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Old 03-01-2018, 08:46 AM   #1
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My review of the Apex Pro Digital Driving Coach

I was recently given the opportunity to demo the Apex Pro Digital Driving Coach in exchange for writing a review. Initially I was only supposed to have it for the weekend, but I enjoyed it so much they let me keep it (I begged) for a few weeks longer since I had 2 more HPDE events coming up.

What is it?
The Apex Pro is a small device that you mount in your car, and it has a row of LEDs that light up to show you a calculated performance/grip limit of the vehicle at that point on the track and it shows you how much of that grip you are utilizing. It sounds complicated, but it is very intuitive once you start driving with it.

Inside, the Apex Pro has (from their web site):
  • High-brightness RGB LED display (400 mcd)
  • N42 magnetic alignment/mounting clip
  • ARM Cortex Microprocessor
  • 9-axis Inertial Measurement Unit
  • 12-bit precision accelerometer (+/- 4 G)
  • 16-bit precision gyroscope (+/- 250 deg/s)
  • Self-calibrating FIR and IIR filtering on all sensors
  • 10 Hz, satellite augmented GPS+GLONASS receiver
  • Temperature-compensated gyroscope and GPS clock

On the outside, it is a small black box (1.125" x 1.125" x 3.5") that mounts on a magnetic base that has two pins that align the device. It is a nice looking unit.

Installation & calibration
To install the device, you mount the magnetic base using the included adhesive strip somewhere that is in your line of sight while driving. I recommend doing this with the device clipped to the base, by gently pressing it down onto the desired mounting location. Don't get it too close to the steeply raked windshield of the Boxster or you may have a hard time removing the device from the base (ask me how I know…). For me, the best place was on the smooth plastic strip that is at the front portion of the dash, just to the left of the alarm readiness indicator. This gives the device a good view of the sky through the windshield (for the integrated 10 Hz GPS), and also places it front and center, where it is easy to pick up in your peripheral vision. When you want to remove the unit (for example to charge it) you simply lift it off of the base.

After mounting the Apex Pro in your car, it must be calibrated, with the car on a flat surface and preferably with the engine running. This takes only a few seconds using the Apex Pro app.

https://youtu.be/vy-qzQ70MEU



Before first use, you must charge the device for approximately two hours using a micro USB cable (one is included). I was worried that something was wrong because nothing seemed to happen when I was charging the unit for the first time, but it turns out the device does not have a charging indicator. I believe this may be in the works, and the app may be able to provide a battery indicator. I can tell you that after charging it for two hours each night before an event, I never had any trouble getting through my track days, 2 of which were open track days in which I ran 6-8 sessions, and the other one where I ran 4 30-40 minute sessions the first day and 5 30-40 minute sessions the 2nd day. The recommended workflow is to turn the unit off after each session, but if you are just going in to pick up a passenger or drop off an instructor and you are coming right back out, go ahead and leave it on. I followed this guidance and it never ran out of battery for me.

The Apex Pro app
The Apex Pro app is available for iOS and Android, although the Android version currently has less functionality than the iOS version (although they are working on it - when I was in the hotel the night before my first event where I was to be using the device, they released an updated beta version of the app for Android). After downloading the app, power on the Apex Pro, run the app, and connect to the device. Connection is via low energy bluetooth, and it is somehow configured in such a way that you don't have to pair your phone with the Apex Pro ahead of time (like I have had to do with my Qstarz 818XT GPS and OBDLink bluetooth device).

