Motor racing is, obviously, an incredibly competitive sport, and there are a lot of factors that go into determining how fast a driver can get around a track. Aside from the driver’s actual skill, the car’s power, suspension, brakes, and numerous other mechanical realities play a role. One of the most important, which is often surprising to people who haven’t raced, is the car’s tires. The temperature of those tires has a dramatic effect on performance, which is why YouTuber Addicted To Track built a thermal camera for his Porsche Cayman GT4.
While it’s certainly not the fastest model in Porche’s lineup, the Cayman GT4 is still an extremely capable track car. But, as with any other car, small tuning adjustments can make a big difference in lap times. This driver was taking his Cayman GT4 to the Nurburgring GP track, and wanted a way to monitor his tires’ temperature. The Cayman GT4 can collect and display many data points, but tire temperature isn’t one of them. So he built his own thermal camera to collect the data himself, and the entire project only cost around $100.
The thermal camera module is an MLX90640, which has a resolution of 32×24. That’s connected to an ESP32 development board that was programmed in the Arduino IDE to store temperature data to a micro SD card three times a second. After a lap, that can be transferred to a PC and turned into photos using a custom Python program. Then it can be combined with OBDII data gathered from an app called Torque, and turned into a video of the whole lap.
This setup offers a number of benefits. The most obvious, as Addicted to Track points out, is that he can see how the tire is wearing, and adjust the wheel’s camber accordingly. It can also be used to determine if the tires are operating at their optimal temperature, and potentially to see how different tires perform. Finally, it can be used to improve the driver’s own skill in managing tire temperature throughout a long race.