CHAMPCAR/CART: Engine Electronics - Data Logger

A Champ Car Never Forgets The Magneti Marelli Data Logger Won& ...

A Champ Car Never Forgets The Magneti Marelli Data Logger Won’t Let Them

Part Three of a Four-Part Series Relating Racing Electronics to the Human Body

PLYMOUTH, Mich. (Aug. 25, 1998) -- Five hundred miles-more than three hours of Champ car racing-and the Magneti Marelli data logger can remember every moment of every lap.

The data logger serves as "memory" on the Mercedes-Benz powered Champ cars. Just as the human brain gathers and stores information for future use, Champ cars capture and "remember" data in this little black box. Developed as part of the Magneti Marelli electronics and fuel management system specifically for the Mercedes-Benz IC108E Champ car engine, the data logger can store data from 200 channels of information collected from the 45-50 sensors located throughout the engine, transmission and chassis, or the Magneti Marelli engine control unit. The data is sent via the real-time telemetry system to engineers in the pits for instant analysis to aid split-second decisions, while the logger stores data that is downloaded to a laptop computer after the race for in-depth study.

"The primary purpose of the data logger is to collect information on the most critical parameters of the engine so the trackside engineers can monitor for performance and safety," said Giancarlo De Angelis, manager of Magneti Marelli’s motor sports program. "The other purpose is to act as a memory device for the entire race so that every lap can be analyzed after the event to find ways to make the car perform better."

"A driver can tell you in general terms when there is something wrong with the car," said De Angelis. "The information from the data logger tells you exactly what is happening, and it helps you analyze why it is happening. That knowledge makes it easier to improve performance or correct problems.

"The most important engine parameters, such as oil and water temperature, oil pressure and engine rpm, are monitored at all times using real-time telemetry. Information that is not critical to the life of the engine is stored until the race is complete." All this in an aluminum black box that easily fits in the palm of your hand and weighs less than one pound. It is a small package that features big performance thanks to 24 megabytes of memory.

"Having so much data at our disposal is important," said Paul Ray, vice president of Ilmor Engineering, the race-engine design and manufacturing arm of Mercedes-Benz. "The Marelli logger has nearly 25 times more memory than our previous system. That is crucial because in the past if there was even a slight problem, we would have to come in the pits immediately and download the logger to get the data. Now, we know the data from an entire race or practice session is available for analysis, and we can continue on-track."

Even more impressive is the fact that the logger can perform these functions despite operating in the harsh racing environment. "Probably the best feature of the data logger is that its high performance comes in a small, inexpensive package designed to withstand the incredible vibrations of 240 mph," said De Angelis. "The electronics are the same technology found in avionics and military hardware. The logger is designed to withstand severe vibration and is packaged in a liquid-proof container. So, no matter what the conditions, we can still get the data we need.

"Unlike the human brain, the logger is able to remember every piece of data that goes into it. I’m sure everyone has had the experience of forgetting something, but the data logger never forgets."

Based in Milan, Magneti Marelli is an international supplier of automotive components and systems, including: engine control systems, instrument panels, air conditioning systems, lighting, fuel delivery systems, mirrors, exhaust systems, mechanical and electronic components, shock absorbers and lubricants. In addition to Mercedes-Benz, Marelli’s clients include Chrysler, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, General Motors and Harley-Davidson, contributing to combined worldwide sales of more than $3.9 billion.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar