Drag racing is a data-driven sport — it doesn’t matter what level you race at or what type of racing you’re doing, you need data to be successful. Weather data is a critical piece of information that you need for tuning and prediction purposes and you need an accurate tool to collect it.
We plan on doing a lot of bracket and index racing in 2021 with Project Number Cruncher. If we’re going to win some rounds, we need to be able to accurately predict what the Firebird is going to run on each pass. A weather station is going to give us the best data to account for changes in the atmosphere, allow us to predict runs, and build a database of information for different conditions. Altronics provided us with one of its PerformAIRE PRO trailer-based weather stations and RaceWORKS Prediction software so we can channel our inner weatherman to help make better dial-in decisions.
Trailer Weather Station 101
A weather station is a device that analyzes the current weather conditions and provides the user with real-time information. The weather station uses various instruments that measure wind speed, calculate the temperature, read the barometric pressure, and collect other data to calculate specific measurements. Ideally, you want a weather station that can record temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, oxygen level, wind speed and direction, dew point, vapor pressure, grains of water (GOW), density altitude (DA), and oxygen altitude (OA).
The weather station takes all the measurements it gathers from the current weather conditions and uses that data to generate specific information. What information you have access to depends on how complex your weather station is. A trailer-based weather station will record and analyze data all day based on what the conditions are at your exact location. This is much better than using an online source or an app because those are looking at the conditions wherever that particular weather station is, not at the track where you’re racing.
A trailer-based system eliminates user error in taking a weather reading, and will more easily provide the most accurate data. – Fred Bartoli, Altronics
The trailer-based weather station is going to give you the most consistent data because it stays in a single location. Hand-held weather stations are a great tool, but they are only going to give you information based on the conditions in the staging lanes, if that’s where you’re taking readings. Now, you do have to take your surroundings into account when you’re setting up a trailer-based weather station. You want it to be as high as possible, clear of obstructions, and away from things like generator exhausts, or cooking devices.
Fred Bartoli from Altronics fills in some details as to why the local location of a trailer-based weather station is so important.
“A trailer-based system eliminates user error in taking a weather reading, and will provide the most accurate data. A handheld device is very capable of taking an accurate reading, but it relies on the user to position the unit and take a reading in a proper location that will allow for an accurate measurement. A trailer-based system also provides the most accurate wind information. Again, being mounting in a fixed location and running continually, a trailer-based system streams live wind speed, gust, and direction information. This wind data is plotted graphically in a time reference chart so the racer can see the changing wind conditions and adjust the prediction for it.”
Most trailer-based weather stations also have some great optional features you can take advantage of that will allow you to make up to the minute tuning or dial-in adjustments. Our PerformAIRE PRO unit has the ability to send data to us anywhere at the track via a pager or text messaging. You can also add optional items like a wind or oxygen sensor to the unit. One of the best things about a trailer-based weather station is its ability to transfer the weather data directly to your logbook. We’ll cover that more later when we talk about the RaceWORKS Prediction software that the PerformAIRE PRO uses.
Why You Want A Trailer Based Weather Station
If you use a trailer-based weather station properly, it can be an absolute juggernaut of a tool that will improve your racing program. The accuracy of a trailer-based weather station is easily its biggest advantage. There’s a certain amount of user error that can occur with a handheld weather station since it relies on the user to position it. The handheld unit could have its readings changed if it’s left in the sun while inside your racecar, or if there are a lot of cars in the staging lanes generating extra heat. The data the handheld station will be accurate, but it’s easily influenced by what’s around it when you’re taking measurements.
Once you set up a trailer-based weather station and start the software, it will continuously monitor and record the weather conditions in real-time. You don’t have to worry about pulling it out and taking readings constantly like a handheld station that could change what you’re seeing. Bartoli explains why this gives a trailer-based weather station the advantage over a handheld unit.
“A trailer-based weather system offers the most accurate weather readings because it is monitoring conditions from a fixed location. This makes it accurately ‘see’ the changes in weather for the area that the racetrack is located. The trailer-based unit is not subject to the user, who may possibly place a system in an environment that might give a false reading, such as a racer holding a handheld weather station in the middle of the staging lanes surrounded by hot motors giving off a false temperature reading. The user may not feel a slight 1- to 2-degree effect, but the weather station will read several hundred feet in density altitude higher.”
