Q: What data acquisition system should I buy?

ask-ross-bentley-q&aQ: Okay, say I have the $5k it takes to set up a really nice data system for my SpecE30.  Should I put the data system in first and then get some strong coaching, or is the $5k best spent on that coaching first?

A: Great question! First, I don’t think you need to spend $5k on a good data system. I bet you could get what you want for under $2k, and have some left over for coaching.

As for whether to get the data system first, then coaching, or vice versa… That depends on where you’re at as a driver. What do you think? Do you think there’s more in your driving, or more in the car? Do you think a good coach (and understand there are huge differences in coaches) would be able to help you find more in your driving than a data system would? If you had the latest and greatest data system, do you think you could analyze it yourself and coach yourself to find the same amount that the coach could?

A good coach will help you learn in a way that will be with you forever. A data system can do that, but you have to really know what you’re doing to self-coach yourself with data to get the same long-term effect. The problem is that many coaches are not capable of doing that – of helping you learn things that will help you forever. Many will jump in your car, set a lap time, and say, “Do what I did.” That’s not coaching. And that’s not long-term learning for you. It’s simply copying someone else’s driving. It can lead to a short term gain, but not a long term one.

My experience is that there is often a lot left in the driver, and I think it’s great that you’re looking at this the same way I would – how to get the most out of the driver (you). It sounds like you understand this, which is great (many drivers don’t get this).

Okay, $5k… I would spend $1000 or so on an AIM system with camera, and the rest on coaching. But I’d make sure I was getting a good coach. A good one will do more in two days than an average one will in 10 days.


  1. This is really good advice, Ross. I hired a coach for my last two races and he looked at data and video from the car, made some corrections to my line and throttle application, and I went immediately faster. I use the Aim system and really like it, but there are others and to me the bottom line is the software. If the tools that are available to interpret the data aren’t what you’re looking for, try something else.

  2. Going through this process now. Having interviewed several coaching candidates, they all recommended data systems to assist in their evaluations and coaching efforts. One thing I am sorting through is different opinions on what data they would like to look at. Some are good with just GPS based overlays and video. Others are recommending things like brake pressure, throttle position and other inputs for a proper evaluation. I wouldn’t mind hearing some input for those parameters which would be critical in this case. Vehicle is a 1985 BMW-325e run with BMWCCA/NASA/SCCA.

    • Bud, I really, really like throttle and brake pressure sensors. The speed trace tells you where you’re either too fast or too slow, but it’s the throttle and brake traces that tell you why – and what you need to do different. You can read some of that from the g-load traces, but it’s not as accurate. Of course, everything comes with a price tag…

      • Thanks for the input! Very helpful!

  3. An AiM system for $1000?! More like $3000. Also, AiM is really hard to learn. Get something easier unless you are an engineer or a serious racer.


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