Even though I started last year with plenty of experience working with data, it was heavily biased toward comparing stock bikes for a magazine test or helping riders with their technique; I knew a lot of the theory when it came to setup and what "good" data should look like, but from a practical standpoint my experience in that area was pretty limited. In that respect, much of what I looked at last year was new to me, especially when it came to suspension. Luckily, a big part of Jodi's team is Accelerated Technologies and John Sharrard. Sharrard has years of that practical experience with suspension setup, and between the two of us I think we made some good progress through the year.
You've probably often read of the emphasis teams place on data from a particular track, and how important it is to collect data and constantly refer to it. That became pretty clear to me over this past winter, as I spent hours poring over the data we now have for each track, looking for ways to help Jodi go faster and improve the team's results.
At the track there is very little time for that much detail, and decisions must be made in a rush. But in the comfort of my office in the middle of winter, I was able to go over our notes and relate setup adjustments to changes in the data, and mark potential avenues for improvement or experimentation.
I can't go into too much detail of exactly what we'll be doing, but my previous blogs here and my series of articles in the magazine are mostly based on what I've been researching the past few months. Already we have plenty of ideas lined up to try, and I think we will be better able to set up the bike for Jodi at each track.
What I learned more than anything over the winter is how intertwined the relationship is between your riding skill and the setup of your motorcycle. At some level, you need to address both to make that next step in your on-track performance. For a simple example, if the data shows that you could be braking harder for a particular turn, is it because you're just not braking hard enough or is it because something is preventing you from braking at your best? Maybe the fork is bottoming, or maybe the brakes are fading and need to be bled. Or maybe you just need to brake harder. The more data you have, the better you are able to track down these possibilities and identify a potential fix.
At Jodi's level, it's a safe bet that his riding is not the issue and it's the motorcycle's setup that needs to be changed. I have to dig pretty deep in the data for just tiny increments of improvement, but that's what makes it an interesting challenge that I'm looking forward to this year. The series starts on June 6-8, at Shannonville Motorsport Park.