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Old 06-04-2012, 09:04 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Race timing software review: Racesplitter

Hi Everyone,

I have been the time keeper at Rausch Creek for the RCQ the past 4 years. This year I used a new software program and I wanted to give a review in the event that anyone else was looking for some timing help, or considering using something to time races.

The details of the race are here: http://www.racesplitter.com/races/AD1E530D4 and this write up is for the software that was used to create the race specific data at that site.

Background:
For the past 3 years, I, with the help of other Rausch Creek staff, have used Microsoft Excel to keep track of times for the RCQ. Subsequently, RC has used the same method to keep time for their race series. This has worked well, but it was also not the easiest thing to do to make sure that the times were accurate. We had to write down times, input them into the spreadsheet and wait until the end of the event when we could post the results. It was not easy to provide a true situational awareness of the race to the marshals and fans alike.

Changes for this year:
This year I found an application called Racesplitter that I bought and tested a few weeks ago, and made the decision to try at RCQ. Kim (the sister of Kyle from Rausch Creek) also kept time the old fashioned way so that we had a back up in the event Racesplitter did not work out.

How it works:
Racesplitter has an application that works on iOS (iPhone/iPad) devices. The application is used for the actual timing, and there is an online component that allows for near real time updates to be published. Racesplitter can be used only on the device, or in conjunction with the online companion piece. We used the whole solution.

Start list upload:
Racesplitter has an excel template to allow you to create your start list and then upload it to the web. The start list could also be built on the device, but it was much easier for us to do it all via excel since we already had the racers in a spreadsheet. We did qualifications on Friday, and used those results to build our start list. Once built, you save it as a csv file, and upload. You do need to have an account on Racesplitter to create your race (it is free). Once your race is completed, with all the attributes (type of race, duration, type, etc...) you save it and then publish it. The website will email you the configuration file for the device configuration. You open the email on your device, and tap the config file and the whole race configuration is loaded into the Racesplitter iOS application.

We did note one small problem with the upload. The race configuration was a 2 up start, with 30 second start intervals. In Racesplitter terminology that was a wave start, so each row was entered as a separate wave and the 30 second time difference was input. Once uploaded, the software did a secondary query on the waves, and ordered the racers according to the bib number (Racesplitter terminology for team/car number). This had the effect of swapping some racers in their start order in their wave. They would remain in the correct wave, but it would look like one car was qualified above the other. It had no impact on the race because we ensured we lined the cars up correctly based on the start order (the odd numbered starter would be the pole position for each wave start). Once the green flag dropped, each wave would have the same start time.

Starting the race:
Here is where we encountered the second oddity. We set the race up to start automatically, but the application still required us to 'swipe' the idevice to start the race. We had always had the policy to start exactly at the race start time to make time keeping easier, for example, the race start was 10 am, so the exact start time in excel was 10:00.0 We missed the swipe by a few seconds, so the racesplitter start time was closer to 10:00.3 No big deal, but if I had not tested it, I would not have known that an auto start was not a true auto start.

Once the race starts, there is a timer at the top of the app that shows the running time. We had to use this to start each wave. It would have been nice to have a countdown timer to each wave (which did start automatically every 30 seconds).

Timing the race:
This RCQ was set up as a 4 lap race (3 laps for stock/mods). In Racesplitter terminology, a lap is a split. A split could have been a checkpoint on the course somewhere too, but that is not what we did. In the future, we may set it up that way, as it is possible to have multiple iOS devices timing the same race, but I have not tested that yet.

Each time a racer comes into the start/finish, you tap in the car number, and the racer name comes up. Once they cross the line, you hit record, and the time is recorded. The application automatically compensates for the adjusted start time, so you can begin to understand physical position, and adjusted position. After recording the time, you can tap post, and it will post the times to the internet. I pretty much posted immediately after each racer hit the line, except for the few occasions where there was a group of racers coming in as a group.

When you hit the record button, you do not need to keep track of anything else like the lap for instance. It will do it for you as it assumes that the split is for the next sequential number. This was helpful when there was a group that came through towards the end. One car would get the white flag, the other the checkered flag.

