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Data Acquisition Done Right - Tech

Sportcar Motion Steps Up To RLC Racing's Pro-X Full-Color Race Dash And Data Logger.

David Pratte
Jan 27, 2011 SHARE

If you're a Honda fan or follower of the American time attack scene, the name Sportcar Motion (SCM) is no doubt familiar to you. That's because this San Diego-based Honda specialist, owned and operated by Loi Song, has been one of the leading FWD teams for quite a few years now. If you read our feature of SCM's record-setting EG hatchback (Sept. '10), then you know exactly what we're talking about.

Modp_1102_01_o+sportcar_motion_data_acquistion+micropad Photo 2/16   |   Data Acquisition Done Right - Tech

Staying ahead of the pack in a motorsport as competitive as time attack requires a full understanding of what your car and driver are doing out there on the racetrack. The stopwatch can only tell you so much, and in-car video offers just a two-dimension glimpse into the cockpit. To see what's really going on under the hood, in the driver seat and at the contact patches, you need a modern data acquisition system capable of integrating input from multiple sources. What that means is a system that not only uses highly accurate GPS data for position, speed and acceleration, but also integrates CAN data from your ECU and onboard sensors as well as synching with a variety of external sensors and onboard video.

To meet all their data acquisition needs with an expandable system, SCM opted for RLC Racing's Pro-X system. Not only does the Pro-X offer all of the aforementioned functionality and features, its unique 7-inch full-color touch screen display delivers unmatched visibility and versatility. According to Loi from SCM, "The display is really nice. It has great visibility in all lighting conditions, including direct sunlight, and the way the touch screen works is really cool. It's kind of like an iPhone. It's very easy to use, and the dash has so many different display pages and modes that it's never a problem to find the information you're looking for."

The similarities to the iPhone don't end there, though. According to Eric Coomer from RLC Racing, "We actually use the same motherboard in our race dashes as Apple used in the 3GS iPhone. It's a very powerful piece to build upon, and with our over 30-year history in the computer electronics industry, we're able to make very good use of it. If you just compare our GPS Hz sample rate [5 Hz or 10 Hz, depending on the system] against other products, you're really not getting the whole picture. We use highly sophisticated algorithms to increase GPS accuracy and compensate for GPS drift, making our GPS-based data by far the most accurate in the industry. We also over-sample all of the analog and digital inputs from sensors and the vehicle's ECU such that the logged data is also far more accurate than the other high-end data acquisition systems on the market."

When we asked Loi what he likes about his RLC Pro-X so far, here's what he had to say: "We've only been to one test day so far with this system, but we were really impressed by the predictive lap timing feature and also the way it automatically breaks your lap down for you into segments. The full-color display makes it super easy for the driver to tell if he's gone faster (lap time pops up in green) or slower (lap time pops up in red) than his best lap, and the way the split times or segment times pop up is also really informative to the driver and helps him quickly see where he's gained or lost time. When we transferred the logged test session to our laptop, the detailed track map included with the Pro-X [now overlaid with Google Earth for added realism] meant we could look closely at our driver's line to determine which one was working best, and of course with all the GPS data available we were also able to look closely at cornering speed and top speed down each straight, which tells us a lot about how the car and driver are performing."

The Pro-X is also designed to provide the user with highly valuable data on throttle position (from the TPS sensor), brake pressure, engine speed, wheel speed and many other parameters from the slew of onboard sensors on newer vehicles that are equipped, along with a wide variety of add-on sensors available from RLC (stuff like shock travel sensors, tire pressure/temp sensors and EGT sensors). However, since SCM's DC2 doesn't use a CAN system and the Pro-X doesn't support Hondata ECUs yet, Loi wasn't able to tap into the ECU during their initial test session. But if your car uses a CAN (or CAN-bus) ECU communication system, the Pro-X plugs into that data stream, giving you access to a huge amount of valuable data. And in SCM's case, they've wired all their external sensors and sending units into the Pro-X's available inputs, so that the driver has access to engine vitals like oil pressure, oil temp and water temp. And in the case of a non-CAN vehicle like SCM's DC2, RLC Racing does offer an OBD-II port module that gives you access to all those valuable OEM sensors and data sources.

