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      11-13-2011, 02:43 AM   #1
MFGJR
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My AiM Solo DL GPS lap timer and data logger finally arrived about 10 days ago. Though the base Solo started shipping back in the summer, the DL was just released—a bit later than AiM promised and after my last HPDE of the year. So, I haven’t had it on-track myself yet, though we did literally take it out of its wrapper and slap in on my friend’s AH Sprite at last weekend’s Gold Cup vintage races at VIR. Using it there in basic mode--the equivalent of the $399 base Solo--proved useful, for example evidencing a better line around Oak Tree with a 7 mph increase in exit speed that paid off all the way up the back straight. Here’s a comparison of two laps, plotted with distance around the track on the X axis and speed on the Y. Remember that this is 948cc from 1964 when looking at a 98 MPH top end.

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The DL version ($699 at BimmerWorld) adds in data logging from a variety of stock and race ECUs including—get this—the Z4 M. This was surprising, given the dearth of aftermarket support for our low volume cars with their unique ECUs. Note that, after consulting with BimmerWorld, I learned that the simple OBD II connection won’t work, and instead the RS232 CAN hard-wire-in cable is required on the M. Even so, if it delivers the promised goods, it’s a much more compact and easy to install product than TraqMate, has much superior data logging capabilities than TraqMate’s tach-only ECU interface, and it’s priced $350 less than the otherwise equivalent TraqMate with a dash display. Sounds almost too good to be true, huh?

With the Solo DL just landing, so few Z4 Ms around, and instructions poorly translated from Italian, I wasn’t looking forward to breaking trail in actually hooking the thing up to the ECU. But, I gave it a shot this morning: hooked it up according to the not-exactly clear instructions, put the car back together (wondering, “why am I doing that?—this thing can’t work on the first try”), connected the Solo and cranked it up. Lo and behold, I’m seeing RPM and throttle position and brake pressure and steering angle and fluid temps, and more!

Now, I’m pretty new to this track stuff and I’m far from the fastest guy out there; at going on 50 I don’t really need to be either. I do like the idea of learning to drive well and consistently, and getting the fundamentals right. I think the Solo will help me do that, plus it’s just downright cool. I don’t do time trials and I run with BMW CCA, and so right now I don’t need/can’t use the Solo’s live or predictive timing features—have to pore over the speed-distance plots and ancillary channel data on the back end. Everything you hear about AiM’s RaceStudio configuration and analysis software is true—it’s not very intuitive and the documentation SUCKS (that Italian thing again). But once you claw your way up the learning curve it’s powerful and robust. I’ve been playing with the software and test data since I ordered the Solo back in July (the s/w is free and can be downloaded from AiM’s website), and now with a weekend’s real data from the Sprite I think I have it about 85% figured out.

AiM’s SmartyCam and DaVid solutions are crazy-expensive compared to my HD GoPro, and so I found $49 software from DashWare that lets you overlay gauge and other data on video. You simply relate the video file and a csv data file (easily exported from RaceStudio) via a DashWare dialogue box, synchronize the two, and then build the gauges. All pretty simple and easy, so long as you put a marker in both the data and the video to aid synchronizing—a couple hard jogs of the steering wheel on the out lap works fine for that. Here’s some video from the Sprite as an example.



Anyway, here’s the install in case anyone needs a hand sorting it out:

1. Disconnect the negative terminal on the battery. Better safe than sorry!

2. Pull the ECU from its nest under the black cover next to the master cylinder—no need to disconnect it from its wiring harnesses, though. It’ll be easier to maneuver everything if you slide out the rubber boots/grommets routing the wire bundles into the ECU housing. Info on how to access the ECU is here, about 2/3 of the way down:

http://www.billswebspace.com/bmwmc

3. I fished the AiM cable from the cabin through the firewall via the clutch line’s grommet, then up behind the brake booster, and then through the big cable bundle’s rubber boot at the rear of the ECU housing. Carefully slip a small screwdriver through the boot to make some room, and then push the cable through.