Adjusting for the start time was also key. You could type in the car number before recording, which we could do because we had a spotter up the course on the radio to us. Towards the end of the race we could see where the time adjustment was impacting the official finish order. Specifically, when 4343 was nearing the finish, we tapped in his number and could see him placed above two cars that had already physically finished, and we could see the time remaining to stay in that position. With 4343, we saw immediately that he captured 10th place by 38 second. We could never do this before and it was key.

I was not on the chat, but anyone watching the race could refresh the racesplitter.com link to see exactly what the times were. And they were as near to real time as you could get. There was about a 3-5 second time to upload from my iPad, and there was about a 10 processing time on web side from when they received the time to when it was available to view. So the near in near real time was less than 20 second. Which I think is pretty impressive.

Race finish:
Once the race is finished, you hit a 'finish race' button, and it will process the race as finished. It will take the last and highest split time (4 for this race) and make that the finish time, so you will see the online details move from split 4 to final. Anyone not finishing 4 laps will be given a DNF. Anyone not finishing one split will be designated as a DNS. All the finish times are automatically adjusted for start time.

Technical set up:
I am using the latest version of Racesplitter, version 1.4. I did my initial testing on an iPhone 4, using both wifi and 3G. Subsequent testing was on my gen 1 iPad using wifi. For the race, I used my iPad with 3g for data uploads. The 3G was fast for the small data packets that I was uploading and there was no noticeable differences with 3G v. wifi. For the data upload, I used a typical excel spreadsheet on a windows vista computer (my race beater laptop). Nothing special really.

Overall thoughts:
I think the application is great. Besides the few problems noted above, we did also notice that when viewing the website through a mobile browser, you could only see the highest split. Being able to query on a previous split gives the user the ability to see how many laps their favorite car is. I have told the developers about it.

This application is well supported. After purchasing it through the iTunes store, I had multiple email exchanges with the developers and they gave me helpful hints on work arounds or to just answer questions. They have been very supportive in helping me understand the application. Much more so than any other iOS application I have ever bought.

I will be very interested to test multiple devices timing the same race. The drawback here is that Racesplitter is only for iOS devices, and there is no plan for them to develop an Android application.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the application. When doing timing for RCQ, each year we have gotten better. After the first year, I was close to decking Dave Cole because he was asking questions I could not answer during the race. Each year, Dave has yelled at me less and less, with it only happening once this year. I was able to answer any and all questions he had very quickly, and even provide some information before he asked. I went home from the race relaxed and not pissed off, which made my wife very happy. In the past, I left the race thinking I was glad I did not have to see Dave for another year. This time around, I would do another of Dave's races next weekend. (Dave-- You know I just busting on you.... not really, well, yeah, I am just busting).

Final detail.
So, this is a long write up. How many times have you said to yourself, "dude, how much?" Well, let me say that it is far and away the most expensive thing I have purchased from iTunes. It is $25. That's it. $25 and that includes the application and all the online stuff. If we had multiple devices timing throughout the course, it would be $25 per device, but that is still a bargain.

Let me know if you have any questions.
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Old 06-04-2012, 09:29 AM   #2 (permalink)
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This seems like a great setup. I would be interested in trying this first as opposed to the timing system that is being proposed for TREC races. The last race we used an excel based timer that seemed to work great, I haven't sat down and tried to make the "waves" work yet but I think I can. Racesplitter seems to have done that for you already and it's cheap.
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Old 06-04-2012, 09:39 AM   #3 (permalink)
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If you want to get it, and want some help or have questions on how to set it up, just pm me and I will give you my number and we can talk. I am in no way affiliated with the developer, but when I find something that works, I like to mention it.
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Old 06-04-2012, 09:53 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark99tj View Post
If you want to get it, and want some help or have questions on how to set it up, just pm me and I will give you my number and we can talk. I am in no way affiliated with the developer, but when I find something that works, I like to mention it.
Sounds good Mark, I will download it soon and try to get it set up using the last TREC race as a template. Even if TREC decides to not use it, it's only $25 and it will be a good pit tool.
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Old 06-04-2012, 10:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I thought this was a brilliant system. It was great being able to see live times so quickly!
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Old 06-04-2012, 10:47 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Old 06-04-2012, 07:39 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Nice write up Mark. Thanks for taking the time to document your experience. I also appreciate that you write in complete sentences with proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. Sometimes it hurts my brain to read stuff here on Pirate.

