Data analysis in autocross. How should you approach this given the nature of the event? I had this question from a reader so thought I would share my reply:
Now, a question for you. In the podcasts I’ve listened to so far, everything is based on racing in sessions where you have time to try different lines, brake points, or techniques all while collecting data to analyse later. How would you approach an event like our autocross where you get three runs of the course and maybe 5-10m between runs? It’s hard to see a “trend” when you only have three data points.
Data Analysis In Autocross
Autocross presents a unique challenge, not least the short time between runs. The good news is that, as far as data is concerned, three runs compared is effectively the same as three discrete laps compared. As long as the course is the same, you can learn something.
Furthermore, the majority of the analysis concepts for circuit racing can be adapted to autocross – as you’re still looking to drive corners as fast as possible.
Yes, there is a bit more opportunity for experimentation with line and braking points in circuit racing. But once you know what you’re looking for in the data, it isn’t always necessary to have a lot of runs before you can identify opportunities to improve.
Once you’ve got up to speed you start to be able to work out what good looks like regardless of what you’ve tried.
Take a watch of this free video explaining the speed trace. Hopefully you’ll be able to start to relate the lines to the action on track.
I would recommend taking onboard video as well, if that is at all an option for you, as this gives you a lot of additional information to compliment the logged data – for example, a better understanding of your driven line than GPS. Video also helps you put your data in context better.
For me data and video analysis, from a driving perspective, is simply to help you – the driver – build a better mental model of what you’re aiming for.
The aim is to then give you the confidence of knowing what your car can do. Plus the guidance on what you need to do in order to go faster.
Then over to you, for the fun of trying to make it happen!
Data Is More Than GPS & Lap Times
The big thing for me is to have a methodical approach.
Small steps but don’t be scared to change things. When making a tyre pressure change therefore don’t start with a 1 psi difference, go big, like 4 or 5 psi (within the manufacturers recommendations of course!) but also think before.
Ask yourself, what do you think that change will do? (I don’t know is fine!)
Then go and try it and see if it makes a difference.
Keep notes during your day. Summarise them at the end when you’ve more time.
Data is not only GPS logged data but all the other little experiments you are trying throughout your runs.
So all the car setup stuff counts as data too imho.
Get the basics right, focusing on the big things first (mass distribution) before playing with less influential things (damper settings) and you’ll make big strides in performance – and satisfaction! This article might be worth a scan if you’ve time.
Well, this approach works for me 🙂
In summary, yes I would say data gives you the chance to highlight areas to improve, especially when you are on your own.
In addition to that video, maybe take a look at some of the articles on data analysis here. You are also welcome to do this short data course for free here. If you want to go the next step then you’re welcome to take my beginners data course.
Good luck, and let me know how you get on!