I (Scott Laing) have been going to motorcycle race meetings for as long as I can remember. My father would race, and more often than not, if the Sandringham Motor Cycle Club was running the event, my mother would be involved in the administration and lap scoring.
As I grew up (and learned to write better!) I become more proficient at lap scoring and also helped out with the timekeeping – which at that stage involved timing only the leader with a stopwatch.
In 1984, I had a Commodore 64. Having seen the old clunking Longines timing machines in operation when the bikes ran with the cars at Sandown in the late 70’s, I knew I could write something basic to record and print times like the Longines timing machine did. Actual lap time calculations would still be manual.
The improvements needed to take the timing program further were too hard for my basic programming knowledge so I enlisted the help of my "best mate" Andrew McCallum from about 1986. There been several different versions of our programs from then until now, and he’s written all of them.
Up until 1990, we had been solely doing the timekeeping at events run by the Sandringham Motor Cycle Club. We then branched out to start timing and scoring for other promoters of road racing in Victoria – including Hartwell Motorcycle Club, Preston Motor Cycle Club, and Phillip Island Motor Sports.
At that point was manual only. A button press recorded the time, and the riders’ numbers were keyed in against the time. Andrew’s program improvements had meant that lap times and results were now automatically calculated. Generally for an average sized event, a team of six were needed to perform all the required computer operations and manual back-up lap scoring.
In 1994 we were asked to time the Superbike World Championships at Phillip Island, which were being timed using Dorian transmitters. This required the most significant changes to our programs to date. We needed to communicate with the hardware associated with the timing transponders and also provide a live results stream to the television broadcaster for television graphics.
Improvements to our timing systems continued to be made by Andrew throughout the late 1990’s. In 2000 we were asked to time the Formula Xtreme event at Broadford – that series first event in Victoria. Our performance at that event earned up the appointment to time the whole series from 2001, which took us interstate for the first time.
Also during the early-2000’s our reputation saw us appointed for selected interstate rounds of the Australian Road Racing Championship. At this time we started working with AMB timing equipment. The AMB transponders and timing equipment appeared technologically superior to the Australian made Dorian equivalent, and most importantly the AMB transponders could be fitted in more user-friendly locations than the Dorian transmitters.
In 2004, when AUSCO took over the promotion of the Australian Superbike Championships, we were appointed as the series timekeeper – a position we continue to hold. Around that time we became involved with Mark Arnold or Miark Innovations – an IT provider. Mark (still a current road racer), saw the potential to provide our timing data over a wireless network set-up at the circuit. Ever since, as technology and our wireless experience improves Mark has been updating our wireless network equipment and running that side of things. Mark has also added jump start cameras to the services we can provide.
Whilst timing the Australian Superbike Championships we started tinkering with intermediate sector timing. Some circuits around the country had intermediate AMB timing loops installed. Andrew made the required timing program changes, and Mark managed to get the data back wirelessly from the intermediate timing points. If only more circuits were able to install intermediate timing lines we’d be able to provide this service a lot more!
In 2008 we were approached to time the Australian Supercross Championships, another appointment we continue to hold. Whilst relatively short (it’s all over in a couple of hours!), it’s a fairly pressured environment requiring us to quickly prepared required grid pick reports and provide timing data for output during the live telecast on FoxSports.
We continue in our efforts to provide top class timing and scoring services. We never stop improving our programs to us more efficient and meet the needs of our customers. On average Andrew has an update to our programs once a month! Mark is also raising the bar, turning up with newer bigger more powerful wireless equipment each event. With our services in demand more and more we now have our staff appropriately trained and enough equipment so we can run up to three separate engagements at the same time.