Thursday, 24 January 2013

Counting Laps...

So pretty much anyone who races in the UK can't help but notice that the world of lap counting has just got a whole lot more complex. New products, lack of compatibility and stupid names abound; it's all very confusing and is almost certainly going to cost racers money in either the short or long term. Here are my own views on it... others probably won't agree!

Where we've been

If you've race seriously over over the past few years, your car has had a PT in it. Either a red blob made by AMBRc/MyLaps or a smaller, cheaper and more convenient (just my opinion!) black one made by MRT. MRT has some obvious advantages, beyond being cheaper. They were smaller than the AMB unit at the time, they could be cloned, and they could hold up to ten seperate Id numbers. For race organisers they could be a pain in the arse, as numbers could clash but as long as racers knew how to switch Id's that wasn't too much of a biggie. They were totally compatible with all of the timing gear which was produced by AMB/MyLaps, and were very popular.

Where we're going

A whole world of pain! MyLaps are now introducing new timing software for their decoder, and it won't work with the MRT transponders - although it will work with their old transponders. They're also releasing a new transponder, the so called 'Purcy' that will only work with the new decoder software. This causes a whole bunch of issue.
  • I'm a new racer just starting up, I want a PT and newer must be better so I buy a Purcy. My club hasn't got the latest (RC4) decoder, so my PT doesn't work. I'm very fed up having wasted my money, but the existing club members are happy as all their PT's, including MRT's still work.
  • I'm an experienced racer running MRT PT's so I can have the same Id number in all my cars. My club has stuck with RC3 so I don't have to ditch my perfectly good PT's, but I want to race regionals. I go along to a club that has upgraded, and find my PT won't work their. Anyone using MRT's in the Mid- South region, you will be in this boat I'm afraid as I know at least one of the clubs is upgrading.
  • My club upgrades now, my MRT's are useless, I have to shell out for new PT's. I don't want Purcy as I travel around and need a PT that works with everything. Going to have to get a Harry for that, and they cost more than Purcy. Why's my club upgraded? Well, it has to be done sometime soon, and right now it can be done (relatively) cheaply. For most clubs the timing gear is the single biggest cost, they simply can't wait until they are forced to upgrade at full price.

What does Mr Magoo think?

Any way you look at it, there simply isn't an answer that isn't going to screw a large number of racers. I can certainly see why MyLaps are doing what they're doing - get rid of MRT even for a while and there back to having the market sown up, just as they did in the mid 2000's. That's got to be good for profits!
What it does mean is clubs being put in an impossible position. With limited finances, and knowing that they have to go RC4 at some point, many will be forced to do it as soon as possible to do it as cheaply as possible. In doing so they're going to alienate many members with MRT PT's (me included). As long as the timing market is controlled by a single company this is going to happen. All we can do is hope that MRT find a way of making their bugs RC4 compatible soon, if not any racer travelling to multiple venues is going to have to have a Harry, and if they have MRT's now that's going to cost them money.

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