Does It Work?
ETC can improve fuel mileage because throttle transitions are electronically damped. Tire wear/conservation can be improved because it can calm down all the little tire slips that are going on during racing that wear and heat up the tires--the electronics can react faster than a human can.
Mark Richards, owner of Rocket Chassis, sells Davis Technologies ETC. He doesn't make a big deal about it, but he knew he was competing against it, so he began investigating ETC last year to find out if there was any real value to the claims he was hearing. "We're offering everything for a customer to win," he notes. "It won't make a 15th- or 10th-place car win a race, and it won't help the lap times of the best racers out there. But the average driver can pick up to 0.1-0.2-seconds. We've tested it (the Davis Technologies units). If Dale McDowell runs a 16.50-second lap without it, I run a 16.70-80 second lap without it in the same car on the same track. But I can hit 16.50-60s if I use it on an open track." Richards clairfies, "If Dale uses it, he can become more consistent and achieve more 16.50s over a number of laps." Richards also notes that traction control, "has become the number one excuse in racing: 'I got beat, I think the winner had traction control'" is all too common a post-race refrain these days. "Racers still have to have the skills to race: drive in traffic; adapt to changing track conditions; and adapt to the car's changing performance," concludes Richards.
Given the cost, effectiveness, and portable packaging of current ETC, it seems to me that the amount of resources/aggravation required to find this one "unfair advantage" is basically futile at most levels of racing. NASCAR and major touring series may choose to police it, and will likely restrict its use, but it's unlikely to be totally eradicated--unless it's legalized.
ETC is just one of the many pieces of creative engineering going on in racing, and it's become one of the most difficult to detect. Legalize it and the price could come down to the $500-$1,000 range and then expend the tech inspection efforts on finding ways to improve driver safety, for instance. That has more return on investment in the long run for racing's future. CT