Timing system for racing
Having some kind of timing system when racing just makes it so much more fun and interesting. And it is essential to have if your are racing yourself or practicing on your own.
Timing systems can be a very costly affair, but I fund three options ranging from cheap too manageable, that I have tested. Read here how I find them.
LapTracker is an app on your phone. It uses the camera to detect when you pass it. It’s a very cheap option, (a little over 2€ as I write this) and shows to be really usable and reliable.
It’s easy to set up and have a couple of different setup options like when the clock starts and how sensitive the camera detection should be. It detects movement and if you set it with too high sensitivity you will see that it can detect a little unreliable, like when a soft shadow passes it or with the change of light, like when a cloud covers the sun.
For that reason I mainly used it inside. It have been my way of timing myself for two years on my weekly winter sessions on the local gokart track. For that it have been a good companion.
It seems to have a range of 4-5 meters. If you pass it further than that, it starts to be unreliable, some times missing a pass. But as long as you do not go beyond that limit, It detects the laps reliably at the same point every time, no matter if you are close to the phone or passes it further from it.
It’s a solution that works good for doing laps on a track. It’s not suitable for doing A to B kind of races.
Also it only works if you are alone on the track, as it can’t distinguish who is passing it. So this is not a multi rider solution.
It’s an app for your phone as well. I was introduced to it by Mr. Pliny when attending the Pardubice race. It is made as a timing and analyzing system for race cars. I think it’s pretty popular in those circles.
The app works together with a gps. You need to have an external GPS if your want it to work the best. The phone gps is only updating once a second, and to get the most out of the app you need a GPS updating 7-10 times a second.
I bought one of the two that RaceChrono recommend for iPhone (Qstarz BL-818GT). It updates 10 times a second and works flawlessly with the phone and the app.
I payed 20€ for the RaceChrono app and another 140€ for the GPS.
If you are on android you have the option of using the cheaper Garmin GLO2 GPS. But that’s only 7hz - suck on that android users
You can also use a GoPro with its internal GPS to feed the RaceChrono app with GPS coordinates. You can either connect the goPro to the app for live capturing the video and gps coordinates, or you can feed the video to the app later. Doing that you need to sync the video to the recording the app did. GoPros are apparently 15hz.
The RaceChrono solution have a lot of different features for us to play with. It took me quite some time to figure out how to set it up and use the basic features. I still have a way to go before I have the complete overview of what this solution can do.
It works for both lap racing and A to B racing. You “build” the track or race course in the App’s map after you have ridden the course a couple af times, and can see the tracking in the map. Now you can add start and finish line and split lines. The cool thing is that you can move the trap lines around as you please and the app will recalculate new times. So you can go back in time and draw new information out of past sessions, if that become relevant.
I see the RaceChrono solution as a really neat tool to analyze my racing and a tool to improve specific sections on a track. For instance yesterday I worked on improving a particular hairpin on a cone track I build on the airfield. I could set the Time traps right before and after the hairpin and compare how much time it took to go through the hairpin with different lines and different speed in and out of the hairpin. It really fulfilled my analyzing gene. Pretty awesome.
The RaceChrono system is an one person system. You carry the gps and your phone around, and it doesn’t do multi driver races. Of course every single rider could carry their own “set” and then compare times afterwards. But a real multi rider system it is not.
The gps needs a clear view to the sky, so it only works outside. It’t no good on my local indoor winter track. Kind of a bummer.
To my surprise it seems really reliable and I trust that the gps is accurate enough to give me reliable times, even on small tight short tracks.
Edit 20.11.21: the metr pro Bluetooth module with gps (10hz), works with the RaceChrono app. Metr pro comes with a sd card so you don’t have to have the phone on you on the track but can feed the RaceChrono app afterwards.
This might be the multi rider track solution we have been looking for for some time now. LapMonitor is from a French company making a timing system for RC cars. It seems that it is also usable for us.
It consist of a lap counter that you put beside the track where you want the start/finish line. The lap counter connects to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, and an app on the phone does all the UI where you can set up riders, make races and see the timing.
Every rider gets his/her own transponder to mount on the board. The transponder can be powered either from a small lipo battery or from the remote receiver on the board if you have one.
A set with lap counter and a transponder cost 119€ and additional transponders are 35€ each.
And then you have your self a pretty neat little multi rider timing system, that seem to be able to compete with the much more expensive solutions out there.
It’s small and can be taken anywhere, and it is easy to setup. This should spice up any track race event that lack a timing system.
It’s very simple. Each time a transponder passes the lap counter, it makes a timestamp connected to that particular transponder.
The app have some basic setup possibilities like a practicing, qualification and race mode. Though I can’t seem to see what the difference is between the qualification and race mode.
One thing I was initially a little concerned about, was the fact that the detection area goes from the lap counter in a cone shape. So it detects the transponder sooner the further away you are from the counter. That could potentially result in a faster time when passing the counter further away. But in reality it is no problem.
When you go at the track limit, you will pretty much take the same line every time. If you don’t, you will be slower, and then the potential advantage from passing the counter further away disappears.
Maybe it could be an issue on a long track where we don’t ride on the edge of the tracks limit.
EDIT: I have fund two small issues with the LapMonitor. Read post 26 to see more.
EDIT (28.09): I tested how the LapMonitor handles two riders passing at the same time. Read more about it in post 33.
EDIT (Jan 2023): They just introduced sharing of live results via an url to any phone anywhere in the world. Fantastic: read more about it in post 59
Both Laptracker and lapMonitor have a nice share option where you can share the times of races. In LaMonitor nicely divided in to each racer.
I have compared the timing up against each other. Same track, at the same time. The difference of the timing is pretty small I believe. See below
All in all three timing systems with each their strength. All three very usable.
Setteing up the camera for detection - LapTracker:
The RaceChrono set - gps and the app.
GPS mounted on the board - could also just be in your pocket And the transponder to the LapMonitor solution (can you find it?):
A simple track made in RaceChrono with a start and finish line:
Same track with added split time traps:
Lap listed with split times - RaceChrono:
The LapMonitor set - Lapcounter + transponder + app:
Race config in LapMonitor:
Transponder mounting and power feeding from the receiver - LapMonitor:
The cone shaped detection area in LapMonitor - within the marks the lap counter detects the transponder:
Comparison of times from the three systems from the same session: