Lap Timing with RaceChrono Part 2

In my Lap Timing Part 1 post, I gave an overview of some of the benefits and features of using a lap timer like RaceChrono. In this post, I’ll explain how to install the RaceChrono software and how it works.

If you already have an Android phone then skip the next section. Those of you who have just bought an Android phone in order to be able to use RaceChrono read on.

Setting up your Android phone
In order to use Android, you need to link the phone to a Google account (email address) otherwise you cannot access Google’s Play App store. If you don’t intend using the phone for anything other than lap timing, I’d advise you to create a new Google account using the phone rather than using an existing Google account (for privacy reasons). The account isn’t really that important – if you lose or forget the account details, just wipe the phone, create another Google account and re-install RaceChrono again.

Usually you will be prompted to create or link your Google account when you first switch on your phone but don’t worry if you aren’t because you will be when you launch the Google Play app from your list of apps (on the phone).

Installing RaceChrono
google_playAndroid phones come with many pre-installed apps, but RaceChrono won’t be one of them! There is normally an icon on the home screen that gives you access to all the apps installed on the phone. Find and launch the (Google) Play app – it is this app that gives you access to Google’s App store. Older phones may have Google Market pre-installed instead of Google Play – don’t worry because Google Market will also allow you to find and install RaceChrono.

In Google Play, hit the search icon and type “racechrono” (all one word without the quotes). The RaceChrono app should be returned as the first search result. Tap on it. On the next screen that describes the app in more details, hit the Install button. You should see the app downloading and installing after that – it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two to install but that will depend on the speed of your network connection.

Launching RaceChrono
racechrono_iconReturn to your home screen, hit the icon that gives you access to all your (installed) apps and find the RaceChrono app in the list. Then tap on it to launch it.

device-2013-01-19-115353When you first launch RaceChrono, you will be asked to set up a RaceChrono account. Enter an email address and make up a password just for this account. Don’t use any existing password!! Within about 5 minutes, you will receive an email from RaceChrono with an activation link. Click on the link in the email to confirm your RaceChrono account details – you can receive the email and activate the link from any computer – you don’t have to do this on the phone itself!

Now hit the Sign In button and enter your RaceChrono account details. Don’t bother trying to enter your details until you have activated your account – it just won’t work!

Adding your tracks
device-2013-01-19-120132In order for RaceChrono to be able to calculate your lap times, you will need to add your circuit to list of circuits on the phone. Hit the Tracks button and select the Library tab.

There are nearly 400 circuits from around the world, so there’s every likelihood that your track is listed. Where different circuit layouts for the same track exist, normally this will be listed as separate circuits too, so you should always be able to locate the track/circuit that you need.

device-2013-01-19-120941Find your track in the list, and tap on it. The track will then be displayed on a Google Map. Above the map, you will see a download icon (downward arrow above a horizontal line). Tap on this icon, and the circuit will be downloaded on to your phone.

The significance of downloading the circuit into your phone is that RaceChrono then has access to the locations of the start/finish line and the split locations. And it can make use of this information when you’re at the track without requiring any network connectivity.

If you’re not sure whether you will be able to get a network connection, then make sure you install the circuit before you head to the circuit!

Using the Timer
Return to the RaceChrono start screen and hit the big red Start button. The timer will now be started for a new session and you will see the screen change.

device-2013-01-19-122735Three three vertical numbers signify your best lap time (this session), your previous lap’s time, and the current lap’s time. Above the numbers is an indication of the number of satellites that have been fixed and below in red is the circuit that you are riding at.

Although you can tap on the lower red band to select your circuit manually, there is no need as RaceChrono will automatically assign the track from your listed of downloaded tracks. However having said that, it is important to make sure that RaceChrono has figured out which track you’re at otherwise you won’t get any meaningful lap times.

Once you’ve started the timer, place the phone in pocket in your leathers or safely attach the phone to your bike so that it won’t fall off on track.

Reviewing your lap times
When you return to the pits after your session, hit the Back button on your phone. RaceChrono will ask you whether you want to stop recording – hit Yes and you will be returned to the RaceChrono start screen.

device-2013-01-19-124342In order to review your last session, hit the Sessions button.