I also enjoyed the Racesplitter experience as a viewer. It was great to be able to check who had finished a lap without waiting for a chat post. Having a quick and accurate history lap by lap was great too.

Do you think you could ever stop hand timing as a backup? It would be scary to trust all your timing to a piece of software, no matter how well it had worked in the past.

Thanks again.
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:13 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Now I understand why the calls over the radio became more frequent for who was approaching the start/finish line. I was at Muddy Run and then someone was at F-Trail. I know a lot of my reports were "muddy car" or "looks like it might have been..."

After the race, I said to Dave Cole "Plasma Cut Car Numbers." If the numbers were cut out in a plate of steel instead of being a graphic, you'd stand a better chance of being able to read them. There were a few cars that stood out. But an awful lot of "buggy with a Jeep clip covered with mud" out there...
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:30 PM   #9 (permalink)
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So I assume that it only will work if you have a 3 or 4 G connection?
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:37 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
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So I assume that it only will work if you have a 3 or 4 G connection?
You do not need an internet connection to time a race. An internet connection is only required to:

Receive the email that RaceSplitter.com sends when you download a race for import
Publish results (or updating results) back to RaceSplitter.com
Export results via email
For all other functions, RaceSplitter does not need an internet connection.

When we time races in areas without cell/mobile coverage, we:

Download the race in advance from RaceSplitter.com
Add any new racers directly on the device at the race (no network required)
Time the race (no network required)
Publish results after the race, when we get back into cell/internet coverage. (Any racers added manually on the device, will get added to the race when you publish results.)
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:39 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Nice write up Mark. Thanks for taking the time to document your experience. I also appreciate that you write in complete sentences with proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. Sometimes it hurts my brain to read stuff here on Pirate.

I also enjoyed the Racesplitter experience as a viewer. It was great to be able to check who had finished a lap without waiting for a chat post. Having a quick and accurate history lap by lap was great too.

Do you think you could ever stop hand timing as a backup? It would be scary to trust all your timing to a piece of software, no matter how well it had worked in the past.

Thanks again.
I think we could forgo the backup spreadsheet. With the data written to the server often, it creates a backup. What I did not include in the write up that the racesplitter solution is a cloud based solution using Amazon's EC2 cloud services. So there is redundancy built into the server side and it is possible to build redundancy into the tracking side too. I used my iPad for the timing, but I also had my iPhone configured. If one went down, I could use the other and the web side would not know the difference. The beauty of Apple is that they allow you to install an application on multiple devices and as long as it is under the same account, you only pay once. It is easy to back up the devices.

There are rumors of a 7 inch iPad. That would be perfect for this app. The phone is a bit small, the iPad a bit too big (for me at least).

And thanks for the compliments. I write alot for my job. This write up was a break from writing a proposal, so I was in a good writing grove.
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:41 PM   #12 (permalink)
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So I assume that it only will work if you have a 3 or 4 G connection?
Only to post to the web. You can go completely disconnected, do your race, and update back at the hotel.
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Old 06-04-2012, 08:43 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Now I understand why the calls over the radio became more frequent for who was approaching the start/finish line. I was at Muddy Run and then someone was at F-Trail. I know a lot of my reports were "muddy car" or "looks like it might have been..."

After the race, I said to Dave Cole "Plasma Cut Car Numbers." If the numbers were cut out in a plate of steel instead of being a graphic, you'd stand a better chance of being able to read them. There were a few cars that stood out. But an awful lot of "buggy with a Jeep clip covered with mud" out there...
Actually, that was for Dave.

