Performance Trends, based in Livonia, Michigan, has introduced a new version of its Circle Track Analyzer V2.0. This computer software simulates circle-track racing for almost any vehicle, ranging from Street Stocks to Midgets to Late Models to Winston Cup cars--and hundreds more.
Infinitely customizable, it allows the user to play with "what if" situations without even turning a wrench or taking a practice lap in a real car. Circle Track Analyzer V2.0 reports back with lap times, suspension movements, and a wide variety of analytical information.
It comes preloaded with hundreds of combinations of vehicles, engines, tracks, and suspensions to quickly put the user in the ballpark of his or her race car's performance. Then it can be taken one step further with specific measurements and performance characteristics from the race car.
While it's not a substitute for real-world testing, this simulator can provide the insight a driver needs in order to make better educated guesses--and learn a thing or two in the process. The program simulates lap times, miles per hour, suspension motion, weight transfer, and more while taking into account engine power, track layout, gear ratios, tire size, suspension setup, roll centers, and driving style, among many other factors.
The calculations are based off accepted equations as found in respected books in this field, and then tweaked to better resemble individual situations. Product Engineer and company president Kevin Gertgen, a former Ford engineer for 12 years, relied on feedback from drivers while developing the simulation aspects of this program.
Like any computer model, this software cannot make exact predictions because much of the input data is estimated. The software, the designer states, is intended to be used as a guide to help understand how a vehicle works, what parameters are important, how para-meters interact, and what the trade-offs are--all within a highly customizable environment that is theoretically within the tolerances of the race car.
The main strengths of Circle Track Analyzer V2.0 are that the user can examine specific areas of a car's performance, or the program can take in the big picture and relay that information in meaningful terms with charts, graphs, and simulations that move. Baseline setups can be compared against experimental setups. One drawback is that we don't know exactly how accurate or inaccurate this software truly is, if given perfect information. Also, the program isn't "smart" enough to calculate lap times based on some suspension changes, but the user is warned ahead of time. For serious use, knowing every inch of your race car is a must.
At first glance, this program seemed friendly enough for beginners due to the many text box explanations that pop up. Meanwhile, seasoned race car builders can appreciate the myriad of details available for tweaking throughout the simulation.
The program is initially set up for asphalt, but traction factors can be adjusted to simulate a dirt surface.
The suspension analysis screen shows a real-time view (tracking the movement as the car goes around the track) of the front suspension, the weight over each wheel, throttle position, engine rpm, brake position, speeds, comparisons against baselines, and more.
If it runs on an oval, there is a good chance that an existing vehicle example can be tweaked into a very close example of your race car.
Different engines and components can be dropped into a car and compared with a baseline setup.
Track conditions and driver types can be manipulated.