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4. The wires in the AiM cable come labeled. The white lead marked “CAN+” and the blue marked “CAN–“get spliced into the ECU wiring, and the red and black leads are power and ground, respectively. The blue and white leads marked “RS232” (knotted in the pic below) don’t get used in our application.

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5. Now the fun part: finding the correct two wires from among the bazillion connected to the ECU. You’re looking for two wires—one yellow/red, the other yellow/brown—that are twisted together.

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6. Using 18-22 gauge quick splice connectors (Radio Shack), connect the CAN+ lead to the yellow/red wire. Connect the CAN- lead to the yellow/brown. CONFIRM THESE ARE THE CORRECT MATINGS YOURSELF!!!! The two wires from the ECU are twisted tightly together, and there’s not much working room in there, so proceed carefully.

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7. Wanting to minimize splicing into the ECU, I brought new 20 gauge wires for power and ground into the ECU housing via the same route as the AiM cable. The new leads were quick-spliced to the appropriate leads on the AiM cable. This gives the Solo external power, so you’re not reliant on its internal battery during a long track weekend. I took the power from the positive jumper terminal in the middle of the firewall, and there’s a chassis ground on the firewall right next to the brake booster. I used crimp-on terminal connectors that fit onto the studs at these two locations. It can’t hurt to put a low amperage in-line fuse in the power lead, too.

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8. Tape and tie everything up neatly. I labeled the AiM cable in case someone else goes in there somewhere down the road, and can’t figure out what this odd cable is.

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9. Inside the cabin, I ran the AiM cable inside the dash under the steering column and then into the center console. Remove the panel beneath the HVAC controls to do the latter. I then routed the AiM cable up through the ashtray enclosure, leaving enough slack to connect it to the Solo; when not in use, tuck it into the ashtray area. I use a nifty Mountek CD slot mount to hold the Solo. It’s visible and accessible there, and gets great satellite reception.

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10. Reassemble the ECU covers and interior bits. and reconnect the battery. Connect the AiM cable to the Solo, say a prayer, and crank the car up and turn the Solo on.

11. The Solo lets you configure custom screens (remember, BMW CCA doesn’t allow live timing at HPDEs), so I configured a screen with temps, and another screen showing speed, RPM, throttle position and brake pressure that might be useful to an instructor. The (bad—sorry) pics below were taken sitting still, hence 0 speed; the first shows 17% throttle (“PPS”) while the second shows 55% brake pressure (“PBRK”). The Solo is logging all this info at 10 Hertz, along with steering angle, calculated gear (it learns the relationship between rpm and speed in each gear), speed per the ECU (identical to the GPS speed, by the way), all four wheel speeds, clutch and brake switch activation, intake air temp, and some other channels that I haven’t yet deciphered.

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I don’t think I’ve ever posted a pic of the car, so what the heck, here’s one.

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Enjoy. I’ll report in after the Solo’s first real use, but that’ll probably be in February. Post here if anyone else is getting one of these.

Last edited by MFGJR; 12-09-2011 at 09:21 PM. Reason: typo
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      11-13-2011, 10:26 AM   #2
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great post thanks for the DIY. I am torn between which data logger to go with. I like the fact that this unit is nice and small and the GPS beacon is with-in the unit itself.

Look forward to seeing further reviews from you as you get more seat time with it next season.
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      11-13-2011, 01:16 PM   #3
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great post thanks for the DIY. I am torn between which data logger to go with. I like the fact that this unit is nice and small and the GPS beacon is with-in the unit itself.

Look forward to seeing further reviews from you as you get more seat time with it next season.
Thanks. At $399 for the basic Solo, providing 95% of the benefit by merely sticking it to the windshield, it would really be hard to go wrong. Durability might be a question with this new product (in particulary with the internal battery--though you can remedy that by powering it via the car's 12v), but I haven't read any complaints of that sort about AiM's other established products.