I had Kyle next to me. He can see a very small part of a car and know who it is. Only problem was that he kept yelling out names. I needed numbers.
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Old 04-16-2013, 01:08 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Nice write up Mark. Thanks for taking the time to document your experience. I also appreciate that you write in complete sentences with proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. Sometimes it hurts my brain to read stuff here on Pirate.

I also enjoyed the Racesplitter experience as a viewer. It was great to be able to check who had finished a lap without waiting for a chat post. Having a quick and accurate history lap by lap was great too.

Do you think you could ever stop hand timing as a backup? It would be scary to trust all your timing to a piece of software, no matter how well it had worked in the past.

Thanks again.
So, to bring this back up-- We used Racesplitter again this year at the RCQ. We used it the exact same way, except that I used my iphone 5 instead of my iPad. We also did not keep a back up of the time. We did everything on the phone.

It did become nerve wracking for me at one point. I have had a sporadic problem with my iPhone where it will all of a sudden loose connection to the SIM card. When that happens, I have to do a hard restart of the phone. It will still be able to connect to WiFi though. I was not sure what would happen with the timing if I restarted and there was no way I was going to find out in the middle of the race. Luckily I had another iPhone with me. I did not have it set up with racesplitter, but it was a WiFi hotspot, so I just connected to it via WiFi and kept going. Noone knew the difference unless they saw my face go white for the 30 seconds before I figured out a work around. And until this post, no one other than me knew this happened.

I did notice the price of the app went up to $35, but I would still consider that a bargain for anyone that wants to time a race and has the equipment already.

Our only issue, and this would be with any timing solution, is that when the trucks are muddy, it is really hard to see the numbers. I wish there was a solution for that. I suggested someone with a hose a quarter mile from the finish line to hit the trucks, and for everyone to have their number in one consistent location, but Dave wouldn't go for that. So, if any of you competitors want to help out, think of a way to make your number easily read when your car is covered mud. Maybe have a board to show by hand when you come across the line or have a whale fin on the top of your car with your numbers laser cut.
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Old 04-16-2013, 01:18 PM   #15 (permalink)
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At the equally muddy line mountain races, they zip tie a number/bar-code plate to your A-pillar that is used for checkpoints/timekeeping. At every checkpoint, there is someone with a sponge to wipe it off, and then the plate is read by the scanner. The scanning takes all but a few seconds. At the start line, there is a nice jumbo LED bar that displays your lap count and time.
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Old 04-16-2013, 01:31 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Yeah, that bar code/scanner system is not exactly cheap. We looked into it last year and the year before and we could not do it in a manner where we could easily make back our investment.

The margin for profit and loss for a race is razor thin, so we do what we can as cost effectively as we can. So, for a fraction of the price, I think we do pretty good. Just wish we had a solution for mud.
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Old 04-16-2013, 01:43 PM   #17 (permalink)
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It was really handy having that screen open and seeing where the racers placed. Thanks for sharing that link.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:15 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
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We also did not keep a back up of the time. We did everything on the phone.
Not quite accurate. This is why we start our races on time.

You knew the start time of every driver before they left. All you needed to do was keep track of laps manually (which you did) and have time of day when they finished the race (which we did).

Racesplitter is cool, but there is always a manual backup.

Dave
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Old 04-17-2013, 04:07 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Yeah, that bar code/scanner system is not exactly cheap. We looked into it last year and the year before and we could not do it in a manner where we could easily make back our investment.

The margin for profit and loss for a race is razor thin, so we do what we can as cost effectively as we can. So, for a fraction of the price, I think we do pretty good. Just wish we had a solution for mud.
I love that system. I heard through the grapevine it's for sale as they are upgrading...

This system sounds great for real time updates. I of course didn't see how it worked but I do know it sucks yelling numbers at the start finish. I will try cutting numbers for the next RC race and see if that helps.
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Old 04-17-2013, 04:32 AM   #20 (permalink)
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At TREC races they have been pushing us to have our co-driver have a sign to hold up with the number on it with high contrast. Something the co-driver can keep clean so as you pull up the co driver can hold it up and prevent the yelling.
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:02 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Not quite accurate. This is why we start our races on time.

