The Lap Of The Gods…

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Have you ever been to a track practice on your own and wished you had been able to time your laps? Or have you been to a car park etc to race friends and wished you could time yourselves. Well the new lap monitor timing system from LapMonitor enables you to do this. A small compact counting system, used in conjunction with a smartphone/tablet,  and a transponder with variable numbers allows single racer Lap timing or multi-racers. Interested? Well read on.

Initial Impressions

I first came across LapMonitor on a Facebook post in a group I am a member of. My initial introduction was from a crowd funding page and I am ashamed to say I paid little attention, Then recently I saw it on another Facebook page where a racer was using it. I made some enquiries and soon had one in my sweaty paws to test.

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On opening the package you are presented with a plastic corrugated box and neatly packaged inside is the base unit, which captures laps, two AAA batteries, two mini tripods, extension leads, a transponder, some servo extension cables and some Velcro. I opted for an optional transponder to enable me to race my team-mate and compare times while testing.

In Use – Bind N Race

The LapMonitor attaches to a little holder which then screws onto the tripods. The two tripods included are a small one with flexible legs and a larger one with stiff telescopic legs. You can choose which one enables you to get the monitor mounted in the perfect position. A small battery cover on the back allows the insertion of the two batteries. The unit does auto switch off but you are recommended to remove at least one battery to prevent any drainage.

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Once powered up you need a mobile phone or tablet that runs Android or Apple IOS and the LapMonitor App which can be downloaded from the App or iTunes Store. Once the app is loaded onto your device simply switch on your Lap Monitor and bind it through your Bluetooth settings. Select practice or race, how long for the session duration, minimum lap time, start sound, speech and lap time announcements.

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There are also lots of other settings to choose and alter how the system works. When you click the drivers tab you can enter a drivers name and assign them a transponder number. This number is marked on each individual transponder and you can run up to (at the moment of typing this) 96 on one LapMonitor, although that would be one very busy track. LapMonitor have thought about different types of vehicle and powering the PT externally. Two types of transponder are available one with a normal Futaba type receiver lead which plugs into your receiver to power the PT or one with a connector which attaches to small light pro batteries such as found in small quads etc so the PT can be remotely mounted without connection to anything.

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It would be possible to run a race meeting using the Lap counting system but you would need to manually sort all the information and racers.

How Does It Work?

The transponder works off an infrared beam so does need to be able to see via line of sight It will work through clear lexan so it is easy enough to mount where it can see through the window of your car. You do need to bear in mind that the infrared has a considerable range so don’t pick a corner where it may double count, by that I mean if the car passes the monitor the same way twice it is possible for it to pick up a short Lap. This is easily rectified by increasing the minimum lap time or carefully selecting where you place the Lap counter so it only sees the car once.

The Bluetooth module used to connect to the Smartphone or tablet is high quality and has a range of 80m in open field, Although I recommend in real life, at say a track with variables such as people, buildings, vehicles and other signals being bounced about a safe working range of up to 40 m.

And dont worry if the signal is interrupted for ant reason, automatic reconnection is already there on IOS, and will come on Android soon.

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Once the car is ready with the transponder mounted and the LapMonitor is trackside you simply press start on your app, countdown will be given and when you pass the monitor your time will be recorded.

Clear announcements are made at the start countdown and start tone and each time you pass the monitor it will say your PT name so as an example mine says “Mark 17.12”. If other people are present or you’re using a noisy IC car by adding earphones to the phones headphone socket it will talk in your ear. I found this extremely useful at a 5th scale national on road meeting with qualifying runs over 10 minutes.

I altered my practice times to 10 minutes when I was ready to set off round the track I pressed start and every lap was spoken to me in my ear so I could see whether that lap was faster or slower and more importantly by trying a different line I knew whether it was costing or saving me time.

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The Lap announcements also countdown the time so you know how long you have left in your run. Having not done 10 minute qualifying runs before I found this extremely useful as a training aid as I got used to running for 10 minutes with no external help. Oddly on qualifying day I missed having the Lap announcements in my ear. Also during practice day I set off the PT in my friend’s car and we had a 10 minute race. The system coped perfectly and announced each Lap position and who was where.

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Once you’ve done your testing run you can go back to your pits open the app and the runtime and laps will be displayed with a total laps, total time, last lap time, and the best lap time for each racer.

By clicking any of the times the app will then display all the individual lap times. You can also click the three dots on the top right of the app and then click share event and share the event to numerous other apps such as Google drive, email, WhatsApp and Microsoft One Note. Other apps are being added as the designers find them suitable.

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Conclusion

I have to say the LapMonitor is so simple in design and operation yet so versatile and useful it really is a must for any car park through to pro racer. It is worth every penny and is a superb bit of equipment.

I asked owner and designer Franck Geay who is from France some questions, Franck has been extremely helpful and given me lots of advice and is also still busy working on further features for the apps.

Mark: Hi Franck how did you get the idea of the LapMonitor?