Another fun tidbit--I just figured out that AiM's Race Studio exports kml files, meaning you can look at sessions in Google Earth. Seems like that'll be handy when trying to relate good lines to reference points like curbing. Here's a screen shot using data from another race with the Sprite:
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      11-13-2011, 10:41 PM   #4
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very cool. You are slowly selling me on the DL.

... how did you and bimmerworld figure out that the OBDII port was not an option on the Z4's?
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      11-14-2011, 07:11 AM   #5
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very cool. You are slowly selling me on the DL.

... how did you and bimmerworld figure out that the OBDII port was not an option on the Z4's?
My understanding re: OBD II is that the manufacturers are required to make cetain data, in a prescribed format, available through that port. (Remember, its primarily an emissions diagnostic tool.) Some manufacturers push additional information through it, beyond the Federally-mandated data, but its a free-for-all as to what additional data and how it's formatted, and it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer as they use it for proprietary purposes..

From my research when i was planning to get a TraqMate, the Porsche guys can source RPM data from their OBD II ports, but E46 M3 owbers can't get a reliable signal there--it works at idle but is inaccurate once revs increase. So, the conventional wisdom for M3s and TraqMates is that you must use TM's ECU Bridge, feeding it via the ECU's analog coil output signal. So, when James Clay and jamie Millhiser at BimmerWorld said OBD II was unreliable for BMWs and to use the CAN option, it made sense.

All the data that Solo logs is continuously passed by the ECU over the CAN bus, as coded packets of information. AiM decoded BMW's signal into a bunch of useable information. I don't think anyone esle has done that yet for data logging purposes.

I'd suggest calling Jamie at BimmerWorld to discuss the options, though, as I'm pretty much out of my league already.
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      11-14-2011, 10:20 PM   #6
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My understanding re: OBD II is that the manufacturers are required to make cetain data, in a prescribed format, available through that port. (Remember, its primarily an emissions diagnostic tool.) Some manufacturers push additional information through it, beyond the Federally-mandated data, but its a free-for-all as to what additional data and how it's formatted, and it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer as they use it for proprietary purposes..

From my research when i was planning to get a TraqMate, the Porsche guys can source RPM data from their OBD II ports, but E46 M3 owbers can't get a reliable signal there--it works at idle but is inaccurate once revs increase. So, the conventional wisdom for M3s and TraqMates is that you must use TM's ECU Bridge, feeding it via the ECU's analog coil output signal. So, when James Clay and jamie Millhiser at BimmerWorld said OBD II was unreliable for BMWs and to use the CAN option, it made sense.

All the data that Solo logs is continuously passed by the ECU over the CAN bus, as coded packets of information. AiM decoded BMW's signal into a bunch of useable information. I don't think anyone esle has done that yet for data logging purposes.

I'd suggest calling Jamie at BimmerWorld to discuss the options, though, as I'm pretty much out of my league already.

Sounds like you did your homework, tapping into the ECU doesn't seem too bad and from my brief look into the AIM solo DL you can get more data via the CAN bus then you do via OBDII port. This fits with what you touch on in your last post.

Keep this thread active, even if its just a conversation b/n the two of us!! HAHA


Is this your first experience with data acquisition or have you had experience with other products on the market?
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      11-14-2011, 11:08 PM   #7
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Sounds like you did your homework, tapping into the ECU doesn't seem too bad and from my brief look into the AIM solo DL you can get more data via the CAN bus then you do via OBDII port. This fits with what you touch on in your last post.

Keep this thread active, even if its just a conversation b/n the two of us!! HAHA


Is this your first experience with data acquisition or have you had experience with other products on the market?
Data acquisition is new to me. Heck, the whole track thing is new to me--have done four weekends over the last two years, all at VIR. I need to find time to do more!

One of the guys that I run with has a TM in his E46 M3, which is what started all the wheels turning for me. I wonder if there's a way to compare TM and AiM files... will have to look into that as this other guy is solid and fast, and I think there'd be a lot to learn from the comparison.