The sessions screen will list all your sessions with the latest at the start of the list.

The following details are recorded for each of the sessions:

  • the circuit name
  • the date and time that the session started
  • the total number of laps that session
  • your best lap time that session

device-2013-01-19-124933If you tap on the session, you will be able to see a more detailed summary including a lap time for a theoretical “optimal” lap.

The optimal lap time for the session is calculated by taking the best split times for any of the laps in the session and combining them into one theoretical optimal lap.

Sometimes this time corresponds exactly to your best lap time, but sometimes your best lap time has a slower split than another lap which means that the optimal lap is theoretically faster.

Notice that Laps and Route panel on the window both have the legend, “Tap to analyze”. If you tap either panel, then more information will be displayed on the next screen.

The analysis screen for Route will show you your progress round the track for each lap. Its main usefulness is in allowing you to compare speeds, braking G etc at different sections of the track in different laps.

device-2013-01-19-142955The analysis screen for Laps is altogether more useful because it will give you the actual lap and split times for each of your laps that session.

The blue line (lap 4 here) denotes your quickest lap that session. Any green sectors (section 2 in lap 6) denote a sector where you rode faster than the same sector on your quickest lap – 0.21 seconds quicker in this example. The other sector times indicate how much slower you were in those sectors. The optimal lap is made up by taking the best sector times from all laps that session.

You can toggle between relative and absolute sector times, and split or sector times using the two triangles near the top right of the screen. Have a play with these to get a sense of what they tell you as the numbers on the screen change.

You might have noticed that lap 1 and lap 8 are “greyed out”. If you long press on a lap, a menu pops up with various options including one to make the lap as invalid. This is useful otherwise lap 1 would be shown as the quickest lap when it is in fact some kind of aberration. Lap 8 was caused by pulling into the pits and forgetting to switch off the lap timer for nearly 20 minutes!

Comparing laps
You can compare any two laps in a session by tapping on any lap from the list.

device-2013-01-19-145919In this example, I tapped lap 5 which is then displayed against your best lap (4 in this case). Lap 5 is the brighter line, while lap 4 is the slightly darker line – you can tell which is which by looking at the top of the screen as the two drop down triangles. Tapping either of these allows you to switch the two laps that you want to compare.

The graph here shows a higher entry speed into Druids with later braking – this in part would be one of the reasons for the faster lap time.

You can drag the lower graph left and right to replay the lap, and as you do so you can see your progress on the map above. You will also see the absolute numbers at the bottom of the screen change too – these can be useful to see the actual speed at a given point on the track.

device-2013-01-19-185643Speed is not the only variable that you can plot on the graph either. If you tap on the gear icon at the top right of the screen, you will bring up a menu that allows you to change the graph settings.

Tapping “GPS receiver channels” will produce a new menu for the lines you want plotted. Speed is selected by default, but you might want to see Longitudinal acceleration to gauge and compare your acceleration and braking forces.

The X-axis can be plotted by distance or time. If you select Distance, then ensure that the bottom setting “Scaled comparison X-axis” is set so that the two comparisons graphs coincide correctly.

It’s best to have a play with these settings after you’ve done your first track day because the numbers shown to you will make more sense than the example session which is preloaded into the app.

Lasting the day
Battery usage is a big concern on a track day where you might not have access to a phone charger. For that reason, I try and reduce the power usage on the phone as much as possible.

Before heading out on track, I enable Bluetooth (so the phone can communicate with my external Q818XT GPS) and also switch the phone into Airplane mode since I won’t need to take calls or receive emails out on track! I also switch off the phone’s inbuilt GPS because I’m using an external GPS.

When I get back from the session. I stop the timer, switch off Bluetooth and re-enable the phone’s network communications.

Once you start using RaceChrono, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. As a Track Day beginner, you’ll find it useful to see that you’re improving and where those improvements are coming from.

More expert riders will like the fact that they can quantify changes that they make to the bike including things like tyre or pressure choice, sprocket selection and/or suspension changes.

If you’re intending to use an external bluetooth GPS receiver with RaceChrono, then you’ll find this post on using the Q818XT external GPS useful – especially the information on device pairing.