Franck: “I use to drive on a parking place around scooter wheels and hosepipes and on also our on local club track which has no permanent lap timer and no electricity. As I am a racing fan and I wanted a portable lap timer to compete with my friends when training I started to develop the first prototype at the beginning of 2016…”

Mark: how did you set up production of LapMonitor?

Franck: “the first production batch has been manufactured by crowd funding, we were please to get supported by world class drivers: among them Ryan Lutz, Ryan Maifield ! Once it was working fine, and after we tested it on many scales indoor and outdoor we decided to make it a real product. We launched LapMonitor sales last year in December…”

Mark: are you happy with how it’s become a production version?

Franck: “It was very exciting and it is still, we get a lot of feedback from drivers who love their LapMonitor because it is fast and simple to use and does not require a computer to use it…”

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More info can be found on Lap monitors Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LapMonitor-1063748400339402/

Their webpage. https://lapmonitor.com/store/en/

 

Currently you need to buy direct from LapMonitor, prices are in Euros but while we are still in the EU there is no VAT or import duties. LapMonitor are looking and negotiating to get them distributed within the UK and as soon as that is possible details will be on their website. You can buy the main unit and one transponder then buy extra transponders to add to your main unit at a later date which makes this infinitely expandable.

Specifications

LapMonitor

  • Multi-driver
  • Bluetooth 4.0. Range: up to 80 m
  • Power supply: 2xAAA batteries (not included)

Transponder

  • IR range: 5-10 meters depending on weather conditions
  • Power supply: 3.7-8.4v  (JR receiver or Molex connector)
  • Protected against reverse polarity

Smartphone application

  • Multi-driver
  • Multi-language English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese
  • Training and race mode
  • Live race commentary
  • Spoken lap-times
  • Save, export and share your results

Smartphone requirements

  • Iphone 4S,5/6/7, Ipad 3/4, Ipad mini 2/3/4, ipad Air/Air 2 (with IOS 9 or 10)
  • Android 5.0 or higher with Bluetooth 4.0 or higher

Create…Don’t Imitate

Words: Peter Gray & Dphotographer Danny Huynh

Images: Dphotographer Danny Huynh Archive

Huge shout out to www.RC4WD.com For helping facilitate this article.

Prologue

A few years back I started seeing images and posts online of some of Antipodean RC builder Dphotographer Danny Huynh amazing body shell art and full on build projects. I was simply gob smacked at the intricate detail, the unique approach he put to every aspect, and both the visual as well as mechanical story each one told.

Trying to explain what they convey without actually seeing them is difficult. They have a rare quality in that they are not only visually stunning, meaning you end up scrutinizing each image much longer than most RC posted online, but they are also truly innovate.

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I love this image on three levels…Terminator meets Lowrider meets Supercharger

Danny utilizes many stock components in very unique ways. he also adds detail features not usually associated with the original vehicles, like faux Rotary Engines more akin to use in a flight scenario, Machine Guns, Revolving cab sections and much more. Each build usually has a driver figure and or gunner/co-pilot/sidekick present, and these are often animated via linkages and servos to make then not only come to life, they actually look like they are steering/firing/riding. The figures often have a slightly dark Sci-Fi twist.

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I think Logan may have a slightly heavy right foot…But at least he can drive a manual!

From Terminator androids and Wolverine, to what can only be described as undead Sci-Fi Storm Troopers…(and not the Star Wars kind!), they have a look and presence that seem to elevate each build to an even higher level of cool.

No Two Are The Same…

He’s build 3WD chopper-esc Drift Trikes (yes you read that correctly…3WD, Drift Trike) based on 1/5th Thunder Tiger race bike, rigs based on Axial donors, painted some of the sickest drift car bodyshells I’ve ever seen, and more recently done a series of builds based on RC4WD kits, donor vehicles and parts. And these are something else!

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Near the start of a very cool revolving cab/gun rear engine rig…check out Danny’s FB for the finished thing!

I recently got a chance to interview the man himself. We are friends on Facebook, and comment on each others photographs and projects all the time, but I wanted to know more about him as a person. What inspires the man that himself inspires so many to re-visit the art of truly building. An art that for many has been lost, and to a whole new generation of RC fans, who have grown into the hobby with RTR vehicles, run mostly stock.

I do hope this will be in some way a wake up call and an inspiration to you to go and get yourself a kit, and put some of yourself into its build process. But enough of that, onto the interview…

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Note the suspension…Danny uses every part in new and interesting ways

RCCZ: What led you to this point in your RC builds? We want the Dphotographer Danny Huynh Origin Story…when did they go from Cool to Epic?

DPDH: “I’m a documentary photographer by trade and have always had a passion for cars. Not so much the mechanical side of them, but more passionate about the design aspects of cars. So about 5 years ago, I’ve decided to buy my first RC car!

I always wanted to win one while growing up in the 80’s since my parents couldn’t afford one, but hey… Better late than never!

I’ve never really considered my works as being cool or epic. I just do what I enjoy and am thrilled to see other people appreciate it…”

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Gotta love a blower on a big block engine & the RC4WD units simply deliver!