Have you tried any of this stuff before, or know someone who has? Where do you run, and with whom? Might be an opportunity for you to get copies of other drivers' files from your track(s), too. Keep me filled in as you move forward, as well.

I'm looking for some good books on how to practically approach using data acquisition; I need something that's driver focused, as opposed to car set-up. (That'll come later, when the kids are out of college and I can pop for those double-adjustable Motons without feeling guilty!) I have some ideas, but I'd like to learn from those with experience. If anyone has suggestions or resources, please chime in. And, if anyone out there has AiM files, from VIR with a car that's reasonbly comparable to the Z4M, and would like to share them, please let me know.
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      11-14-2011, 11:08 PM   #8
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Great write up, looks like I have another winter project for my Zed. You could come back out to VIR the end of this month, will be the first time that I'll have the Z4MC out on the track. Believe we met out at VIR this year, had the E63 running the course.
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      11-14-2011, 11:21 PM   #9
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Great write up, looks like I have another winter project for my Zed. You could come back out to VIR the end of this month, will be the first time that I'll have the Z4MC out on the track. Believe we met out at VIR this year, had the E63 running the course.
Hey Randy,

It's pretty hard to forget the sight of Satan's M6 in the rearview mirror! Thankfully, your new car won't scare me so much.

I'd love to get down there this month, but there's just too much going on with work and the kids, plus if I do any more car stuff the wife's going to take the Z and the data logger in the divorce stettlement! So long as the next Tarheel school doesn't fall on the same weekend as my daughter's conference championships, I'll be there in February.

If you get a Solo, holler if you need guidance on the install or the software. And, we can definitely swap files.

Frank
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      11-14-2011, 11:51 PM   #10
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http://www.lapfaster.com/Education/L...Freeebook.aspx

http://www.m3forum.net/m3forum/showthread.php?t=383422

here are two links i have bookmarked.


I personally have no experience but I have a few track buddies that run TM products. It would be cool if all the data/files the various loggers on the market collect are in a standardize/universal form but think thats a pipe dream. Sadly this may be a major player in the product I ultimately purchase as I want to be able to compare files with others.

AS far as HPDE's go... tend to run with PCA and BMW organizations that run at various track around my home town in NY. I plan to run VIR early next year to get out of hibernation mode. Very upset the season is over as it was a fun one!
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      11-15-2011, 08:26 AM   #11
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Hey Randy,

It's pretty hard to forget the sight of Satan's M6 in the rearview mirror! Thankfully, your new car won't scare me so much.

I'd love to get down there this month, but there's just too much going on with work and the kids, plus if I do any more car stuff the wife's going to take the Z and the data logger in the divorce stettlement! So long as the next Tarheel school doesn't fall on the same weekend as my daughter's conference championships, I'll be there in February.

If you get a Solo, holler if you need guidance on the install or the software. And, we can definitely swap files.

Frank
Hey Frank,

Certainly understand, hard to fit in as much track time as we would all like, it's just so addictive. Will definately hit you up on the Solo, getting tired of just video with no data and the setup you came up with looks like a great solution.

Randy
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      11-15-2011, 05:12 PM   #12
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Hey Frank,

Certainly understand, hard to fit in as much track time as we would all like, it's just so addictive. Will definately hit you up on the Solo, getting tired of just video with no data and the setup you came up with looks like a great solution.

Randy
Give Jamie a call at (877) 639-9648 and see if he can get one to you in time for the upcoming event. You could literally hook it up and get it configured in less than an hour.

Also, AiM supports the M5/M6 ECU as well--it would just mean buying a second cable (or having one built--it's a Binder 711 7-pin connector and the pin-out is in the Solo manual) and you could use it in the other car, too. You'd need to do a quick re-configure of the ECU protocol n the Solo when swapping between cars, but that's just a couple mouse clicks with the Solo connected to your laptop.

