So which tire will be faster?...
So which tire will be faster? The one on the car or the one on the ground? The ability to make the right decision will depend on your ability to measure and turn those measurements into a winning combination. This isn’t rocket science or brain sugery but without some good data and analysis it’s just guesswork based on memory.
So, now you have the data sheet defining how the car was set up from a mechanical perspective, you have the raw numbers from the session in the form of lap times (the continuous data) and you have the driver debrief. But be cautious, many times when debriefing a driver he may be saying that he’s going flat out through a specific portion of the track when in fact he may be lifting and or applying the brakes without even knowing it.
If through your observations you noticed flames out of the exhaust as the car entered the corner or that the car’s attitude changed you need to discuss this with the driver. If the track can hold a car going in wide open and your driver has to let up or apply the brakes you have a problem that you need to solve. This is why notes are so important. The intent isn’t to catch a driver in a half truth but to really understand how the things you’re doing as a tuner are affecting the driver’s ability to drive the car.
Review the numbers. Does anything look out of place? Were there any unusual laps, slow or fast? Compare the lap times to your notes from the session. Was the driver in traffic or have a clear track? What about the line your driver was using? Was there a good bit of experimentation from a line perspective? Taking notes on the observations taken during a session go a long way to helping to understand the lap times you have just taken.
Remember this is the point when some racers take a set of data that is continuous and change them to attribute data. They have the temptation to say that only one lap was good out of a set of laps and then they miss the opportunity to really learn what the data set was telling them. All data has something we can learn about. Even if it tells us that we are going the wrong way.
Remember that not everybody can look at a set of numbers and glean the story they are telling. Many people are visual learners. Convert the numbers into a picture and you may learn more. Let’s look at a practical example of two 14-lap test sessions on the page to the left.
After the first session, the team decided that it would make some subtle changes to the car with springs and some tire pressure adjustments. The basis for these changes was made based on past experience with their familiarity with the changes that the track would go through as the night progressed.
From the combined data sets the team can begin to make further adjustments to the car in the days following the race. Repeating the procedure each week will build a comprehensive portfolio of information.
The addition of DA to your racing program doesn’t have to mean high-dollar computer systems and specially trained people. It does mean that you may have to place a bit more rigor into your racing program to start measuring your various systems that make up the tuning process itself. Reducing the variability within your racing processes will result in better finishes and improved reliability.Your ability to define and understand what is going on with the car starts with having data and learning how to ask questions of the data and making your tuning changes based on what the data is saying.
The 14-lap sessions we looked at have much more information than just what we are seeing in the raw data and in the graphs we created. As you gain a further understanding of the relationships between tire pressure, tire temperature, and rubber hardness as it relates to lap times you’ll gain further insight to the tuning processes. You’ll understand how spring rates in the car and in the tires can have a very strong effect on the overall setup and its performance. The point to remember is that your race car is a collection of many systems interacting at the same time. It’s your job to define and control the various systems to improve the performance of the car.
As you start gathering data in your spiral notebook you may want to transfer the data to a PC or notebook computer. You may even get a copy of Excel with the machine and that software package has more than enough statistical analysis power to do some very specific data analysis that will help glean even more information out of the data you’re collecting. I’ve been seeing more and more guys at the track with computers in their trailers and they aren’t playing video games. They’re winning races. There’s no reason you can’t do the same.