A Challenge of Man, Machine… and Timing Equipment
Outback South Australia in the middle of July isn’t the most welcoming environment, even if you’re ready for it.
The thermometer plunges, wet and damp can hang around like a bad smell, and the night lasts longer than the day. When you head out into this country to race non-stop for an entire day, things just get even tougher.
What usually unfolds each year is testament to the gruelling challenge on both bikes and riders. Only half of the bright-eyed, motivated riders who race off from the starting line at 11:00 on the Saturday survive to the finish 24 hours later, even with the incredible support of their team and clubs.
Since its beginnings almost a century ago, the 24 Hour Time Trial has evolved. Today’s event sees competitors riding either solo or with sidecars, and challenges them to complete 4 laps of a 200km course made up of 12 “special tests” in private property. Each test is linked by public roads as the riders make their way through each one.
An Event Like No Other
The 24 Hour Trial is a unique event. But it’s not because it’s the second longest continually running motorcycle event in the world, only behind the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.
And it’s not because it’s been running since 1924, having launched to give WW1 veterans an outlet for recreation and sport.
It might be unique in that all bikes must start and finish the Trial “road legal”. Not only that, each bike can only be repaired by tools or spare parts it carries throughout the race - and nothing else.
But what really makes the 24 Hour Trial like no other is the way it tests man and machine in the beautiful, harsh, and unforgiving landscape that is the Aussie outback.
Not Some Suburban “Fun Run”
The 24 Hour Trial pushes riders and bikes to their limits.
It can also send the event organisers to the brink. Bringing together an event like this in a remote part of Australia magnifies every difficulty and issue, and the timekeeping is no different.
Timing an event with up to 200 competitors on the course at any given time, spread over a lap distance of 200km - a track footprint of up to 50,000 hectares - is a challenge, no matter what technology you use.
The organisers knew what they’d need to give riders accurate timing over the distance and in the harsh conditions, and it was a long list...
Timing accuracy: better than 1 second accuracy and repeatability of that accuracy
Timing reliability: less than 1% missed readings on competitor passes at up to 10 metres read range
Timing reliability: the ability to “set and forget” timing equipment, relying on it to perform during the event with little maintenance or work
Timing duration: 30+ hours of continuous timing operation without the need for recharging or 240V power
Equipment setup: the ability to set up each timing point in less than 5 minutes, and be able to move those points quickly if required
Data storage and transfer: live data uploads and scoring, plus the ability to store data for the entire event in the box if there was no mobile coverage at the timing point’s position
Software: quick and easy-to-use interface for Race Control to use, as well as live timing data available to officials, competitors, and spectators
Support: to have timing expert onsite to manage systems and make changes as needed. Due to COVID restrictions, this had to be modified to have remote phone or email support with very limited expertise onsite at the event.
There was one timing technology that Aaron, the expert at Event Timing, knew met all the criteria: the RACE RESULT Track Box.
In the build-up to the 24 Hour Trial for 2021, field trials showed the system had the accuracy and reliability… but most of the other needs couldn’t be confirmed until the event and timing was in full swing.
To give the 200km track full coverage, 26 timing points were set up, each with its own Track Box.
Because of COVID constraints, Aaron sent the boxes directly to the event organisers in South Australia, who would install the units themselves.
Through Mud, Sweat, And Tears
As the 24 Hour Trial prepared to start, the Track Boxes - and the online support - made timing a “no worries” factor for the organisers.
On the morning of the trial, event organisers hit the track to set up each timing point. Installation was quick and easy, and the organisers were encouraged to see how simple it would be to move the timing points if they needed to make a track change. After activating each point, the boxes would do their job for the entirety of the event, despite the cold, mud, and dust swirling through the air.
Once the bikes had hit the track, one timing point suffered from poor phone service that occasionally saw small time delays in live timing. Otherwise, the boxes captured 100% of all timings, and the system displayed the data on the website within seconds of capturing.
Race Control used a web-based software interface to manage the timing points. The interface was specially created to fit all their needs, and was easy-to-use and navigate. As a bonus, event coordinators could use weblinks on their mobile devices to access backdoor functions (e.g. DNF status). This meant the risk of making unintended software changes when logged into the full software was minimised.
The web page for public viewing of live scoring data included everything the organisers asked for and more. The colour coding of items within the live timing made knowing who was where on the course at a moment’s glance for both spectators and officials easy.
Results Page: https://my.raceresult.com/171719/
Over the 24 hours of the Trial, Event Timing’s Aaron worked from his Melbourne office to ensure the event had the timing support they needed. With only an airbed and a steady stream of coffee to get him through, Aaron was ready to jump on any issues that popped up… though nothing major unfolded.
A 24 Hour Trial By Numbers
Over a wintry day and shivering night, these are some of what the Track Box handled:
150 competitors racing practically non-stop over 24 hours
26 electronic timing points covering four 200km laps without a single missed reading
Over 10,000 passings of the points without any serious problems
Perfect From The First Use
“Having an event with up to 200 competitors on course at any point in time, spread around a lap distance of 200km and a track footprint of up to 50,000 hectares, is a challenge. But this challenge was no issue for Event Timing and the Race Result system. Whilst Aaron from Event Timing has never actually been to the event, to fully understand and appreciate the real-world complexities, through several years of dialogue, and several equipment trials in recent years, and in conjunction with Event Timing, a system was selected to meet the events needs and create a timing and scoring solution that worked perfectly from its first use.”
If you would like to know more about the “Hardi 24 Hour Reliability Trial, please visit www.24hrtrial.com
Ben / Shaun / Shane
Organising Committee Members
24 Hour Trial
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