A weather station is a pretty big investment so you want to make sure you’re going to get the most out of it. There are all kinds of options you can add to a system to enhance its capabilities. For instance, the PerformAIRE Pro can be equipped with an optional oxygen sensor and wind sensor. These sensors will expand the amount of data the station can provide to you, therefore you’ll have more information to use so you can make the most accurate adjustments.
The other options that weather stations like the PerformAIRE Pro provide are direct paging and texting. We mentioned these earlier and Bartoli adds some details about these functions and how they help you maximize how you can use a weather station.
“The ultimate setup with a trailer-based system is to use it with the Paging or Text Messaging features. Both methods provide the racer with up-to-the-minute weather and prediction data. The Paging option tends to have the best reliability and convenience because it is a self-contained system that includes its own transmitter and receiver and does not rely on any outside services. The Text Messaging option does rely on a good internet and cellular signal that can be spotty at some racetracks.”
Weather Station Software
The weather station hardware gathers that data, but the weather station software is tasked with using that data to help a racer make tune-up or dial-in changes. For example, the weather station can calculate the density altitude, which will either help or hurt your vehicle’s performance.
“The Altronics RaceWORKS logbook software, which is included with every PerformAIRE PRO system, can record weather conditions and calculate performance variables every minute. It’s also able to keep track of every aspect of the race and every parameter of the racecar. This information is used for generating e.t., throttle stop, or tuning predictions, along with being able to gauge performance changes in the racecar over time,” Bartoli says.
A trailer-based weather system offers the most accurate weather readings because it is monitoring conditions from a fixed location. -Fred Bartoli, Altronics
The RaceWORKS software ingests all the weather data the PerformAIRE PRO provides and presents it to you in a user-friendly layout. You can see the smallest of weather changes in a visual form as they’re happening, so that lets you make the most informed changes possible to your racecar. You’ll take the weather conditions, run data, and information about your car, and input it into the logbook provided by the RaceWORKS software. This is how you start to paint a picture of how your car will react to different conditions, and what adjustments you need to make. This is where the weather station and its software begin to shine.
One of the cool features of the RaceWORKS software package is the ET Prediction software module. This software uses a few different methods to predict your vehicle’s performance based on how much race data you have, or how many runs you’ve logged in the RaceWORKS software.
The first way the software can predict an ET is called the One Run Prediction Method. This is a method you’d want to use when you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of data in the system. The One Run Prediction Method will use your last good pass to conduct its calculations. It relies on formulas that a similar car would use to create a prediction for you. This method works its best when there aren’t going to be significant weather changes, and your car is set up close to most racecars.
The second method is called the Multiple Run Method and it’s a little more complex.
“The Multiple Run Method utilizes several runs that allow the software’s algorithms to analyze the run data and calculate the specific formulas or ratios that your racecar follows. These ratios are the e.t. to DA (density altitude) change, and if you’re .90 index racing, the throttle stop ratio. Once the software learns how much DA change it takes to move the cars’ e.t. a set amount, and how much throttle stop change it takes to move the e.t. a set amount, then it can formulate a prediction of what that race vehicle will do based on the current weather conditions,” Bartoli explains.
The prediction side of the RaceWORKS software is a great tool that will help any racer, but Altronics didn’t stop there. A racer is always looking for ways to gain an advantage over their competition and improve their performance — that’s why Altonics developed the Race Analysis feature.
“RaceWORKS Race Analysis feature allows you to simulate your run against your opponent. You can see based on changing the scenarios or reaction times, where your racecar will be in reference to your opponent at various points along the racetrack. Visualizing where you need to be at the 1000-foot or 1/8-mile mark can help you determine how you want to drive the finish line,” Bartoli states.
A trailer-based weather station is just a tool, and just like any other tool its usefulness is determined by the person using it. If you want to get the most out of your trailer-based weather station you’ll need to use all the different features the software provides.
“When the racer enters the data into RaceWORKS, the software can then be able to keep track of the race vehicle changes over time and be able to correctly predict the performance of the vehicle. The racer should use the features of the software to keep track of good versus bad data, and then utilize only the good data to predict from,” Bartoli says.
The advantages of a trailer-based weather station outweigh any disadvantages it might have. These stations are going to provide you with the most accurate data at the track. When you combine the quality weather data that the station provides with the software, you now have a very robust tool at your disposal that will help you make educated adjustments to your racecar.
We plan on putting our Altronics PerformAIRE PRO trailer-based system and the RaceWORKS software through its paces during the upcoming 2022 racing season. We will provide DRAGZINE readers with some real world data on how the station performs, what we’ve learned, and how you can get the most out of your weather station.