Anyone who has come up through the NASA ladder probably knows how the progression works. You take your street car to a few HPDE events, the bug bites hard and you start going to all the NASA events you can find. You get a GoPro to help improve your driving.
Then you get a lap timer. Then a better one. Then you decide you want to go racing, so you get a racecar and you end up buying a lot of the same equipment all over again. Well, technology is a wonderful thing, and now that progression has been rendered essentially obsolete by Moore’s Law, and AEM’s CD-5 Carbon Digital Dash Display, which plugs into your OBD II port in your street car and gives you the data you need to help improve your driving. When it’s time to go racing, the same dash can be transferred to your racecar, where it has all the data-logging and vehicle dynamics capabilities you’ll ever need.
NASA SoCal driver Herb Lopez is at that stage of his driving career, so we connected him with the folks at AEM Electronics and installed a CD-5 in his 2018 ZL1 Camaro. For about $1,400, the CD-5LG logging display is capable of logging engine data and on-track performance. With its programmable alarms and full-color screen, the CD-5LG can help Herb improve as a driver and monitor all the critical car systems to keep the engine in one piece. There’s also a larger CD-7 for people who want a larger screen.
Setup for an OBD II car is pretty simple. In short, you attach the ball mount for the RAM windshield mount, then connect main harness, which includes the AEM Net four-pin CAN/BUS connection and a two-pin CAN 2 connector. Those connections allow you to connect the CD-5 to a power source, the OBD II port. There are two more connections for the data acquisition output, which is a USB port, and the GPS antenna connection. AEM’s marketing manager Lawson Mollica outlines the process in the video below.
You will need a windshield-mount from RAM Mounts, but everything else comes from AEM.
Once we got the CD-5 set up, we headed to the track to get some lap times from Herb and some lap times from a faster driver to overlay onto Herb’s laps. In this case, the faster driver ended up being NASA SoCal Regional Director Ryan Flaherty.
After the event, we met up at AEM headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., to gather the data, and overlay Ryan’s fast lap of 2:02 and change on Herb’s 2:07 fastest lap.
The top graphic shows Herb Lopez as he rounds the Sunrise turn, which leads onto the long front straight. His minimum speed is 48 mph. The graph on the bottom shows Ryan Flaherty’s speed in the same turn at 57 mph. Knowing what the car can do in the hands of a faster driver is instrumental to improving lap times.
“The two data traces that I find most valuable are speed, because it tells you the speed as you’re going through the corner, most importantly, the difference between the minimum speeds, and then throttle position, which is where he picks up the gas again,” said AEM sales development engineer Hunter Brabham. “The longer you’re on the throttle, the faster you’re going to go. We can add those items into the trace by dragging them from the channel list to the trace. So in your channel list, you can find vehicle speed, and I dragged that item to the top graph. And then next, I’ll grab the throttle position. And I’ll grab that and put it down below. And then you can also fill the rest of the graph with other items you might care about, whether you’re monitoring some diagnostics data.”
As with any racetrack, the most important turns are those that lead onto long straightaways. At Buttonwillow Raceway, those turns are Sunrise, just before the front straight, and Phil Hill, which is a blind chicane with a gentle rise, which leads onto the long, sweeping Riverside turn and the long back straight. Raising cornering speeds in these turns will lead to faster laps.
In Sunrise, Ryan’s cornering speed was 9 mph faster. In Phil Hill, the more difficult of the two, Ryan’s cornering speed was 21 mph faster. The data shows there is a lot of speed to be gained in these two corners alone.
With the car positioned in the Phil Hill turn on track, the data shows a 21 mph difference in cornering speeds. The throttle position trace also shows that Ryan uses a lot more throttle after cresting Phil Hill and through Riverside and the back straight.
The software also lets you create a track map, which auto calculates the segments by turn. So this calculates all the turns on the track left and right so we can see section by section where the speed was made. By highlighting a given segment, either on the track map or within the data traces, you can actually see the time delta between each driver, specifically, how much time you can gain.
“He can pick up big chunks right away by seeing this. We’ve seen it before where guys have gone out with driving instructors and been able to evaluate the data and literally pick up 13 seconds in a weekend or even just over the course of five or six sessions on the track,” said AEM marketing manager Lawson Mollica. “So I think his ability to visualize this data in the analysis software is one great way especially when he’s got the instruction and he’s seen what the car is capable of, and what he’s doing, and being able to apply it to where it’s out on the track, so he’ll be able to mentally do that.”
Here’s a video from AEM that explains how you can use data from its CD-5 or CD-7 digital displays to help you go faster.
The CD-5 also provides the ability of overlaying video synchronized with the data, and it can do it in a car with or without OBD II. Herb is pondering the idea of racing in a spec class, and when he does, he can take the CD-5 out of his Camaro and put it in whatever car he chooses, and retain all its capability and adaptability.
“To be able to drop his video in and sync that to the data, and then put some of these channels up so that now he has that extra element of visualization where he’s reliving through the camera what he’s experiencing on the track and actually seeing that data, where that throttle position is, what the acceleration is, the rpm.” Mollica said. “I’m excited to see what happens the next time he goes out.”