RCCZ: How would you describe your creations? To me they are functioning works of RC Art…They blow my mind and inspire me in equal measure.

DPDH:“I like to describe them as a form of creative thinking, I like to keep them very similar in style, but also different from each build to set them apart. I’ve never called myself an artist. I just stumbled into the title through the use of Facebook.

I suppose it is a form of art to a certain extent, specifically the painting and photography side of it…”

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Yes, that’s airbrushed/painted onto the side panels…amazing!

RCCZ: You seem to see the World in a very different way to most. What’s your favorite film/book? In my head I can see a whole Graphic Novel littered with your builds…what’s inside your head?

DPDH: “Not much goes inside my head to tell you the truth. I don’t read books or graphic novels, I’m more of a music person and must have something on all day, every day while I tinker.

Some of my favorite movies Kill Bill, Blade Runner, movies with alien/s etc., but I don’t see any of those being an influence in my work.

I feel that my biggest inspiration comes from WW2 vehicles. Particularly, the aircrafts during that period which I believe to be the best design in aviation history! “

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This tracked Beast II build wouldn’t look out of place in a Ridley Scott film on a distant planet…full of Aliens!

RCCZ: What was your first ever true RC vehicle? (and did you modify the hell outta it?)

DPDH: “As I mentioned previously, I bought my first RC car about 5 years ago. It was the re-release of the Tamiya Avante and brought back my childhood memories from the 80’s. Back then, it was Tamiya’s design with their Avante and Egress that really got my attention. Even the box art itself was truly a work of art.

Shortly after, I discovered RC drifting and bought a Tamiya VDS drift chassis. That allowed me to be really creative and paint the drift shells in different ways. I think this is where it all really started with teaching myself how to paint drift shells and eventually lead to modifications on the VDS. It was the first of my animated drivers, the Kick Ass action figure!

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Whatever that ‘Bomb’ is on the back (Hydrogen, Confetti, N0z?) it adds a twist to this build that’s simply epic!

RCCZ: If you could build anything, based on any kit, from any manufacturer ever made, no budget restrictions…no scale concerns, what would it be?

DPDH: “I’ll have to go with what I’m building with right now. I have built quite a few different RCs, but nothing compares to RC4WD’s products. Not only do their scale trucks really suit my style of building, but RC4WD provides a great deal of details in all their products. Mainly, their scale chassis’ really brings my designs to life…”

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Ready to take on almost anything…the tail gunner and detail is on another level…Another stunning build

RCCZ: What are the top 3 things you can offer as advice for people inspired to get their own build projects started?

1. Create and don’t imitate

2. It doesn’t have to be realistic, just as long as it works and looks “unreal”.

3. Have fun!

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The skull on thee front grille just adds that finishing touch…

RCCZ: Any insights into your latest projects? Anything we really need to know about you, and the future of PDH?

DPDH: “I try to build a new project every month. it usually takes a month or two for all the detailing and creation to work as one. Currently, I’m working on a RC4WD Gelande 2 with their classic Toyota Land Cruiser Body. It’s a tow truck based on the Zero Warbird with a radial engine. hehe…”

PS: “You might also be seeing another Trike soon, since I’ve been wanting to challenge myself with another 3 wheeler…”

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Nothing would stand in this rigs way…and if it did it would be crushed (mentally & physically!)

RCCZ: Have you ever thought of producing a book about the entire body of your work? I could see it sitting on coffee tables all over the World…especially mine!

DPDH:“I never considered producing a book, but yes, that would be cool. I pride myself as a photographer as that is after all how this all started… you know, painting drift shells and photographing them. I have to snap a photo everyday otherwise I go mad…hehe!”

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Undead Storm Trooper anyone? Pretty isn’t he! and on a very minimal ride…

RCCZ: Last question…Where do you want to see the RC Industry and this vibrant Scale Scene go in the future? Is it still as exciting and diverse as when you first got hooked? Or do you think it needs more people with your drive and vision to push the boundaries a little, and inspire a new generation into getting involved and building using traditional model making techniques?

DPDH: “That all depends on what one loves about this hobby. I know that this industry is constantly growing and has been awesome with releasing new kits and creations quite regular to keep us happy.

The great thing about this hobby is that there are various aspects as to what we each love about it. For me, it’s creating, painting and photographing it. And yes, it “IS” as exciting as the day I discovered it! For others, it can be the racing side or competitive side to it, or both. Whichever it is, we need to keep practicing what we love about this hobby. Practice makes perfect, or at least pretty darn close!”

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One for the VW fans…now this would be one Camper Van I would love to take to Dubfest!

Epilogue

A huge shout out to Danny for taking the time to answer my questions. We look forward to seeing more of his builds in the future. Huge thanks’ also to RC4WD for helping facilitate this, and for more on Danny and his builds check out his Facebook page HERE 

I do hope that for those not familiar with his work it will inspire you to. Its set a benchmark in terms of being so different and taking us away from always striving to create photorealistic builds. Adding in a little weird and using a little leftfield thinking creates something fresh and exciting, and long may that be so!

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