Live Timing is important. Arguably, it is more important for endurance racing than any other type of motorsport. Watching the ebb and flow of the race is as much about watching the numbers as it is watching the screen. If you’re not attending the event, then part of enjoying Le Mans is sitting down with Radio Le Mans, Andy Blackmore’s spotter guides and a live timing system and keeping up yourself.
Why is it so important at Le Mans? That’s a simple question with a complicated answer. The first is that with 4 races going on, it’s hard enough for the fans to keep up. But the commentators have their eyes on a lot of things at once – they will miss things, no matter how good they are. Le Mans, is often a collective effort to understand what’s going on – an effort that the fans are part of. Fans, trackside and from home, tweet to DailySportsCar and Radio Le Mans, providing them with additional information they didn’t have. Basically, we’re all in this together, and together we will untangle this race and understand what is happening.
The tool for the choice is the wonderful Live Timing Aggregator by James Muscat. It gives fantastic depth and detail, the likes of which we’re not used to seeing in a timing system. Split times, best splits, gaps to leader and to the car in front. At the bottom, a list of important events scrolls through – drivers entering and exiting the pits, yellow flags being shown and messages from race control. And then you click the analysis button and are treated to stint lengths, driver swaps. It is an amazing tool that is currently unrivalled.
And then Le Mans 2019 happened.
The start of the week was fine. We all settled down with Radio Le Mans, our spotter guide and live timing and had a wonderful time. Le Mans was here! Wednesday we enjoyed Free Practice and Qualifying 1, and went to bed happy. But we woke on Thursday to find the Live Timing Aggregator no longer listed any of the Le Mans sessions. Twitter revealed that the owner had received “an email” and that the sessions would be missing. It was later confirmed that this was from the ACO.
The fans took to twitter immediately, and the poor lady or gentleman in charge of the official English speaking 24 Hours of Le Mans Twitter account had to try and work out why everyone was upset. After many back and forths, they confirmed that this was not really a technical issue. In other words, it was a legal one. The fans lost out on the only good live timing system because some people in suits weren’t happy. Have you ever felt less valued by a series?
What can be done about it?
The operator of the Twitter account was in a tough position. They didn’t make the decision, but they were the one getting all the feedback. They said they were tasked with putting together a document about what we would like to see in a live timing system. The simple answer is just “copy the Live Timing Aggregator”, but it’s worth expanding on what we want and why we want it.
So here is a list of what we want and need in a live timing system, and why.
The page should exist as a web page and not just in the app. This should be accessible on a desktop PC or laptop. The format should be compact and data-driven. Whilst we appreciate why the basic live timing system gives photos of the cars, this is not required for the hardcore users. Similarly, graphics such as tyres should be simplified. No giant Michelin/Goodyear logos – simple small ones, so not to create wasted space. There should be no large spaces between the data. Keep it compact.
The bottom of the page should have feed of important events. Cars exiting or entering the pits, cars stopping on track, cars moving slow, flags being shown in certain areas, race control messages, driver swaps, etc.
The updates should be Live. The timing should not update every 30 seconds or so – it should be real time.
Position – Overall position of the car in the race
Position in Class – Position of the car in its class
Class – Class of the car
State – Whether the car is running, on an in lap, an out lap, stopped on track, etc
Number – the car number
Team – Team name
Driver – Current driver
Car – Current Car
Tyre – Michelin on Goodyear tyres
Laps – Number of laps the car has completed in the race
Gap – Gap to the leader
Interval – Gap to car in front
Sector 1 Time – Last sector 1 time. Times should be coloured (green for personal best, purple for best time in class)
Sector 1 Best Time – Best sector 1 time
Sector 2/3 times same as above
Last Lap – The last lap time set by the car. Times should be coloured (green for personal best, purple for best time in class)
Best Lap – The best lap time set by the car
Pits – Number of times the car has pitted
Laps this stint – Number of laps since the car last pitted
The information above should be considered the bare minimum required for a good timing system. This information is all available in the Live Timing Aggregator, so we are not asking for the world here. We just want the resources to enjoy this great race.