Tested: Trackmaster by Trackaroo
by Vince Illi
Data acquisition is a great way to become a better and faster driver. It lets you know what and where you need to improve and can help you determine exactly what the benefits and drawbacks of tuning are. That’s why professional race teams spend thousands of dollars on high-end data acquisition equipment. Amateurs have access to less-expensive data acquisition equipment, but a budget racer might have to choose between a set of track tires or a data logging box.
Until now, that is.
Trackmaster by Trackroo is an app for all Droid phones available from the Google Play store for only $4.99. Using the GPS and accelerometers built into your smart phone, Trackmaster turns that phone into a pretty complex data logger. It is designed with just about any type of corner-carving in mind, too. It can be set up both for circuit racing and one-way racing such as rally, autocross, and hill climbs. In my ongoing effort to improve my driving abilities, I downloaded Trackmaster and tried it out at my last autocross event.
Trackaroo has already put in track data for over 300 real-world race tracks. If you’re racing on one of them, you can just select your course and go. If, however, you’re dodging cones in a parking lot, the first step you need to do is input the course into your phone. The app makes this exceedingly easy, though. While walking the course, you input “split markers” using the built-in GPS on your phone. You only need two markers: the start and finish, but putting more in will give you more data to work with. I put in a total of 8 split markers: start and finish, plus 6 other ones at key portions of the course. Trackmaster shows you the location of these markers on Google Maps:
Obviously those parked cars weren’t there while I was driving.
Once you’ve loaded the course into your phone, you configure a few options, such as the type of course (“Lapping On” for circuit courses or “Lapping Off” for one-way events) and how to start and stop the timer. (I told it to start timing at the first split marker, since we were using a rolling start, and to stop timing at the last split marker.)
After that there was nothing left to do other than mount my phone in my car and start driving! Trackmaster sells some very nice suction mounts in their store, including one for motorcycles. I had an old Bracketron mount sitting in my garage, so I used that. Pushing the “Start” button before I launched started the timing automatically at the first split marker and stopped it at the last. My current elapsed time, split time, differentials (based on my previous best), and speed information were displayed on the phone where I could easily read them while driving:
This is the view you get while you’re actually driving. It's pretty easy to see if you turn the brightness all the way up, but you definitely need to plug the phone into a 12-volt source. Trackmaster will also read your times to you out loud at every split marker if you want it to!
Using only the phone’s built-in GPS, I found that my times as recorded by Trackmaster were within one or two tenths of the official time recorded by my club’s timing equipment. Trackaroo claims that the GPS is accurate to within 5 feet (~1.5 meters) when using built-in GPS. An external Bluetooth GPS can also be used for increased accuracy.
At the end of each run, Trackmaster immediately told me my total elapsed time and how much faster or slower I was than my previous best time. As cool as this is, it’s what you can do when you’re not driving that makes Trackmaster so amazing. Between the morning and afternoon runs, I was able to analyze how I was driving and where I could improve.
When viewing the data for a run, the first thing you see is a graphical outline of the lap superimposed on a GPS image of the track (or in this case parking lot).