It occurred to me that we can simply stick these in instructor cars when doing ride-alongs (obviously, functioning in basic mode since they won't like us splicing into their ECU wiring!), and we'lll get lots of great instructional data to compare with ours. I like my CD slot mount, but I'll get a suction cup mount too, for when the instructor is driving a race car without a stereo in it.

If you get a Solo and need to shortcut the install on the E86, or the configuration, give me a call. I also have a good track map built for VIR Full with the corners accurately identified, which will save you some time. (This last will make sense once you start using RaceStudio...)

I'll PM you my cell number.

Frank
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      11-15-2011, 07:45 PM   #13
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Randy, I'll see you in 12 days time...
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      11-15-2011, 07:56 PM   #14
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Randy, I'll see you in 12 days time...
Looking forward to it Jay, can't wait to get the Zed out there.
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      11-15-2011, 08:39 PM   #15
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I'm part way through the LapFaster materials, and it's just what I'm looking for. The practical application of the "Inverse Corner Radius" is enlightening, and I see lots of inappropriate line corrections (read: costing speed) in the Sprite data. It seems that AiM's "GPS-Gyro" test channel seems to be the same thing, so no need to build a complicated math channel here.

Thanks for the resources.

This @#$% is fun!
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      11-15-2011, 10:05 PM   #16
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I'm part way through the LapFaster materials, and it's just what I'm looking for. The practical application of the "Inverse Corner Radius" is enlightening, and I see lots of inappropriate line corrections (read: costing speed) in the Sprite data. It seems that AiM's "GPS-Gyro" test channel seems to be the same thing, so no need to build a complicated math channel here.

Thanks for the resources.

This @#$% is fun!
One thing you'll want to do should you get really serious with the Data analysis is to have an experienced race engineer spend a few hours with you either on the phone or in person and have them teach you how to look for some of the subtle nuances that you'll never see unless taught how to look at it.

Also, just in case you aren't aware, you opened up a financial rabbit hole: eventually you'll want suspension and braking and XY accelerometer data...

Finally, you might consider downloading MoTeC's i2 software and finding a few data files floating around the internet to compare to and see how that data looks.
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      11-16-2011, 08:43 PM   #17
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Update on supply--I talked to BimmerWorld and they're currently sold out of DLs, but do have some base Solos available. They expect another shipment of DL around the end of the week. If you need one real quick, other vendors may have some.

If you're getting a Solo and want to get a jump start on software, go to http://www.aim-sportline.com/pages/d...n_software.php and download BOTH RaceStudio2 and GPS Manager. The former contains the analysis s/w, data download manager, and configurator for various AiM devices. The latter is required to add tracks to the Solo. You might want to download the documentation/manuals for each application, too. The software loads some sample test data, but it’s not that great. It’ll help some with the learning curve, though.

Besides hooking the Solo up to the ECU per the DIY (obviously, skip that if you have a base Solo instead of a DL), you'll need to do the following:

1. Put the above software on your laptop--not a desktop--so that you can download and analyze your sessions at the track. It wants Windows, though I believe it'll run on a Mac emulating (that the right term?) Windows. See the AiM website for further info on that. Note that the s/w also comes on disk with the Solo.

2. Go through the initial start-up on the Solo—selecting language, units, etc.

3. Load your track(s) onto the Solo using GPS Manager. Not critical, but this will let you skip manually marking start/finish at the track assuming you track is in AiM’s database. Just for kicks, load Spa Francorchamp and the Nurburgring while you’re in there. A guy’s gotta dream…

4. If using a DL, you'll need to download the appropriate ECU protocol to the Solo using RaceStudio. This tells the Solo just what all those signals coming over the CAN connection are.

