The antenna has a magnet on the bottom so it can be mounted or moved from one car to another. Yes, this is the roof of a fiberglass Corvette so the magnet won’t work. A simple piece of racers tape will hold it in place, and it won’t affect signal strength.

Data. If you use it in racing, you understand why it’s a four-letter word. Data simply doesn’t lie. If you’re on an endurance racing team and you swear to the crew chief you’ve never shifted over 7,000 rpm, you better be telling the truth, because he is looking at a leaking head gasket and the information from a data acquisition system that says otherwise. 8,200 rpm isn’t 7,000 rpm and that will probably be your last adventure with that particular team.

But if you’re a reasonable person, who doesn’t pop the head gasket on every Honda powered car you’ve ever driven, then data is your friend. There is an enormous amount to be learned from data, especially when multiple people are driving the same car, like at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Well, let’s be clear, there was an enormous amount of data to learn from before the head gasket went.

For learning a new track, learning a new car, or vehicle setup, data is worth its weight in gold. With continuous lap time displays and predictive lap timing, you can push yourself on track, try things in different corners, and instantly know what works and what doesn’t. Then, after a session is over, you can download the data, learn from mistakes and overlay it for really cool in-car videos.

Once your session is done and you pull the SD card out of the Racepak IQ3 data logger dash, you can look at all of your on-track mistakes. Plus you can overlay your race data on top of GoPro video footage and make YouTube videos that don’t have any cats in them.
Once your session is done and you pull the SD card out of the Racepak IQ3 data logger dash, you can look at all of your on-track mistakes. Plus you can overlay your race data on top of GoPro video footage and make YouTube videos that don’t have any cats in them.

The drawback is that good data acquisition systems aren’t cheap. And if you have multiple vehicles you like to thrash around a track, then multiply the system cost by the number of cars you own. The costs are adding up. I’ve seen 24 Hours of LeMons teams that have data acquisition systems installed that cost three times what their racecar is worth. We wanted to use a system that could be moved from one car to the next with ease, which also would save us money.

We found a way to take a Racepak IQ3 data logger and transition it from a permanently mounted hardwired data system to a completely portable system that can be installed in one vehicle to the next in less than three minutes. This wasn’t an easy task because the Racepak IQ3 isn’t just a GPS based data acquisition system. It is also the vehicle’s dashboard, giving the driver all of the pertinent information needed not to blow the head gasket.

To permanently mount a Racepak to a non-OBDII car, you would need all of the bags in this photograph. Each of these bags has a different sensor in it: water temperature, oil pressure, oil temperature, fuel pressure, the works. We are skipping the whole mess and going with the OBDII connection instead.
To permanently mount a Racepak to a non-OBDII car, you would need all of the bags in this photograph. Each of these bags has a different sensor in it: water temperature, oil pressure, oil temperature, fuel pressure, the works. We are skipping the whole mess and going with the OBDII connection instead.
This is the rear of the Racepak IQ3 data logger dash. You can see the long stud in the center, which mounts the dash to the backing plate we fabricated. You can also see the mounting system for the RAM Mount suction cups bolted to the backing plate. All of the wires on the back of the Racepak are tidied up using GripLockTies, which is a zip tie with a rubber insert so it won’t harm the wires or slide down the wires.
This is the rear of the Racepak IQ3 data logger dash. You can see the long stud in the center, which mounts the dash to the backing plate we fabricated. You can also see the mounting system for the RAM Mount suction cups bolted to the backing plate. All of the wires on the back of the Racepak are tidied up using GripLockTies, which is a zip tie with a rubber insert so it won’t harm the wires or slide down the wires.

The first step was to find some suction-cup mounts that would go on a windshield to hold the Racepak dash in place. We found what we wanted from RAM Mount, which allowed us to custom-order any type of modular system it makes, setting us back a mere $80 shipped. Once we had the mounting system, we needed to fabricate a simple plate to connect the Racepak dash to the RAM Mount system. That was easy and cost effective with some tin snips, a drill and some aluminum.

This simple backing plate was made from aluminum using the rear of the Racepak as a template. Its only job is to give the Racepak a place to be mounted on one side and a place for the suction cup RAM Mounts to be mounted on the other side.
This simple backing plate was made from aluminum using the rear of the Racepak as a template. Its only job is to give the Racepak a place to be mounted on one side and a place for the suction cup RAM Mounts to be mounted on the other side.
You can order RAM Mounts in different lengths of shafts and different suction-cup sizes to design any system you want for your application. For precaution in race conditions, we ordered two suction-cup systems to hold in the Racepak, which set us back about $80 shipped.
You can order RAM Mounts in different lengths of shafts and different suction-cup sizes to design any system you want for your application. For precaution in race conditions, we ordered two suction-cup systems to hold in the Racepak, which set us back about $80 shipped.

