Drag Racers Log Sensor Data

A hundredth of a second is, quite literally, faster than the blink of an eye. Yet in the high-octane world of drag racing, it can be the difference between winning and losing. Gaining an advantage in drag racing boils down to one overriding strategy: shaving as much off your car’s race time as possible. Rugged pressure sensing helps by....
By Mike Guerra, Setra Systems Inc. May 27, 2008

A hundredth of a second is, quite literally, faster than the blink of an eye. Yet in the high-octane world of drag racing, it can be the difference between winning and losing. Gaining an advantage in drag racing boils down to one overriding strategy: shaving as much off your car’s race time as possible. And one of the primary tools to achieve this is the network of sensors and data logger that monitor a car as it speeds down the track, whether in practice or during competition.

Many drag racing applications call for Setra’s 3100 series pressure sensors,

“There’s no way a drag racer can know everything that’s going on in his or her car without a data logger,” explains Randy McMahon, CEO of RPM Performance Products. “The data logger records a variety of the car’s performance related functions while it’s going down the drag strip. When the car has finished performing, the information collected is downloaded into a computer and analyzed. This information provides valuable guidance to the crew chief in terms of how to tune the car and set it up for optimal performance, as well as identifying potential problems.”

McMahon’s company, based in Oklahoma City, OK, designs and develops some of the best data loggers available. The units collect and store information from pressure sensors monitoring lubrication, boost, and fuel systems around the engine and drive train. RPM data loggers are equipped with pressure sensors by Setra Systems Inc., a designer and manufacturer of pressure, acceleration, and weight sensing devices. Most drag racing applications call for Setra’s 3100 series, which are designed specifically for engine controls, hydraulic systems, and other demanding industrial processes.

No place for wimpy sensors

A dragster engine is not the most hospitable environment for a pressure sensor or data logger. It took McMahon a while to find the right ones that could stand the punishment. He recalls a period when sensors didn’t last. “Frankly, they were failing left and right. In fact, the extreme vibration and tire shake that dragsters generate — which can actually break a chassis — was shattering the sensors. Conversely, the Setra sensor would last for about two years. So you’re talking about five laps versus hundreds of laps.”

Serious drag racers are there to make money, so keeping costs under control is the same for team owners just like any other business. Mechanic crews want both exceptional performance and reasonable costs. “While drag racing is an entertaining diversion for spectators, for the driver and crew it is their livelihood, with some serious money often up for grabs.” McMahon observes. “If a well-built data logger can help shave even the smallest fraction of time off a car’s performance, we have to ensure that it is as rugged and reliable as possible.”

Mike Guerra is sales manager for Setra. Reach him at guerra@setra.com .