A picture is worth a thousand words.
That adage in this day and age is more true than ever. The ability to communicate a thought or a feeling is much easier if there is a corresponding picture to go along with the verbal part of the equation.
This crew chief is using a...
This crew chief is using a small hand-held video camera to track his car's performance. This particular camera takes both video and still pictures and can be bought for as little as $89.95. The camera can be used to help debrief the driver and allow the crew chief and driver to communicate more completely.
Communicating the language of the racecar to other racers with enough clarity to convey what the car is doing is often difficult. Part of the problem may be that the local vernacular is different enough to hinder the communication process. While "push" and "under-steer" may mean the same thing, it is not always a universal understanding when used to describe the same vehicle dynamic. Fortunately, we live in an age where it is very reasonable to expect the current technologies to help with our communication issues.
Digital cameras, both still and video, can add a visual component to our off-track explanations of what a car is doing on the track. It also offers a unique view of how our competitors' cars are working. The opportunity to help the driver visualize just how the car looks on track can be a huge help when explaining what the car is doing at speed. Helping a driver adjust what he is doing in the car is difficult-and often impossible-while using only verbal communication and possibly some hand gestures.
The requirements for taking digital action shots of racecars are not as complex or expensive as you might think. You can purchase a digital video camera that will take both stills and video for under $100. You can also spend thousands of dollars but learn no more than you can with a camera costing $99.95. These cameras will not take magazine quality photos but they will render images that will be clear enough to look for differences and help the driver communicate to the crew what the car is doing.
There are a number of cameras that can be purchased that will take adequate action shots. Remember, this is not a tool to establish a photo library, but it would be very helpful to the chassis tuner to see what the car is doing while on track. This is especially helpful if your car builder is trying to help you get dialed in and he lives five states away. Do not limit yourself to pictures taken from trackside. The use of a low-cost video camera is something that can be mounted in the car and give the crew a driver's eye view of the car's behavior. The same video camera can also be used to watch gauges and give the crew a more insightful view of critical engine parameters that the driver may be too busy driving to mentally record.
A trip to the local Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, or Target will open your eyes to the variety of equipment available for under $100. I have even observed crewmembers taking pictures at the track with the cameras in their phones. Granted, the photo quality was not that great, but the message was conveyed quite well.
As with any process involved with racing, the more you do a specific activity the better you get. The idea that you have a photo record of the car's attitude and action on the track to coincide with your notes will make your notes that much more powerful.
As much as I hate to admit it, the scrapbooks that are all the rage today for recording specific family events and occasions could be used to document an evening at the races. A scrapbook format with a setup sheet and corresponding photos of the car at various locations on the track, coinciding with a specific adjustment, could become a valuable tool. The addition of photos would add a completely new dynamic to the notes you should be keeping already. Stored in an electronic format this could become a very useful database.
This is not a complex addition to your tuning process and the cost is really very reasonable. For less than the cost of a dinner and a movie you could be adding a camera to your box of tuning tools. Besides you can always use a few more pictures of the car in victory circle.