Lap Timing


Lap Timing equipment: Explained

If you’re interested in getting the most out of your car on the track – whether you’re out racing or having fun at a track day – then you’ll surely want to get some feedback on your performance, and among the most useful indicators is your lap time – armed with the knowledge of when you’re gaining and losing time, you’ll have a lot more to work with. That’s where lap timing equipment comes into the equation. In the past, drivers had to rely on inefficient and unreliable methods such as asking pit crew members or friends to time them with hand-held stopwatches. Happily, today’s racers and track-day stars can benefit from far more precise and comprehensive lap timing.

The data that can be stored, extracted and manipulated from such equipment can help you to become a better driver by showing you details of where you are gaining and losing time, how consistently you’re driving and whether you maintain your pace during long driving sessions.

How can timing my laps benefit me?

Successful drivers in any discipline of motorsport, whether at international level or in local club meetings, tend to be marked out by their ability to lap both very quickly and very consistently over long periods. Having equipment for timing laps available on the spot means immediate feedback and the chance to adjust your driving while still out on the track, or to consider changes for your next session while analysing your times later on. For example, if you are putting in occasional very fast laps followed by a run of slower ones, this could suggest that you are pushing too hard and losing more time through mistakes than you are gaining in out-and-out speed. You could then adjust your driving style next time you go out on the circuit, perhaps sacrificing outright pace for a rhythm you can keep up for lap after lap.

What kinds of lap timing equipment are available?

The quality and range of such items has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. No longer does the club racer or enthusiast need to make do with a basic analogue setup. Instead, high-tech digital units have been developed that can store the details of hundreds of laps in their large memories, and can display details to you in the cockpit on large, easy-to-read LCD or LED screens. On most models this data can be transmitted to support crews automatically without the need to bring your vehicle into the pits. Timing is usually accurate to a hundredth or even a thousandth of a second – the latter ability can be very attractive, given the razor-thin margins that often divide success from failure in motorsport.

Many units are paired with a beacon on the pit wall to receive and transmit data; both these and the main unit can be powered by standard AA batteries. The reception distance of these beacons varies, with more expensive models usually having higher-quality transmitting/receiving stations, but a range of 50 metres is typical – enough to allow reliable transmission even at full racing speeds. Some more expensive lap timers have built-in GPS to allow you to make track maps and assess your performance in individual stretches of the circuit. Most timers use a standard USB interface for easy connection to a laptop, though wireless connection may also be offered. In-car displays are generally backlit to make viewing easy and most units can be programmed to allow either the previous lap time or your current fastest lap to be displayed along with your current time.

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