Using the app, you can:
  • Calibrate the Apex pro after you install it in the car
  • Configure Brightness: Very Low, Low, Mid, and High. This thing is bright and I have tried it on all the settings. I did not have any issues with it washing out in the sunlight.
  • Configure the Skill: Novice, Intermediate, or Expert. With Novice the display maps to 0-100% of peak performance, Intermediate maps to 50-100%,and Expert displays 90-100%. The default is Intermediate and that's what they recommend, and that's what I used. I should have tried the others for this review but I didn't think to…

You can also configure the LED display mode:
  • Green/Red chase mode – green LEDs show how much grip you are using, with the red LEDs showing unutilized potential grip.
  • Blue/Red chase mode mode – blue LEDs show how much grip you are using, with the red LEDs showing unutilized potential grip. This is the mode I used.
  • Bar mode - using one of several colors, the amount of lit LEDs show you how much grip you are using, with the number of unlit LEDs showing how much grip you're not using. Not as easy to use as the chase modes, because lit red LEDs are easier to see in your peripheral vision than the number of unlit LEDs in the unit. However this mode could possibly be good for videos if your camera isn't good at picking up the LED colors
  • Radar mode - I didn't try this one, it lights all the LEDs and phases through different colors and brightness to indicate grip.

The device can be driven in freestyle mode without being connected to an app running on a phone, which is what I did the first few times, or you can connect the device to the running app when using iOS, which gives you lap times while driving, and you can do post-session analysis of your session. The iOS version also has crew view, and also a simulation of the Apex Pro where you can tilt your phone and see how the LEDs light up on the virtual device.




Last edited by steved0x; 03-01-2018 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 03-01-2018, 08:47 AM   #2
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Driving with the Apex Pro
It is kind of like having a coach in the car with you saying things like "You can go faster here, next lap make a small change and see how it feels", or "You can go faster here, and since you are in a long sweeper, try adding just a little more throttle and see how it feels", or "Great job, you are using all the grip available here".

How the Apex Pro says these things is through the light bar. The LEDs light up and show you how much grip the data model has calculated is available at that point on the track. The green LEDs (or blue depending on how you have the device configured) show how much of that grip you are using, and any red LEDs indicate potential grip that you aren't using.

Keeping track of a lot of LEDs sounds like it could be complicated, but the reality is that it is much simpler than this. Note that while you are driving, you can't be looking down at LEDs and counting them, or seeing how many green, how many red, how many unlit, etc. However, what you can easily see, using your peripheral vision, is roughly how many red LEDs there are. If you see a lot of red LEDs, there is a lot of grip left on the table at that point. If you see only 1 or 2 red LEDs, or maybe 1 winking on and off, you are using a lot of the grip but there is a little left. If you don't see any red LEDs, then you are maximizing the available grip at that point on the track, great job!

For example, one area in which I give up a lot of time to faster drivers is fast sweepers, like Road Atlanta T1 and T12, T1 and Bishop at Sebring, and at Roebling T3 and T8/9. I haven't had a chance to drive the Apex Pro at Road Atlanta or Sebring, but I did get a chance to drive with it for 2 days at Roebling. Both T3 and T8/9 are very fast, and I feel like I am leaving a lot on the table there, and it is tough for me to press my foot down and go faster in those corners. But when I compared my fastest laps from the day that Cory Friedman (pro driver/coach) drove my car, he was at times 10mph faster than me through these corners. That is a lot of performance potential to be gained.

My previous workflow was to drive a session and then review my best laps using Harry's Lap Timer, and see what the traction circle looked like in those corners, and then "try" to go faster next time. In one weekend I might get 8 sessions, and so I would have 6 chances to review data and try again. With the Apex Pro, I get real-time feedback every lap, and can try something new the next lap. Even when going through a fast corner at 90+ MPH, you can still see, in your peripheral vision, whether there are any red LEDs lit and approximately how many. In my case, even though I am improving in these fast corners, there is still more than 1 red LED lit which shows me that I am not utilizing all the grip. Knowing it and doing something about it are two different things though It is a journey And still seeing a red LED or two is like a safety buffer of grip while I am trying to improve.

