Most serious motoring enthusiasts have been to a track day to hone their skills and gain a better understanding of their car, but unless you’ve paid a big-money entry and have all the necessary paperwork in place, an open track day won’t give you one very important thing – lap times. Firstly, this keeps admin costs down, but it’s also because as soon as official timing is introduced, then things start to get serious. Drivers can get borderline ridiculous in an attempt to post the best times possible. Luckily, there are a few ways to time yourself without the track’s transponder system; all you need is a decent smartphone, good cell coverage and a few hundred rand for a once-off app purchase. Using GPS-based telemetry, feedback from some of the better apps can match the accuracy of current timing systems, and a host of extra features can provide invaluable information to extract the best lap you and your car are capable of.
1. Harry’s LapTimer
One of the first apps of its kind, Harry’s LapTimer set the bar before apps were even a thing. It’s available for iOS and Android, and lays claim to being the world’s most feature-rich lap timer. HLT has more than 1 000 racetracks from around the world preloaded, so you just click on your track and start driving. Even if your home track is missing, which it won’t be, you can basically draw in any track you want and you will get all the stats. HLT seamlessly integrates Full HD video that overlays all manner of data, and live timing, for when you want to show off and share it to your social media. Thanks to the practicality, the data from HLT can be analysed using purpose-designed views, too. One great feature is Hall of Fame, which allows watching you and your friends on track in real time. Of course, the point is to compare sector times, hit braking and acceleration points and learn … not to win bets, push too hard and go wheels-up in the kitty litter. There are a few different levels to the app, and you can expand the scope by adding data from external sensors, for when you want as much data as possible. HLT Rookie is the entry level, with all you need for lap timing; HLT Petrolhead is a more advanced version that includes video features; and HLT Grand Prix is the pro version, which can manage multi-cam recording and needs an array of external sensors. Harry’s LapTimer can get a little confusing with the amount of info it provides, but you can personalise your preferences.
Harry’s LapTimer Petrolhead
R274.99 – Play Store Rating: 4.5
2. RaceChrono Pro
Like many apps, RaceChrono can be
had for free with pop-ups and in-app purchases and advertising, or you can pay for the Pro version, skip all that annoying stuff and get right down to brass tacks. As expected, hard data is data and there’s not much more that you could want from a track app. The main advantages come down to the presentation of the package and ease of use. RaceChrono offers you much of the same data and features as Harry’s, but has more than 2 000 preloaded tracks, and features unlimited-length sessions as well as smooth-scrolling data analysis with synchronised graphs and maps. While it’s slightly cheaper than HLT, and it does have a higher rating in the Play Store, it will likely cost more as you start adding in-app features. Although not affiliated with GoPro, RaceChrono features remote control of pretty much the entire GoPro HERO range of action cameras, making it easier to marry the data for you to examine later. You can also keep track of your own ‘rev range’ thanks to the ability of adding in a Bluetooth LE heart monitor. With apps this good providing feedback to rival a team of F1 engineers, it will likely come down to personal preference of the layout and usability, or the need to be different to the rest. Some screens look busy and distracting, but hey, the more the merrier, right?
RaceChrono Pro – R239.99
Play Store Rating: 4.7
As the name suggests, this is an app for someone who spends a lot of time on the racetrack, namely, single guys with no responsibilities and a car as a best friend. TrackAddict comes from creators HP Tuners, and they clearly know what they’re doing. TrackAddict looks to be a little simpler in execution and while everyone likes a bunch of on-screen data, it’s neat and clean when overlaid on your recorded video. If you set up your phone in the right position, you’ll be able to see your live timing, and you can compare your laps side-by-side while recording for later playback. TrackAddict works everywhere thanks to almost 900 preloaded tracks, but as with the other good apps, you can also load up new tracks and start recording data. Some features worthy of a mention include Predictive Timing, Live Telemetry Streaming, OBD-II data logging and the ability to clear and reset error codes on the car’s ECU. The data is set up to provide the relevant feedback not only for time attacks, but also for drift, 4≈4 and drag racing. The standard features are great, especially for a free app, but once you’re hooked, the cooler add-ons will need some more funding through in-app purchases – but it will be a while before you feel the standard app doesn’t cut it anymore.
TrackAddict – Free
Play Store Rating: 4.7
4. Michelin Lap Timer
This Michelin Lap Timer is a good one, but will only really be of any use to those who attend European track days. It’s so good because it was created with Harald Schlangmann from Harry’s LapTimer, but it’s an app specific to Michelin Pilot Sport Challenge series participants and therefore only features European tracks from the series. Although it’s not too expensive in rands – just R159.99 – we don’t feel like spending that much to merely test our own map-drawing skills, though if you can, it makes the app a worthwhile buy in SA. We’d love to see it loaded with maps from local tracks that are used in the Michelin Cup ZA Series. For the European series, the Michelin Lap Timer assesses your performance levels and generates individual and overall rankings, and at the end of the season, a European title is awarded to the most consistent racers.
Michelin Lap Timer – R159.99
Play Store Rating: 4.5
5. Race Recorder
This is one that fans of a minimalist aesthetic will like: Race Recorder is designed for simplicity. There are just three timing modes: Circuit, Free, and Acceleration. Circuit uses Google Earth telemetry to record data on your local circuit, reads out lap-time data and stores it for later scrutiny. One cool feature is the ability to give you a best-
potential-lap time. The Free Timing feature is for most journeys and records your GPS telemetry as a Google Earth file; this one is good for the off-road-driving crowd. Though simple in execution, it offers the ability to customise colours to make the app match your car’s instrument cluster. While Race Recorder scores a slightly lower 4.3 stars in the Play Store, it is a free app that can be rather useful. As
a note from the creator reads in the app description: ‘Race Recorder is free and always will be. Race Recorder was born in March 2015 as a tool to help me learn how to go faster, I share it for free to help others with the same requirements: A need to improve and zero budget. Race Recorder will remain free in future, and new features are always in development.’ That alone is reason enough to try out the app, and maybe even to give the chap
a positive rating.
Race Recorder – Free
Play Store Rating: 4.3