Once we had the Racepak in place, we needed to connect it to the vehicle. Instead of hardwiring power, since we wanted to keep things portable, we wired in a simple cigarette lighter connector for a power source from the vehicle’s dashboard.

Racepak requires 12-volt power to work. Because we wanted to keep things portable, instead of hard wiring it to the vehicle, we wired in a cigarette lighter connection to gain quick access to power in any vehicle that still has a cigarette lighter.
Racepak requires 12-volt power to work. Because we wanted to keep things portable, instead of hard wiring it to the vehicle, we wired in a cigarette lighter connection to gain quick access to power in any vehicle that still has a cigarette lighter.

The complication for a portable installation lay with the vehicle sensors: rpm, oil pressure, water pressure, etc. Racepak has numerous different sensors it wants connected to the vehicle and each of those sensors has its own wire and it needs to be adapted to a specific engine. Here is where the Society of Automotive Engineers saved the day: OBDII.

This OBDII module will replace all of the expensive and time-consuming sensors in one shot. Instead of wiring a car for water temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure, tachometer, fuel pressure, etc., which requires lots of sensors, fittings and bungs for different engines, all of that can be replaced for modern cars by simply reading the data from the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system.
This OBDII module will replace all of the expensive and time-consuming sensors in one shot. Instead of wiring a car for water temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure, tachometer, fuel pressure, etc., which requires lots of sensors, fittings and bungs for different engines, all of that can be replaced for modern cars by simply reading the data from the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system.

On-board diagnostic system II was mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for any vehicle manufactured and sold in North America from 1996 on. All vehicles are required to have the same OBDII connection plug. Racepak sells an OBDII module that connects from the vehicle’s OBDII plug to their IQ3 data logger, sending all of the vehicle data directly to the data acquisition system with one plug and one wire loom. None of the expensive or time-consuming sensors are required on a modern car. The more modern the car, especially anything after 2008, the more information is being read by on-board diagnostics, hence the more information the Racepak can capture and give to you.

To connect the Racepak to the on-board diagnostic system look for the OBDII connection, which normally is located under the dash on the driver’s side. I recommend using a little electrical tape with this connection to keep it in place and also to keep the wire away from the driver’s legs while he or she is on track.
To connect the Racepak to the on-board diagnostic system look for the OBDII connection, which normally is located under the dash on the driver’s side. I recommend using a little electrical tape with this connection to keep it in place and also to keep the wire away from the driver’s legs while he or she is on track.

OBDII plugs also are required to be in the same approximate location on a vehicle: under the driver’s side of the dashboard. Plugging in the OBDII connector gave us all the information we could ever want from the vehicle and it was as simple as plug and play.

The next step was to mount the GPS antenna for the Racepak so the data logger can measure position and speed. The antenna has a magnet on the bottom, so portability was easy. Simply slap the antenna on a metal roof and you’re done. If you have a carbon fiber or fiberglass roof, a simple piece of racing tape will secure the antenna and it won’t affect GPS satellite signals.

After mounting the Racepak dash to the windshield with suction cups, plugging power into the cigarette lighter, plugging in the OBDII module, and sticking the GPS antenna on the roof, the only thing left to do was organize the wires a bit to keep them out of harm’s way and we were off for a hot lap session.

We place the display close to the driver so he or she can touch the buttons on the backing plate just below the Racepak, and so the driver can see the information on the screen, shift lights, warning lights, and lap times.
We place the display close to the driver so he or she can touch the buttons on the backing plate just below the Racepak, and so the driver can see the information on the screen, shift lights, warning lights, and lap times.

And after a bit of track time, when we blew the head gasket on a Honda powered car and parked it for the day, then we spent three minutes moving that data acquisition system to a Nissan 370Z to collect data and lap times from that car. Moving the system was incredibly easy.

This is the whole portable data acquisition system assembled: two RAM Mounts, homemade backing plate, and the Racepak dash. Slap this on a windshield, plug in the OBDII connection under the dash, plug in the cigarette lighter for power, and toss the magnet antenna on the roof. Installation takes about three minutes.
This is the whole portable data acquisition system assembled: two RAM Mounts, homemade backing plate, and the Racepak dash. Slap this on a windshield, plug in the OBDII connection under the dash, plug in the cigarette lighter for power, and toss the magnet antenna on the roof. Installation takes about three minutes.

We did learn that just because you have data being provided to you, you still actually have to pay attention to it for it to do any good. That includes shifting at 7,000 rpm, not 8,200.

Once you throw in your portable data acquisition system, the only thing left to do is go out on the track and drive fast. A simple press of a button tells the Racepak system where the start/finish line is as you go by it on your out lap.
Once you throw in your portable data acquisition system, the only thing left to do is go out on the track and drive fast. A simple press of a button tells the Racepak system where the start/finish line is as you go by it on your out lap.
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Image courtesy of Rob Krider