5. Note that, in item 3 above, you're essentially just giving the Solo the start/finish coordinates (and maybe sector divisions for some track--not positive about that). The track map that's used in RaceStudio isn't provided by AiM--you build it yourself starting with the GPS data from one of your laps once a track session is downloaded from the Solo to RaceStudio. You start with that GPS-determined map, and then tweak the shape, identify corners, etc. If you have friends using RaceStudio who've already done all this for your track, you can simply copy their files instead and save some work. If anyone wants my VIR Full Course file, PM me with your email address. If you don’t get a map file ahead of time, you’ll need to build one only when you start analyzing, but you don’t need to worry about it before you run on the track—it just assists with the back-end analysis, so you can relate a spot on the longitudinal plots to a particular point on the track.

6. Configure any custom display screens you want—or disable “illegal” real-time lap timing displays (for you BMW CCA HPDE’ers). This is done on the Solo, and NOT via RaceStudio.

7. Drive some laps around your neighborhood (the local school bus loop makes a good track proxy) to capture some data, and go through the data download process so that you’re familiar with how that works before you get to the track. Being familiar with this before getting to the track will be beneficial—you don’t want to be hurried and lose data. You can also practice building a track map in RaceStudio should you need to (see step 5 above).

8. For DL users, once you have RPM data coming in, find an open stretch of road where you can engage each gear for 5-6 seconds, and go through the gear calibration process. You launch that from the menu on the Solo. Essentially, the Solo learns and remembers the relationship between RPM and speed in each gear. Speed isn’t important; just avoid wheel spin and ABS engagement while doing this.

9. RaceStudio lets you customize the file name syntax, including driver, car, track, etc., and further lets you decide whether you want one data file to contain all laps for a given track session, or one file to contain all laps from all sessions on the same date. (i.e., if you run 4 sessions of 10 laps each on a two-day weekend, do you want 8 files with 10 laps each, or two files with 40 laps each.) I went with one file per session, as that's how my video files are organized. If you’re going to share a Solo, decide on all this ahead of time so that you know what’s what when you download data. Note that RaceStudio lets you load multiple files and select any lap(s) from each, so you’re not limited in your analysis by the decisions you make here.

Spend LOTS of time playing and experimenting with RaceStudio. There’s a steep learning curve and it’s sometimes not very intuitive. For example, sometimes you tweak a display setting through the “Modify” menu, other times through the “Options” menu. These menus are contextual to the view you’re currently in, so they change. In particular, you’ll want to play with changing the scale of displayed channels in the “Measures Graph” using MODIFY>TEST CHANNELS, else sometimes you won’t see the channel on the graph. (The Measures Graph is the Speed/lateral accel/longitudinal accel/whatever channel, plotted against distance or time—the basic analytical tool.) You’ll want to understand, conceptually, at least the Test Database, Lap manager, Measures Graph, and Track Report views. Tip: when analyzing using the Measures Graph in Distance Mode (you want this instead of Time mode), de-select your out and in-laps as they’re different distances than complete laps, and will confuse/stagger the X-axis scale. Most of this won’t make sense to the data logger noob (me, a week ago) until you start getting your hands dirty.

See the LapFaster reousce posted above for basics on reading and ienterprting the data. Well worth the time investment.

Hope this helps, as the AiM manuals are confusing.

Last edited by MFGJR; 11-17-2011 at 07:04 AM.
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      11-17-2011, 07:29 PM   #18
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... well take a guess I what I just purchased
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      11-17-2011, 07:51 PM   #19
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The DL should show up tomorrow, installation this weekend.
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      11-17-2011, 08:01 PM   #20
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awesome, hopefully the first time I get to use it on track will be at VIR in a few months!

We can all share data, lmk how the install goes for you. Big shout out goes to Frank for his informative posts on both the DIY for installation and setup.

Have fun at the track!
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      11-17-2011, 10:19 PM   #21
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Will get a chance to use it Thanksgiving weekend and again an open lapping day mid December so should be able to collect a good amount of data.
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      11-18-2011, 08:03 AM   #22
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Randy, PM me the details on the open lapping day....
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