If you are looking for high-tech gadgets that will give you information it would take a week of analysis to decipher, there are plenty out there. On the affordable side, there's a company called Tesla Electronics that makes a windshield-mounted accelerometer that with the drag racer model (DR) will give you 0-60-mph, eighth-mile, quarter-mile, 0-100-0 runs and calculate torque and horsepower based on the acceleration rate and weight of the vehicle. Tesla also makes the G-Tech Pro EGS (expandable gauge system), which is a tachometer that is expandable to offer inputs like air/fuel ratio. There is also an accelerometer that can deliver acceleration and stopping distances. During the El Toro Pro Touring race last year, Baer Brakes used an older G-Tech Pro system to measure the overall acceleration and braking runs that effectively were 0-100-0 runs. To record a full run, the system requires the driver to maintain consistent braking pressure throughout the run. If you lift off the brakes, the system thinks the run is over and stops recording. The G-Tech Pro road race (RR) model is a little more money but will track g-force in both longitudinal (acceleration and braking) and lateral (left and right) directions plus rpm and it will generate a friction circle. The friction circle is a round graph that represents all four acceleration modes with a cross-hair (the math geeks call this an X-Y coordinate) in the center. With the vehicle at rest or not accelerating, the indicator is centered. If you accelerate, the indicator will track down. If you brake, the indicator will track up. If you turn left, the indicator will move to the right (force of acceleration) and the opposite direction when you turn right. A combination of braking and turning left will place the indicator in the upper righthand corner of the friction circle to indicate the combined forces of that action. Concentric circles placed outward from the center of the X-Y centerline will indicate 1 g and (depending on the accelerometer) perhaps as much as 2 or even 3 g's (for race cars). Did you know, for example, that Indy 500 cars at the Speedway regularly pull as much as 4 g's in the turns? The RaceTech Pro RR is affordable at only $299 for as much data as it delivers, but there are other data loggers out there.
The hottest thing right now is the combination video cameras/GPS/accelerometer data recorders. There are several units, such as Motorsports Camera, Stack DVR, SmartyCam, and Chase Cam models that deliver video and audio input from one or sometimes two cameras while displaying configurable on-screen graphics with data such as rpm, a real-time friction circle, throttle percentage, a brake indicator, vehicle speed, lap number, position on track, and lap times. Perhaps the biggest bang for the smallest buck is the Motorsports Camera unit, which offers a windshield-mounted camera along with GPS location for track mapping and a three-axis g-meter for $315, including shipping. Prices for the other models vary from around $500 up to $1,100 and more. The more expensive models obviously do more, and it may seem like a hefty investment for a little feedback as to how well your car handles. But most of these units are best used for reference and study after the race to compare changes with the suspension and to improve driver skills. With driving classes costing $3,000 and up, an investment of $1,500 is a comparatively good deal.
AIM (SmartyCam); Lake Elsinore, CA; 951/674-9090; www.AIM-Sportline.com.
Brower Timing Systems; Draper, UT; 801/572-5540; www.BrowerTiming.com.
Chase Cam; San Diego, CA; 858/397-1777; www.ChaseCam.com.
Motorsports Camera; Tucson, AZ; www.MotorsportsCamera.com.
Tesla Electronics; Pacific Palisades, CA; 310/230-0040; www.GTechPro.com.