FINDING THE EDGE
Racelogic’s VBOX system is making data logging accessible to the masses. By Rob Ladbrook
Set-up will only get you so far in motorsport. Precision tuning of metal and rubber accounts for the final few tenths drivers need to be successful, at the most. But by far the biggest gains in this sport come from the organic matter behind the steering wheel.
Technology is constantly evolving within the sport, and that’s a good thing because not only does it allow drivers to continually push the boundaries of what’s possible on track, it also allows them to review their own performance off it.
Data logging and analysis used to be a tool reserved only for the supertechnical, or the super-funded. But now drivers of all levels across the world can have access to precision data and coaching tools thanks to Racelogic and its VBOX system.
Developed by club racer Julian Thomas’s company, the system allows for easy capture, replay and analysis of everything a car does out on track, at any circuit.
Technology expert Thomas first came up with the concept for the system when karting.
“I used to compete against one of my colleagues and he was always quicker than me, but couldn’t explain why,” says Thomas. “I rigged up a system to put on his kart to measure his throttle, brake application and speed and could then see what he was doing differently to me. That’s when these types of systems really came to my attention.”
Racelogic has come a long way in the following 24 years, with its other products used by major automotive manufacturers to measure emergency braking systems, collision avoidance systems and more.
In racing terms, VBOX Video HD2 is its marquee product. Over 8500 VBOX systems have been sold to date. Using global positioning systems accurate to just a few centimetres, the system can give real-time information about speed, laptime and, often more crucially, technique. The system uses side-by-side video comparisons to make it easy to spot where improvements can be made. The system also automatically recognises and plots 500 circuits around the world.
“Many data systems can be way too complex, often made by electronics engineers who have never gone racing,” says Thomas. “VBOX is made by racing drivers for racing drivers, so we kept things simple and accessible to give drivers the most relevant data to help them improve.
“The system breaks down a lap into sectors by using the top speed at any given time, and then gives you accurate data for each sector every lap. The computer will then select your fastest outright lap and use that as the benchmark and give you the data to spot every mistake or improvement.
“You can see exactly how much time you could save by hugging an apex a little longer, or how much you’d lose by running too wide. If you continue to experiment with different lines, it helps you develop a theoretical perfect line around the track. Sometimes even a mistake can find you time you never realised.”
The circuit tracking GPS is also a new way of logging driving data, and is accurate regardless of the length or nature of the track you’re on, meaning it can predict lap times in the same way for the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy track or the full 12.3-mile Nurburgring Nordschleife.
“Traditionally the way to track lap times was on distance covered and the system would record each lap depending on how far you’d travelled on what line,” explains Thomas. “On Brands Indy a lap could possibly only vary by about 10-15metres maximum if you ran wide a few times. But on the Nordschleife you have to vary your lines so often with traffic or conditions, so a lap could vary by 800 metres or more for a pro driver, meaning after five turns the data gets out of sync and your predicted laps can become multiple seconds out.
“By using accurate GPS tracking we can keep predicted lap times to within a tenth of a second on tracks like the Nordschleife above or below your best.”
The basic VBOX Video HD2 consists of a single main data box, an aerial and two 1080p cameras, making it easy to install or move between cars. While the system is simple to use for amateur racers, it is also proving a useful tool for professionals.
Driver coach and successful racer Calum Lockie says: “I’ve seen people trying to use hugely complicated data systems and they get lost in them, which leads to disheartening and then you get a downward spiral in performance. The VBOX does all you need it to do and you can tailor it to be as simple or as complex as you like.
“You can dig down from the base data, which is often the best way to do it. By just using the side-by-side video and the data traces you have masses of information. Modern motorsport is very homogenised, with single-make series and limited adjustability, so by far the biggest gains are found in the drivers themselves. This system rips up the racing drivers’ excuses book and instead gives everybody a way of picking out their mistakes and finding ways to better their performance.” ■
“It’s made by race drivers, for race drivers” Julian Thomas “The most gains come from the driver” Calum Lockie
Installation is simple with box under dash System recognises up to 500 race circuits Thomas gained time in his Jaguar E-type