Although in-car video isn't terribly informative outside any obvious driving errors, it becomes a very powerful analysis tool when combined with overlaid data. To provide this to its customers, RLC has teamed up with ChaseCam - one of the leading manufacturers of onboard camera systems for road racers - so that data recorded by the Pro-X is embedded into the video file and no manual synching of video and data is required (for any of you who've tried manually synching data to a video, you know how tough it is to get them anywhere near perfectly synched). This means the data and GPS track position displayed directly corresponds to the video action, and since the Pro-X and ChaseCam begin recording as soon as vehicle movement is detected, you never have to worry about remembering to turn on the video camera.

With easy-to-use PC analysis software, true video synching, and a 7-inch full-color touch screen display, the RLC Racing Pro-X race dash and data logger is like no other product on the market today. It's certainly not the cheapest data acquisition system, but you really do get what you pay for in this segment, and compared to the cost of other top-of-the-line systems like MoTeC or Pi, the Pro-X does offer tremendous value and versatility (not to mention the most accurate data logging in the business). As Loi from SCM put it, "Our Pro-X system was getting a lot of attention at the track. People seemed to really love the way it looks, and although we've only scratched the surface of what this system can do, we're very impressed by how easy it is to use, how much expandability it has, and how quickly we can find and display the information we want." We also think the soon-to-be-released wi-fi feature, where any data logged is wirelessly transferred from any of RLCs race dashes to a nearby (800-foot range) iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad for trackside review by a driving coach or team engineer is going to be another powerful tool to cut lap times down.

Modp_1102_15_o+sportcar_motion_data_acquistion+track_overlay Photo 16/16   |   RLC's new pro-software features include Google Earth track overlay and predictive timing.

Tech Specs
Pro X Full-Color Race Dash & Data Logger

Processor/CPU 520 Mhz Intel 32-bit XScale RISC Processor

Display 7" sunlight readable, transflective touch screen TFT color graphics display

Shift Lights 16 dual color red/green LEDs

Firmware & Functionality Multiple screens display Tach & Engine vitals w/ user programmable limits & alarms, pop-up Lap Timer w/ Best/Last Lap displays, calibration/sensor & user preference screens, Replay screen for any logged track session, display any sensor(s) on user configured screens, flexible on-screen user configurable data logging

Data Logging 2GB of standard onboard flash memory (expandable), each input channel logged at any of the selectable sample rates (up to 100 Hz), automatic 4x over-sampling & data averaging, CAN, GPS & video stream data logging, programmable Auto Start/Stop logging, auto time stamp of each logged track session

Analog Inputs 8 analog inputs, 10-Bit A/D converters, 4 single ended A/D channels, 1 internal single ended channel for monitoring battery voltage, 3-axis internal g-force sensor, additional channels can be added (DACX module), 4 external inputs (Pro-X)

Digital Inputs (Logged) 2 inputs for rpm, Wheel Speed, etc. (expandable w/ DACX module), pulses on all inputs can be processed as low as 0-5 V & as high 0-18 V, 2 external digital inputs (Pro-X)

Digital Outputs 2 outputs (expandable with DACX module), user programmable, 2 external digital outputs (Pro-X)

Data Acquisition Expansion Add analog & digital channels or OBD-II connectivity w/ DACX module

Connectivity USB FLASH memory stick transfer rate of 2.4 Mb/sec., 2 serial ports (RS-232) for GPS system & synchronized video, CAN-bus to interface to most popular ECUs, USB host on display for FLASH stick

Mechanical Solid billet aluminum housing, hard anodized, available in Red, Black, Blue & Silver/Clear, simple mounting hardware included, 28-pin rugged industry standard Amp connector, sealed & water resistant

Environmental Limits Ambient/outdoor operating temperature range of -20 to +70 C (-4 to +158 F), operating Voltage 7 to 18 V

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By David Pratte
216 Articles

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