You knew the start time of every driver before they left. All you needed to do was keep track of laps manually (which you did) and have time of day when they finished the race (which we did).

Racesplitter is cool, but there is always a manual backup.

Dave
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:16 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Yep
Yep? What are you yepping? Were you there? Or is this another case where your know it all nature is going to chime in to make you feel like you know more than you do?

While Dave is correct, my point was that we no longer input every single lap time into a spreadsheet as we had in the past. Yes we manually kept track of which team completed a lap, and yes there was a recording of the final time that the racer came across the finish like. We did not track every single lap on anything other than Racesplitter.
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Old 04-17-2013, 08:25 AM   #23 (permalink)
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MyLaps timing system.
Then everyone can grab the RaceMonitor app for their Andriods or Iphones.
Thats fans and teams alike, can see all cars. Onsite or on the otherside of the planet.

-No need for the cars to stop or even slow at the timing point.
-Small MyLaps transponder is battery powered, and units are readily available, Piles of them on eBay.
-Teams can preinstall and give the race organizer the transponder # in registration.
-After-the-fact lap data is retained and easily downloadable by car or for the entire field.


Has anyone in offroad looked into this style of timing for lap races?
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BigWoodyWag is offline   Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 04-17-2013, 09:50 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by mark99tj View Post
Yep? What are you yepping? Were you there? Or is this another case where your know it all nature is going to chime in to make you feel like you know more than you do?

While Dave is correct, my point was that we no longer input every single lap time into a spreadsheet as we had in the past. Yes we manually kept track of which team completed a lap, and yes there was a recording of the final time that the racer came across the finish like. We did not track every single lap on anything other than Racesplitter.
Reading into a single word & making an ASSUMPTION is pretty funny. Because, it has nothing to do with you, your timing, your race or your series. I agreed with what he said as in
YEP

carry on nothing to see here
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:25 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by BigWoodyWag View Post
MyLaps timing system.
Then everyone can grab the RaceMonitor app for their Andriods or Iphones.
Thats fans and teams alike, can see all cars. Onsite or on the otherside of the planet.

-No need for the cars to stop or even slow at the timing point.
-Small MyLaps transponder is battery powered, and units are readily available, Piles of them on eBay.
-Teams can preinstall and give the race organizer the transponder # in registration.
-After-the-fact lap data is retained and easily downloadable by car or for the entire field.


Has anyone in offroad looked into this style of timing for lap races?

I've looked into the My Laps as well as multiple other transponder systems. With all, there are some drawbacks
1. costly for organizers to own the hardware and software. expensive subscriptions for live updates to websites.
2. cumbersome to set up each race. some (My Laps included) require the antenna at the start finish line to be burried in the ground. Some are mounted overhead but needs an elaborate system measured out fairly accurately to work right and specific heights off of the ground.
3. Transponders have to be mounted to very specific places on the rigs
4. costly for racers as the transponders are $200-$400.
5. if batteries die on transponder, there is no way to record timing

For ECORS, we've developed and used an elaborate Excel spreadsheet that is highly modified with VBA code. It provides real time running order with lap and start time split corrections, fastest lap of the day notes for each racer, DNS and DNF if racers don't complete the number of laps, auto timing, split times, and is even set up to accept a barcode scanner and wireless keypads that cross references with a driver's vehicle #.

But, its only as good as the operator and some errors happen. 99% is operator error but we've been looking for something more user friendly.

While we would love to have a transponder system, the initial cost is just too much, at least for ECORS.

We've tested several cheap passive RFID systems but they have only been accurate in recording lap counts, at best, 75% of the time.

We can't use cell and wifi live updates through apps in cars because many of the races are in remote locations.


So, the app the OP posted seems to be a good solution at a very affordable price. I'll take a look at it as I'm always looking for good solutions for timing to improve!
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