Double and triple secured – the time-keeping in DTM
Training, warm-up, qualifying and races – over the course of a race weekend, the time keepers gather an enormous amount of measured times. Each of the 24 DTM drivers covers an average distance of about 500 kilometres per race meeting. This means – depending on the circuit – far more than 100 laps that are split in several sections. Every lap and each split time set by a driver are measured accurate to a thousandth of a second. The precise and correct recording of these times is incumbent on the time-keeping. Six members of the DTM partner, ‘_wige solutions GmbH’ are necessary to cope with this task per event. And despite all the technical possibilities available today they still also rely on manual control. “Two staff members are responsible for keeping the time manually,” says time-keeping umpire Stefan Schlerkmann. “Compared to the 1980s, their task is clearly less extensive but the manual time-keeping still represents an essential back-up.“
Nonetheless, it goes without saying that the computer also has taken centre stage when it comes to the time-keeping. Transponders in the cars and measuring loops in the tarmac make for the data transfer. Since the 2012 season, every DTM car has been equipped with transponders. The main transponder is placed in the right front wheel house and connected per cable with the car’s electrical on-board system. Meanwhile, the backup transponder is powered by a battery. “Four years ago, Mike Rockenfeller’s transponder failed due to a cable break,. And to make things even worse, he was the race leader. As a result, Rockenfeller permanently was jumping up and down, in the virtual standings. Since this race, every car is equipped with a backup transponder to prevent this kind of problems,” reveals Schlerkmann.
Despite all the technical progress, the aforementioned technology can fail even today. To be able to exactly reproduce the course of a race nevertheless, the time-keeping team uses the additional manual control. One of the staff members is responsible for announcing the numbers of the cars when crossing the finish line. At the same time, a photo sensor transfers an impulse Whenever a car crosses the line that provides the moment of the line crossing with an accuracy up to a thousandth of a second. The second staff member adds the respective impulse in the computer with the number announced by his colleague. “To date, times never have been lost in DTM,” adds Schlerkmann. “Nonetheless, it’s good that we have got this safety precaution.”
Furthermore, a high-definition camera is installed at the finish line. Particularly at the end of lap one, detecting the exact order the cars passed the line in with the naked eye is anything but easy. „In the case of doubt we use this camera to assign the correct number to the appropriate photo-sensor impulse. Should we lack a line crossing, this camera also helps us to also control when the respective car crossed the line and so, we are able to add its time this way.
When it comes to the split times, the time-keeping crew – the two aforementioned staff members plus two technicians and an operator – does without the manual backup. Schlerkmann: “At the end of the day, the times set at the line are the ones that are crucial for the result. In addition, there weren’t any problems with the split times, to date.”
During a DTM weekend, the time keeping has got an additional important task: the speed control in the pit lane. By dint of measuring loops, the team controls if the respective competitor exceeded the speed limit. Schlerkmann: “Up to 10 measuring loops – depending on the track – are integrated in the pit lane. Furthermore, there is an electric eye at both the pit-lane entrance and exit. So, we are able to determine the pace of a car with an accuracy up to the 10th of a second.”