Motorsports Rear View Camera Setup On A Budget
If you are struggling to get a decent rear view out of your racing car, then a motorsports rearview camera might be the answer.
Camera systems can offer a crystal clear view in all weathers but they can also cost thousands.
If you are considering a rear camera system but are not sure, then perhaps my experience, and buying selection criteria, will help you decide if it is going to be worth it.
“What is behind you doesn’t matter”Enzo Ferrari
Despite what Enzo Ferrari famously said, being able to see out the back does matter. 🙂
To be honest, I am not sure Enzo was talking about racing (more likely business) but, just in case, I hope you will agree that there are several good safety and race-craft reasons for having good rear visibility.
The challenge I was looking to solve might, therefore, be similar to yours – I needed a better rear view during racing.
My specific issue was caused because of the design of my car’s roll cage.
No matter where we tried to position the central mirror, significant parts of the rearview were obscured by steelwork.
Of course, you can drive around these issues but when the option of a solution came up I thought it worth a shot.
There was a time when rear cameras were not allowed.
Nowadays, however, you are probably aware that several pro-level cars run rear view cameras – especially in GT and Endurance classes.
Have a look at this in-car shot from a Porsche at Sebring:
Hopefully you can clearly see the screen showing a rear view back down the pit lane.
These systems are great. They have good quality waterproof cameras, automatic operation and screens that can work well in low light conditions.
Some, like this Bosch one, even includes an augmented reality radar feature that warns the driver about fast-approaching cars.
They also cost a small fortune (think 10’s of thousands …)
The Pragmatic Approach
If you have not run a rear camera system before (like I hadn’t) the question becomes one of value.
Whilst I was never in the market for a 5 figure super mega system, I did want to try something but not commit significant money to the experiment.
Thanks to the prevalence of rearview camera systems on so many regular vehicles these days, a quick scan on Amazon soon revealed a number of promising after-market systems.
Maybe like many of you ( 🙂 ?) I then ended up spending way more time researching this purchase than I feel any “normal person” would!!
But it was important; it was for racing. 🙂
So, in addition to all the Amazon reviews, I then went on YouTube and watched loads (and loads!) of amateur reviewers “unboxing” and trying out all these budget camera systems. They were all over: on long trailers, on short trailers, on camper vans, at night, in bright sunshine, at dusk, in multi-story car parks, everywhere…
The quality of these reviews and videos was… varied.
However, after doing all this research, I nailed down some selection criteria that you might also find useful:
My Rear View Camera Selection Criteria:
- Wired Power. There are lots of wireless systems. These give great flexibility but I wanted a “fit-and-forget” system with no batteries to charge. With a wired system (with a long camera wire) we could simply plumb it into the car and we are done.
- Waterproof Camera. Products have different levels of waterproofness. If you are not familiar here are the IP codes – note the US has a different but related system. I was looking for IP68 and above as my car is open.
- 4-5in Screen. Whilst a larger screen might have been nice, we were a bit tight on space for mounting this so a smaller screen was the way to go – and cheaper.
- Mirror View Function. Sounds silly but you need to be able to have the image on the screen flipped left to right. If you have ever watched someones in-car video where they haven’t flipped their rear camera view, you’ll understand how important this is!
- Wide Angle Lens. Most cameras come with at least a 90-degree view. Ideally, I was after a larger field of vision but with minimum distortion.
- Good Low Light Camera. One of the major selling points of these cameras seems to be their night performance or lack of. For me, the low light performance was more to do with how it performed in overcast or heavy rain conditions.
My Chosen Rear Camera System
Depending on when and where you are reading this you will more than likely have a totally different set of actual camera options for this.
This is the one I went with and it cost £39 from Amazon UK.
It is a wired system, that is waterproof to IP68. The camera has a wide-angle lens, with a long cable and good low light ability. The screen has good colour & brightness, the image can be mirrored and size-wise is about 5in across.
I would say the screen quality is “good” but not outstanding. The field of view is a bit short, so things in the distance are a bit small, but in practice, it has been good enough – even with engine vibration.
High Camera Mount
We took the opportunity to mount the camera high and now I really do not understand why people choose to mount them low – except CofG (maybe ?) but the camera only weighs grams.
By mounting the camera high, you can actually see over the car immediately behind you. This gives you an even better idea of what is going on all around you.
I have also found another, slightly comical, benefit. This “parking camera” is actually a great help for me when manoeuvring around the paddock and garages. 🙂
Hans devices on helmets are great but they do make looking over your shoulder basically impossible. Having the camera has helped more than I thought!
Whether you are considering investing in an expensive rear camera system or whether you are trying to solve practical problems like mine, taking this pragmatic approach has certainly been beneficial in my experience.
I now have an unobstructed view out the back.
We have also had several very wet races and I found the rear visibility significantly better than even the unobscured parts of the mirror. That was a complete bonus as the screen image remained clear.
Clearly you need to check your regulations about whether you are able to run a camera system in races. We chose to run both the mirror (with the bad visibility) and the camera system this year to avoid any scrutineering issues.
If you have been thinking about the value of running a rear camera system, then hopefully this article has helped you.
I tried it to solve a specific issue but have been pleasantly surprised with the results and for what was a relatively modest outlay.
Enjoyed this? Check out these other articles:
Want to take the guesswork out of setting your tyre pressures? Try this article including a free calculator: https://www.yourdatadriven.com/how-to-set-your-racing-car-tyre-pressures-perfectly-every-time/
When do you change gear? Up or down there is an optimum rev range for your specific racing car. Here is how you work it out: https://www.yourdatadriven.com/best-gear-change-rpm-guide-to-optimum-gear-shift-points-in-a-racing-car/