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|Track Attack App|
|market research manager, Microsoft|
Favorite TV show:
|“Top Gear UK”|
|“Ultimate Speed Secrets” by Ross Bentley|
|Yas Marina Circuit|
|Subaru 24 Hours of Nurburgring STI|
Gamaliel Aguilar-Gamez grew up around cars. He and his brothers worked in his father’s shop in Portland, Ore. They did everything from answering phones to paperwork to working on the cars. By Aguilar-Gamez’s estimate, he changed his first radiator by the time he was 11 years old.
“We emigrated here from Mexico,” Aguilar-Gamez said. “I was born in Mexico, and we were a traditional conservative Catholic Mexican tight-knit family, so we weren’t allowed to do a lot of stuff, and we were kept out of trouble, so I spent almost every day after school and every weekend and every day in the summer in the shop.”
The experience scared his brothers away from the car hobby, but Aguilar-Gamez was hooked. When he was old enough to drive, he started modifying his cars, but it wasn’t until after he had finished college was earning enough of an income to be able to get back into the car hobby. And, as it likely happens with lots of NASA members nationwide, Aguilar-Gamez set a wheel on a racetrack, and came to a startling revelation.
“Where it all went downhill was when I took the one-day HPDE course and I realized in the 400 horsepower STi that I had, I had little capability to handle the power and what that car was able to do on a racetrack,” he said.
So he set about becoming a better driver, pushing himself to improve his skills. He built a Mitsubishi Evo TT3 Time Trial car, complete with a roll cage and all the necessary safety equipment and started pushing himself to get faster and faster.
“My objective is to be the best driver I can possibly be, which means pushing the limit and being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he said.
Then, last year, Aguilar-Gamez was at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., on a rainy day. He was pushing hard, so hard in fact, he was the second-quickest driver on track that day. He was posting lap times quicker than TT1 and TT2 cars and some 10 seconds faster than the next fastest driver. Then, it happened.
“I was pushing pretty hard, but it felt good to me, and unfortunately when I made the conscious decision to stay flat going through Turn 1, the back end came out and I wasn’t able to catch it and I rolled it six times. I think I went off the track at 136 mph.
He came to rest upside down, having suffered a concussion. He was OK, but the car was destroyed. That meant it was time for a new one, but this time he went for a BMW E30 prepared for NASA PTD/TTD. With not much power to mask mistakes, Aguilar-Gamez , got back in the driver seat and began his driver development process all over again.
“You have to really wring absolutely everything you can out of that car to be fast,” he said. “But if you can be fast in those cars, you can be fast in pretty much anything.”
A market research manager for Microsoft, Aguilar-Gamez also had been developing an app called Track Attack. (www.trackattackapp.com). His background with technology companies and his interest in motorsports was a great combination for developing an app that helps drivers develop more rapidly. In simplest terms, the Track Attack app lets you use a smart phone to gather driving data and video without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars. Track Attack records video, measures speed and acceleration, lap times and overlays a track map on the video display.
“I thought, ‘Man, we have a majority of what we need in a smart phone. GPS, video and sharing ability,” he said. “We have more computing power in one device in our pockets than most computers had five or 10 years ago.”
He has just released a beta version for the Windows phone version, but it’s also available for iOS and Android systems. It took him and his partner, a developer he met at Microsoft, about a year and a half to get out the first version because of how advanced the app is and because of how hard it pushes a phone. So far, they have about 15,000 users worldwide, and they are working with “Speed Secrets” author Ross Bentley on broader applications for the app.
Aguilar-Gamez seeks to develop a way to establish a coaching relationship via the app, which would let a coach view a student lapping a track via the Internet in nearly real time, then call the student to go over all the data, all without even being at the track. He also wants to develop a “leader board” that will allow users to share data, so drivers of like cars can benefit from the data of a faster driver. The goal is to accelerate driver development. That’s his chief goal going forward, with an eye set on establishing track records for his class wherever he races.
“I want to thank Andy and Laura and everybody who’s been able to bring the NASA region to the Northwest because that has been a huge accelerator, not just for me, but for a lot of people, of being able to provide more competitive forms of racing,” he said. “If you really want to get fast and start getting your feet wet in serious competition, you have to go from track days to full-on racing, and that’s a significant jump in terms of driver ability, availability of resources and costs associated with getting involved with that, so it has been awesome to have NASA as an option in the Northwest.”