|Data acquisition suffers from an image problem. Many people think it is a black science that is reserved for engineers, scientists, and computer geeks. Not true! In reality, data acquisition, especially in the context of motorsports, is something that can be useful to nearly everyone, and isn’t beyond the understanding of anyone who enjoy tinkering with all things mechanical. The problem is that it is hard to find someone who can explain the basics without getting overly technical. That is what we hope to do here in the FAQ section. We would like to present a selection of the questions we hear most frequently, and offer our explanations, in common terms, that will help you gain a better understanding of data acquisition. Here goes:
Who needs data acquisition?
Data acquisition is information. The more information you have, the better you can perform your job. If that job happens to involve something like motorsports, the better informed and prepared racers are the one’s who show up in the winner’s circle most often. Think of data acquisition as an extension of some functions that you are already monitoring, like engine RPM, water temperature, oil pressure, and even fuel level.
Isn’t data acquisition expensive?
That was true at one time, but not now. The cost of monitoring and recording data has been reduced drastically over the years. Remember the first pocket calculator your bought? It may have cost you over a hundred dollars. Today they give them away for filling your gas tank with fuel or opening a bank account, and the calculators will perform more functions that those that cost a lot. The same holds true with data recorders. Through technology the prices have come down, and the capabilities have gone up.
What does a data recorder cost?
That question doesn’t have a quick and easy answer. It is somewhat like walking into a restaurant and asking, “How much is a meal?” Just as the restaurant has a menu full of items, so does data acquisition. To guide you toward an answer would start with deciding which data recorder is best suited to your needs and application. You can start that process yourself by visiting our Application Chart.
Computers scare me.
Well, they can’t be too frightening to you because you are using one right now. The truth is that if you can get this far on a computer you have all the skills you need to use the software that is used with our data recorders. Both are Windows®-based systems that allow you to navigate around by pointing and clicking on icons. To the best of our knowledge no one has ever hit the ‘explode’ button by accident, so stop worrying and start enjoying.
I don’t understand half of the words I hear when someone starts talking about data recorders.
That is probably the most common problem, and the one we all encountered when we started playing with these things. So, just for you, we’ve included a Glossary Of Terms on this site so you can sneak off in private and check out that last word that baffled you.
I really don’t need to make my car any faster.
Ah-ha! Another shortsighted view of the value of data acquisition. True, data recorders were initially used in motorsports to make cars faster, but since then racers have discovered the joys of using data recorders to make their cars more consistent, heading off problems before it cost them a bundle of money, and resolving problems that caused their car to lose the speed it had.
I don’t want a full-blown data recorder. I just want to monitor a couple of items.
You are very lucky. It hasn’t been that long ago that data recorders were designed with nothing but large capabilities in mind. Today, again thanks to new technology, we have systems that let you start as small as you would like, and then add from there as your needs or budget dictates. Check out our V-Net systems if you want to see how modular technology has come to data acquisition.
Why should I buy a Racepak data recorder? Why not one of those other recorders I see advertised?
Great question, and one to which we could give you a whole list of reasons as answers. However, we feel that our best endorsements come from our customers. The people who have spent their hard earned dollars and put our equipment to the test. Try this…next time you are at any large race, start taking a close look inside the cars to see whose data recorder everyone is actually using. Pay special attention to those teams who can afford whatever equipment they want, so they only use those that will get the job done for them. If you get the opportunity, see if you can ask them a few questions. Ask them why they use Racepak (overwhelming, most do). Ask them if they have any problems with their recorder or software. Ask if it was difficult to install or learn how to use. Ask if they get the support they need whenever they might need it. Ask if they would buy from Racepak again. While you are at it, why don’t you also go ahead and ask those questions to anyone that may be using some other brand of data recorder. As you might suspect, as we enter the third decade of supplying customers with the finest data acquisition equipment available, we feel we have established a pretty solid reputation, and aren’t afraid of letting our customers speak for us.
What kind of things do most people monitor?
The answer to that can depend somewhat on what type of car the recorder is in. Almost everyone is going to want to see the engine RPM and the drive shaft RPM. Driveshaft speed is used to look at tire slippage and also to calculate a slippage ratio between the engine and the clutch or torque converter. After that the selection starts to spread out. Popular items include the exhaust gas temperatures (indicator of rich/lean fuel mixture), fuel pressure (fuel system efficiency), oil pressure (engine problem warning), pan vacuum (engine efficiency or warning signals), along with an accelerometer (G-meter) and battery voltage. From there it just depends on how hungry you are for information. You can start looking at nitrous bottle or fuel pressure, transmission pressure or temperature, brake pressure, manifold vacuum or boost, water/oil/cylinder head temperature, ignition timing, shock travel, event markers, throttle position, lap times, track segment times, track mapping…. well, you get the idea. If it involves pressure, vacuum, temperature, position, travel, event, or RPM, we can help you monitor it.