Go Kart all year long, indoor and outdoor:

This went mostly to plan.  I competed in the local K1 monthly racing league up until the car racing season started landing 3 podium finishes over the 6 months I raced.  Once summer arrived, I shifted to outdoor racing at Pacific Grand Prix, which is located right next to Pacific Raceways.  After a few months of the Amateur League racing, I finally got my first win and upgrade to Pro-Am.  Unfortunately in my first Pro-Am race I got taken out in the final race and resulted in some back issues that I’m still recovering from to this day.  I haven’t been back in a Kart but am hoping to be fully healed up by mid-January and karting as much as possible in the rain.

Train for a half marathon in preparation for an 8 Hour endurance race in October:

The training went well, as I did a 17 week training program, running almost 800 miles in 2014 and running a half marathon in just over 2 hours in September.  Unfortunately my day job created a conflict the weekend of the race so I was not able to do the Endurance race.

Get within 3 seconds of the top 5 drivers at each track:

Pacific Raceways – check!  The fastest times and near (or new) track records were in the mid 1:36.xxx. The Ridge Motorsports Park – close but not quite there!  I can’t seem to find the qualifying sheets but I believe the fastest laps this year were in the mid to low 1:56’s.  This puts me at about 4 seconds from the absolute fastest and possibly within the top 5 but I can’t confirm. Portland International Raceways – check!  1:29.2x was the fastest PRO3 lap time in August (and I believe the year) which puts my 1:31.898 just under 3 seconds away. Why does 3 seconds matter?  In a future post I’ll give more details on what’s going on with the car during the off-season beyond just the engine.  I think those changes will result in ~2 second improvements (maybe more in some tracks) alone and with improvements in my driving, I think that will at least put me in striking distance with the front of the pack.  We’ll see.

Wrapping up

2014 was a tough but great year for me personally on the driving front.  A lot of highs, some lows and it wasn’t cheap but it was worth it.  We’ll see what 2015 has in the cards but I’m coming back guns a blazing and I hope you all are too!  Here is to 2015!

Getting more than a facelift for 2015

Getting more than a facelift for 2015

 

We’ve been busy!  Track Attack Beta 4 was released this past weekend and we’re close to the final build.  Here’s what’s new:

1. Download history bug fix

Some of our users who have been using the app for some time might be the ones who have changed phones or for some reason wanted to sync their session history from the site to their phones.  We had some intermittent bugs with that sync process in the last build and that has been resolved.

2. Adding Google Analytics

Yes, this doesn’t sound very exciting but its really important in our ability to maintain a healthy product and improving on the features people are actually using.  We’ve added Google Analytics to ensure we know how the app is being used and when we have bugs so we can react quickly.

3. New Home Screen Tile Icon

You likely saw the new icons on the store with the last build and we’ve received good feedback.  While we aim to have a consistent set of features and UI across the three platforms (Android, iOS and Windows Phone), we also want to take advantage of the unique features each platform offers.  Tiles and in the future, Live Tiles are a cool part of Windows Phone and we want Track Attack to seamlessly integrate into the platform.

4. Not New but Awesome – Predictive Lap Timer

Predictive lap timer is a feature we’ll be rolling out to Android and iOS versions but we started it all with Windows Phone.  The way it works is simple.  Within each lap-based session, as you drive, Track Attack keeps track of the fastest lap in that session.  As you complete another lap, it will start displaying to you, real time, how much faster or slower you are going compared to that fastest lap at that location (geographic location) on the track.  This way, if you feel like you are in a good lap, you can peak over at the app and if you see green, you are going faster.  If you see red, you are going slower.

Also, during playback in the app, it shows you those values on the screen as you watch your lap.  See the example below:

In this lap I am going .717 seconds slower at that specific location, compared to my fastest lap in that session

In this lap I am going .717 seconds slower at that specific location, compared to my fastest lap in that session

So check out the latest update to Track Attack GPS Lap Timer on Windows Phone and tell your friends!

At 9104 Studios, as small as it might be today, we love technology and we love motor sports.  To help us develop the best solutions, we spend as much time on a race track and with racers as possible.  This enables us to come up with usage scenarios and get feedback from drivers, instructors and racing schools about what we’re working on.

With this in mind, we decided that 2013 was the year we would go feet first into competitive motor sports so we enrolled into the first available SCCA competition racing school available at our local racing school, ProFormance Racing School, based out of Pacific Raceways in Kent, WA.

