As a new era of North American sports car racing dawns, fans trackside and following TUDOR United SportsCar Championship races from home will have a new way of keeping track of their favorite teams’ position in each race.
This weekend’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona will see the debut of a new leader lights system, which will be installed on all 67 cars that are set to take part in the around-the-clock endurance classic.
Developed by motorsports electronics company SPAA05.com, the cutting-edge system displays each car’s running order through a LED display panel installed on the car.
Unlike the ALMS’ previous three-dot system leader lights system, which was only applicable for cars running in a podium position, the Race Position Display is numeric, meaning that all positions will be displayed.
“Scot Elkins approached us the beginning of last year,” SPA005.com Director Hans Le Sage told Sportscar365. “My son went to Laguna Seca where we did the first trial on the Flying Lizard Porsches.
“Of course with the merger between GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series, it took a while [for everything to get finalized]. We got the contract at the end of November, so we only had three-and-a-half weeks to make everything from scratch.”
The idea was born at the 24 Hours of Dubai two years ago at the suggestion of the race’s timekeeper. Le Sage developed a prototype model six weeks later and conducted trial runs on cars in the Dutch Supercar Challenge.
Following a series of updates and developments, the system made its endurance racing debut in last year’s Zolder 24 Hours, prior to a rollout on more than half the cars in this year’s Dubai race.
The system utilizes data from timing and scoring, which is pushed wirelessly though radio bands to a receiver in each car. The running order is then displayed on a specially manufactured 12×8-inch LED sticker, which is less than 2.5 millimeters thick.
While information can be updated in real time, if used on a more powerful licensed radio spectrum, Le Sage said the system for the TUDOR Championship will initially refresh once per lap as the cars hit the start/finish line.
“We send bursts of data,” Le Sage explained.”In that burst, it contains data from 20 cars maximum and we send it three times per second. So as a car comes by on the main straight, we only have a few seconds to talk to him. We’re just shouting, ‘You’re in [X position].’ With that trick and low power of transmission, it works just fine.”
Displaying the running order of each car could be just the start of providing more real-time information to fans and drivers through this technology.
“My goal is to keep developing the system,” Le Sage said. “It’s not just designed to show numbers to spectators. If you change tires, soft or hard compound, and with three or four drivers in an endurance race, we would like to show [that to the spectators]. You could have little numbers or a color for each driver. That’s what we’re working on.
“We can also transmit safety information, such as full-course cautions, blue flags, red flags. So we can directly inform the driver that something’s happening in the sector of the track ahead of him [through an on-board display system].
“Drivers never have the same level of information as the crew as the crew has a big TV screen [in the pits]. We can also send timing to him, time to leader, time to behind… it’s all in the protocol.”
Le Sage hopes to be able to launch the system in more sports car series this year and has been in talks with the FIA World Endurance Championship and Blancpain GT Series.