Lucas Oil-Wolf LED Rally Team Engineer: Doug Nagy
Tom's Hardware: Clearly, building a race car requires a lot of work and testing. How do digital data acquisition and data logging help improve the design and build process of a rally car?
Doug Nagy: The main advancement that data acquisition introduces is allowing us to gather more data, quicker. In the old days, we used to have notebooks full of information after every test session. Today, we still have notebooks, but they can be supplemented with data files. The information we collect is also much easier to duplicate on testing equipment once we get back to the shop. One example of this might be using the suspension position sensors to document shock speed, position, and reaction to the various conditions encountered. We are able to replicate those scenarios on the shock dyno and adjust valving accordingly at the shop.
Tom's Hardware: What kind of information do you record during races and testing sessions?
Doug Nagy: For races, we usually run a stripped-down version of the data system that mainly records engine and differential functions. When we are at the races, priority goes to servicing the car in the quickest time possible. If we have extra sensors on it, repair times get more complicated and the process slows down. We also don't want to subject our equipment to damage unnecessarily. During testing, if we break something, we have time to stop and fix it. During a race, we may need to press on and run the car with damage to get back to the service area.
On test days, we may add suspension position sensors, temp sensors, aerodynamic sensors, vehicle position sensors, and telemetry to the package as needed.
Tom's Hardware: What are you using to log the data?
Doug Nagy: We use MoTeC to operate the engine and center differential, which includes data logging capabilities. During the race, we have used the Race-Keeper system as a driver development tool. For testing, we usually add an additional MoTeC dash system set up as a stand-alone data logger. This system can also be connected to the ECU and diff controller through the CAN bus to record more information or pass through to the telemetry radio, depending on the needs of the particular test.
Tom's Hardware: What can your team do with the data they collect during the course of a race?
Doug Nagy: We usually analyze the data on two different levels. The first is driver performance. We are always looking for ways to make it easier for the driver to go faster. We may find some things that the driver is doing that we can help make more efficient for them. Sometimes, we can make the driver quicker by tailoring the set up to their particular driving style.
The second thing is vehicle performance. We look for ways to optimize the performance of the entire vehicle. We may make tuning adjustments to the engine to help with power delivery, we may make adjustments to the shock valving or spring rates to help with increasing traction overall, or we may just validate our setup is doing what we thought it would.
Tom's Hardware: Do you consider yourself a tech geek?
Doug Nagy: I would probably be more of a tech geek if time permitted. I never seem to have enough gadgets, and have been accused of rotating phones every six months. I also have an amateur radio license and am looking at ways to use APRS more effectively in a rally racing scenario.
Tom's Hardware: What pieces of technology do you have on you at all times?
Doug Nagy: I have found my smartphone to be pretty indispensable. The amount of time it saves me from sitting at my desk each day allows me more time with my family and friends.
Tom's Hardware: Lastly, what's your daily driver?
Doug Nagy: A '97 Ford Expedition.