Motorsports is expensive. It is similar to my friends hobby of sailing – which he once equated to the experience of standing in the shower and tearing up £50 notes!
As competitive beings, we like to get out there and test ourselves; both against the environment and against other people.
We also like to achieve, to succeed and to win.
Now that humans don’t need to wrestle Lions for dinner, we instead look for other ways of getting the adrenaline pumping and that feeling of “being alive”.
Motorsports provides this tonic and sometimes a bit more, as Ant Davidson (@antdavidson) discovered over the weekend at Le Mans:
Tweeting afterwards he said: “Feeling a bit sore today, but generally just happy to be alive!”
The downside of motorsports, in this respect, is that you need equipment to participate. Further more you need competitive equipment to participate, so much so that at the highest level in motorsports, the equipment makes more of a difference on your results than your personal performance.
An assumption that is often made, however, is that the equipment is the limiting factor at any level in motorsports.
Clearly this can’t be the case. Therefore if you want to know how to save money in motorsports then one way is to invest more on understanding your own performance until you’re competitive enough to genuinely take advantage of that extra 5hp your £5k engine re-build will give you.
But I would say that
One thing we are developing at Pace Insights are some measures to help drivers understand when its worth considering those expensive “refinements” to your equipment to gain performance.
I am proposing to that save you money in motorsports use some measures looking at understanding your performance as a driver and focusing on improving these measures before you spend a lot of money improving your vehicle a bit.
For example, one that you might like to try is what we are calling your “Pace-Insights-Average” score or “PIA” score.
This measure looks at the consistency of your driving by comparing the laptimes you achieve in consistent environmental conditions.
To use it you look at your PIA number, compare this to your PIA target and your success on track and if you’re not winning or on the front row, then its time to consider having a look at improving your kit.
In practise you might consider saying to yourself and/or your team, “Until I as a driver can achieve a PIA of less than 0.5secs, we are not going to change the car.”
A couple of notes on that:
- 0.5 seconds is an arbitory number for this example. Consider 2% of total laptime as a good starting point. It does depend on your category of racing as to what this number should be.
- Clearly if you feel the vehicle is dangerous thats a different story and you’ll need to change it, but something you can take a view on at the time I am sure …
OK. So to calculate your PIA, you simply take your last three lap times and average them. Then you calculate the standard deviation on these averages, either as you go along or at the end of a session. This your PIA score.
A couple of worked examples:
The target PIA was decided as 0.5 seconds. The driver did two runs. On run one the lap times were too inconsistent. The vehicle performance was masked by the inability of the driver to lap the track consistently. The driver didn’t achieve the PIA target and therefore no changes were made to the vehicle.
On run two the driver improved a lot. The lap times easily beat their PIA target.
They now need to compare where they are with the competition. If they’re not up at the front then it might be worth investing in a few changes.
One interesting thing about using your PIA number is that it copes with lap time inconsistency on a single lap; say if the driver had a lap ruined due to traffic or a mistake, the measure is able to cope with this (as per lap 3 in the above example).
The PIA score aims to unearth a drivers true consistency and ability to extract the most from the vehicle on a consistent basis. It proves a starting point for then deciding whether, or at what point, to invest in refinements to the vehicle.
In Formula 1 they have had a long running debate on how to save money in motorsports. It is a strange one as people will spend what they can get to give them a performance advantage. Particularly in such a high profile category. Measures such as a cost cap are therefore a nonsense as you then get into issues with accounting subtleties.
Gary Anderson has put forward what might be a nice solution for Formula 1 in his BBC commentary blog; namely to limit the number of chassis part changes per season, like the limit on number of engines etc. I quite like it.
I’d be interested to know what people think of the PIA score, once they have had a chance to try it out.
Its our belief that understanding your performance will help people improve and potentially save them a bit of money in the meantime.
Pace Insights is a start-up based in Warwick, UK. We are building a next-generation platform for easier high performance data analysis and management, specifically for the motor sports market.