The Golden Age

Depending on whom you ask, there are a couple of possibilities as to the golden age of sports car racing.

Some people will tell you the golden age was in the 1960s, when advances in chassis design, setup, tire compounds and aerodynamics ushered in new thresholds of speed and grip. I think Mark Donohue said as much in his book, “The Unfair Advantage.” That makes sense. He played a big role in that era and, as an educated engineer, he was responsible for many of those advances.

Another possibility for a golden age was IMSA in the 1980s, when GTP cars were scorching racetracks by day and dope smugglers were landing planes on Road Atlanta’s back straight by night. The money was flowing as readily as the champagne, and those GTP cars are still revered by fans and prized by collectors.

It’s possible I’ve said as much in this space before, but I’d venture to guess we are in the midst of another golden age. Now that the Great Recession is fading from memory, professional sports car racing is expanding, and putting an excellent product on track for spectators and television audiences. Automakers are participating fully, too, with some outstanding products geared for racing and track use.

The spillover benefit is that it’s affecting what we do in NASA. Amateur sports car racing is enjoying a golden age, and one of the reasons I hold that opinion is the technology and resources that are available to us amateur racers. What do I mean?

I would argue that Traqmate and AiM Sports revolutionized data acquisition in amateur racing by making it affordable and reasonably easy to understand. Those two companies are now further refining their products, and still doing so within the price range of amateur racers.

But it goes beyond that, too. Companies like AEM now offer full-color displays, data logging, track data all in one unit that communicates with the CAN/BUS systems on late model cars and other ECUs. Again, the key component is that it’s within financial reach of amateur racers, and the resources don’t stop there.

For example, in our August issue, we talked with the people behind APEX Pro, an innovative type of data system that provides instant feedback to drivers to show them where they can go faster. The feedback isn’t based on the driver’s fastest lap, but rather on what proprietary internal computing has determined the car is capable of. It’s brilliant and affordable.

Can’t hear your spotter? You can fix that now with digital radios, a topic we dived into in the July issue with Shawn Sampson of Sampson Racing Communications. How much, you ask? About what you used to pay for a good analog radio system. Oh, and you don’t have to rewire your car. Just plug and play.

Back in March, we investigated the new Racepak Vantage CL1, a cloud-based data system that takes vehicle dynamics information gathered with proprietary hardware and displays it on a cell phone or tablet via cloud-based technology.

Of course, if you want be fast, you need coaching, but one day of coaching can cost as much or more than a data system. Racers360 has the answer for that, too. Submit your video and Racers360 will have one of five pro driver/coaches review it and send you back a full critique. The price? $99. You can read more about Racers360 on Page 36.

When you add up the prices of all these systems, it gets expensive. However, some of them are redundant to one another and it’s up to you to choose the system you think is best for you. Find the right combination and you could usher in your own golden age of sports car racing.

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