Q: “I am an avid autocrosser, running a Porsche 914 race car. My only data-logging is using the CMS Pro app on my iPhone clipped to the dash. It logs speed, lateral acceleration, and longitudinal acceleration via GPS. I believe the iPhone GPS is limited to 10 Hz however.
“I only have 10-15 minutes between runs. My questions is, what should I be looking at and focusing on in the small amount of time I have available to analyze my last run and learn something that I can apply to the next run?
“I always have a course map (either provided by the organizers or drawn myself from a morning course walk), and my past habit is to close my eyes and carefully rerun the last run in my mind, making note of what went well, and where I think I can improve. That’s also very good for just calming me and putting me in a peaceful state of mind for the next run too. Is that perhaps better prep than worrying about the data? Your insights would be appreciated.”
A: You’re right, with only 10-15 minutes in between runs it’s difficult to dig into the data very far. My guess, without seeing you drive, is that taking time to mentally calm yourself and re-run the runs in your mind is more important. I say that as long as you’re able to figure out what you can do better on the next run. I would take a minute or two to ask yourself specific questions that will lead to you figuring out what one or two things you should work on in your next run – ask yourself where’s the one place there is the most time to be gained, where you feel you’re leaving the most on the table, where you can get back to full throttle sooner, where you can carry more rolling/momentum speed, where you can release the brakes sooner, where you can use the brakes to help rotate the car more, where you can brake later, where you can brake lighter to carry momentum…? Once you do that, identify just one or two things to do in your next run, then mentally practice that/them for 10 minutes.
If you’re unsure about what to do, a good plan is always to work at spending more time at full throttle – get to full throttle sooner, stay on the throttle longer, and get to full throttle in between turns for even a fraction of second. And if you’re still unsure, and have time, then look at the data. The more you use the data, the faster you’ll get at using it. So, even if you don’t have time during the day to look at it, do so at the end of the day and in between days/events. Practice getting fast at using the data. Practice looking for the telltale signs that will help you determine what to work on the next run. Compare your runs and ask what differences you see, and relate that the answers you came up with when asking yourself those questions. Over time, that will make you faster at analyzing the data.
Data is super helpful, but only if you know what to look for, and have the time to do so. As I said, the more you use it, the faster you’ll get at using it. Of course, if you’re able to overlay your data with another driver in a car that is reasonably comparable, then you can speed things up a lot. And, if someone else drives your car, then you have an accurate comparison.
By the way, I love the way you’re using the course map to debrief with yourself, make notes, and then preparing for the next run. I especially like the maps that are self-drawn, as that imprints the course on your mind. Keep doing that!