How to get a competition license?

There are different ways that people go about getting their competition license.  Most paths involve some level of an initial day or half day of instruction on vehicle handling and dynamics, followed with lapping at a race track with a driving coach and at some point, you are given the ok to be on a race track on your own, without a coach.  The objective at that level is to make sure you are a safe driver for your own and other’s sake.  This is generally referred to a stage as having a ‘Sport Driving License’.

Once a track record of knowing how to control a car and be safe on a track, is established, then it becomes easy to know that you want to go after a competition license and be allowed to go after it.

What’s the big difference between a Sport Driving and a Competition Licensing Program?

There are a number of differences but I believe the main difference is the objective.  In a sport driving program, the primary objectives are for the participant to have a safe and fun time going around a track, i.e. not necessarily to be as fast as possible.  In a competition school, the objective is to train you to be a safe and fast race car driver.  Safety and then fast, fast, fast are the objectives.  Be faster than anyone else!

Time to go fast!

Having completed the High Performance Driving Education 1 day course at ProFormance and several open track days with the school, the competition license school was the best option to get licensed as early as possible in 2013.  ProFormance breaks down their program into two days:

Day 1:

  1. Classroom instruction about the racing world (club, pro-am and pro levels).
  2. Drills on braking, slalom while watching for flags and passing.
  3. Practice with a data collection session.
  4. Track tour
  5. Practice pre-gridding, gridding and start of a race

Don Kitch Jr - Chief Instructor

ProFormance Racing School

Day 2:

  1. Track time with instructors working on specific areas from the previous day
  2. Passing drill
  3. Medical examination (more of taking blood pressure and heart rates before and after a session)
  4. Practice
  5. Qualifying for a race
  6. Official race among school participants

The school provides cars to participants for a few reasons; create an even playing field, establish comparison marks so they know what to expect of performances and give people enough power to have fun but not get in to much trouble.

I had the black #11 below.

 

Racing School cars

Racing School Cars – Supercharged Chevy Cobalt SS

While the school end to end was invaluable, these were the highlights for me:

  1. High quality instruction: All the instructors have years and years of racing experience at various levels, in many cases at the pro Grand Am and American Le Mans Series!  They know what it is like to go fast and go fast with other fast drivers in VERY fast cars!  The quality of feedback that was provided was second to none.
  2. Using Track Attack to Accelerate Learning: Yes, a little biased but in truth, only a few other people had video going during any of the practice sessions.  More people brought out GoPro’s during the final race but what a lost opportunity!  I was able to use Track Attack during each practice session to record how I did, review after each session and most importantly, during the first practice session of Day 1, I had my instructor (pro driver and local hot shoe, Ted Anthony Jr) put down a hot reference lap for me to review and compare to my laps.
    1. What did I learn?  First, I wasn’t carrying as much speed as I could into a very complex section of the track where momentum is key.  He could carry the speed (entering around 70mph) and that told me the car could easily do it so if I don’t, it’s because of me and not the car.  Second, the car can easily carry an extra 5-8mph around a long, fast sweeper coming off the main straight away.
    2. How did this help?  The very next practice session, I was able to get within .25 seconds within his reference lap!
  3. Anyone Can Race Almost Any Car and Have a Blast!  No joke.  You’d think, a Chevy Cobalt SS?  Front Wheel Drive, stock with street tires and OEM brake pads and rotors?!?!?!  How are you going to learn to race with that?!??  Just like you would any other car but the saying is true about cars:  It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.  You don’t need a crazy fast car, expensive parts and huge tires or wings to get on a track or even race wheel to wheel.  Just get out there!

So what’s next? 

This certification of completion was money well spent and paves the road for entering competitive racing with NASA, SCCA and ICSCC.  Specifically the Track Attack team will be doing two campaigns this year:

  1. Time Trials Competition with NASA Northwest – look out for future blog postings on this where we’ll give an overview of the car and each event!
  2. Wheel to wheel racing in a BMW Pro 3 spec car with ICSCC – we’re renting a full on race car and doing racing!

Regardless of what level of motor sports you want to get into, just get out there and start driving.  You don’t need a ton of money or a super fast car.  Just bring a good attitude, energy and your car to most clubs or sanctioning bodies and you’ll be able to get going soon.  See you at the track and don’t forget your mount!

 

 

 

 

 

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