Thoughts on a Couple of Possible Lap Charting Apps

I seem to have posted a lot of F1 related items recently (there seem to have been a lot of Bank Holidays and weekends lately – and F1 diversions feed into those; normal service will be resumed shortly….) and here’s another one, in part inspired by Joe Saward’s post on Lap Charts (and as discussed in the most recent Sidepodcast Aside With Joe), but also harking back to something I though about at the BTCC/Brands Hatch race last year, and in mind because I hope to get to Thruxton tomorrow…

The problem? Capturing lap chart information like this:

Joe Saward, lap chart, Shanghai
Image used, without permission, from: Joe Saward, A great race in Shanghai

I’ve been experimenting with various ways of displaying this data, such as “augmenting” traditional lap charts with additional colour and size dimensions:

(In the above case, node size is proportional to time to car in front (or denotes a pit stop); colour is related to time to car behind (red is hot – car behind is close), or choice of tyres in a pit stop. Laps count across the screen, colours are ascending race position. A bright red dot with a large dot above it shows two cars close together. A trace for Car 18 on the grid (Webber) is shown throughout the race.)

Now I now there is is probably a way of grabbing this data, for F1 at least, from something like the BBC live timing feed, or from live timing feeds for other races from TSL/Timing Solutions Limited or MST Systems, but I’m thinking more generally for cases where live timing isn’t available…

So here are a couple of possible ideas for apps to support the collection of lap chart data: a tablet (e.g. iPad) app, and a mobile (e.g. iPhone or Android phone) app.

First up, the tablet app:

The idea here is that you can click on the car number as the car goes past and build up a live view of the lap chart. The last car clicked is highlighted and can be annotated. It may also be worth having a setting so that after a car has been selected it is greyed out for 5 seconds less than the fastest expected lap time. (Except maybe for pit option, where possibly capture car going into and out of the pit?)

Here’s a sketch for a mobile app:

As before, you click on the car number in left hand column as the car goes past. To simplify matters, the car numbers in the left hand column are in an ordered list (by track position? Initial state is Grid position). After a few seconds, the car clicked on disappears from the top of the list an is added to the bottom of the list, the idea being that the top of the list shows cars you expect to come past next. As with the tablet app, the last car clicked is highlighted and can be annotated using tags from the right hand column,

On a final note, if the positions are being added in real time, the app can also collect rough timing information. That means we can then also start to produce crude gap charts that show the time/distance between cars. Something like this, maybe?

In this case, the chart shows gaps between cars, per lap (increasing lap number up the screen, car positions left to right). Gaps indicate a pitted or lapped car. From the lap chart data, and crude timing, we could automatically generate this sort of view.

PS I probably won’t get round to making either of these apps, (at least, not in the immediate future…) but if anyone would like to take them on, I’d be happy to test them and chip in ideas:-)

3 comments

  1. Mr C

    i love this idea! the only flaw i see is what if you hit the wrong number? also there’s the case of mistaken identity.

    corrections look more tricky using this system, especially if the number has cycled to the bottom, but i reckon the benefits still outweigh the issues.

    • Tony Hirst

      @Mr C: If you hit the wrong button, then there is the Delete [ <- ] key; having tapped a number it's highlighted, so deleting it is essentially an "UNDO"; it may be that the undo is time sensitive?

      The idea in the mobile app is that you can click any of the numbers, but the system guesses what the next car to pass is likely to be. The inspiration for this was that the screen is likely too small to have all 24 numbers on it at the same time?

      As with everything, usability would come in testing, use and rapid iteration. But I think there is enough of a simple idea there to get a simple, and useful, app, together quite quickly?

      PS if you – or anyone you know – can knock up a prototype before 6am tomorrow morning, I’ll try it out at Thruxton… ;-) (Strikes me a couple of config settings required – e.g. number of cars, ability to enter a name for each driver along with car number, ability to name a race (and save separate races) etc etc ;-) You could even imagine going so far as to all the user to set a colour background or sidebar on each driver badge to reflect the dominant colour of the livery? (A premium app feature, maybe?!;-)

      [UPDATE: after a day at the races (Thruxton/BTCC) I think that a “?” button may be required for the first lap or two while cars are all bunched, and maybe a “next lap” button to signify that the lap has ended and to reset the list using a best guess ordering…?]

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