During my recent trip to Roebling when I had the Apex Pro, I was able to take a half second off my previous best times at Roebling despite being on an unfamiliar tire (my old Nitto NT-01 vs the Maxxis RC-1 that I had been on for the previous 10 track days - for more details on that event see Maxxis RC-1 tire review and some comparison with the Nitto NT-01)

My fast lap starts at 14:43 into this video:

https://youtu.be/zFClG78yTaI?t=14m43s


My in car camera is a Mobius action camera, and unfortunately it doesn't pick up the different colors of the LEDs on the Apex Pro very well. You can kind of see them in the video, and you can also see some reflections in the windshield. You can see the Android version of the app, but it doesn't yet display lap times, but they are working on it.

Looking at my data, I was 1 mph faster through T3 and 2 MPH faster through T8/9 when using the device, and this helped me to gain my half second.

Could I have gotten this half second this time without the Apex Pro? Up until now I have been steadily improving through instruction and coaching, seat time, traction sensing and sensory input sessions, mental imagery, and so forth (many of these courtesy of Ross Bentley's Speed Secrets weekly and his webinars), so I think the answer is yes, because in fact I have been doing it without the device up until now, but I feel the Apex Pro would definitely help me get faster faster


2nd event with the Apex Pro
My next track day after this was my first visit to Palm Beach International Raceway. I was able to capture some video using my phone that shows off the different color LEDs of the Apex Pro, and I think shows how the device learns and builds up the data model while you drive.

Driving at PBIR with the Apex Pro Digital Driving Coach
https://youtu.be/hXuTlduZ780


It takes about a lap or so for the device to build up the grip model so during your out lap, especially when you are taking it easy, and you can see that in the out lap on this video. In the 2nd hot lap in the video, I have a big slide through turn 4, which really hurts my lap time, but provides additional data points for the Apex Pro.

3rd event with the Apex Pro
My 3rd event using the Apex Pro was at The FIRM in Keystone Heights, FL which had a special track day for President's day, on Monday, 2/19/2018.

This was my 4th track day using the Apex Pro and I was curious to see how it would do at a tighter and more technical track like The FIRM, compared with RRR and PBIR which have a lot of sweepers. I also had access to an iPhone, and in addition to the real-time feedback I had been used to getting from the device, I was able to really get into the post session analysis features of the Apex Pro. You can drill down into your saved sessions, view a list of the laps in the sessions, and drill down into each individual lap.

On a track like Roebling Road Raceway, with many sweepers, I find it very easy and intuitive to peek down and check out the LEDs, and I was worried that I would have a tougher time on a tighter track, but it was still pretty easy to use and my peripheral vision was able to pick up on any red LEDs. I still have some work to do here, but I was able to shave off some time. Here is my best lap, I shaved off 1.5 seconds from my previous bests, but it is not an equal comparison since they made some improvements to the track which made it faster, specifically more track-out room on several corners and adding some concrete to the backs of some curbs in the esses which let you go a little faster. Here is my fast lap, and while it is tough to pick out the colors, you can kind of tell the color due to the intensity and also you can often see a reflection in the windshield. I had mostly blue LEDs in the turns but one main thing that watching this video tells me is that I could go faster through turn 8, but with that big guard rail there is absolutely no run-off room so I am very cautious

The FIRM Session 6 Fast Lap 2/19/2018
https://youtu.be/YOiFjqZDoPY


I did run the iOS version of the app for a few sessions. While driving, it gives you lap times, and after you come in you can review your session. Here's one of my sessions:



The Apex score shows you how close to the limit of the car's performance you were driving, on average, during that lap. This is based on what the device has learned about the vehicle by your driving. Why is my score higher on lap 5 when the lap is slower than Laps 8 & 9? I believe it is because early in the session the device is still learning and so the potential grip limit in the data model is lower, and the amount of grip I used was therefore a higher percentage of the available grip.

You can drill down into an individual lap and see how you did at various points on the track, with green lines designating where you used more of the available grip, trending to yellow and then red where there was more grip available. Note that earlier, based on my real-time feedback I felt that I was leaving a lot on the table in T8, the post-session analysis also showed me a few other places where I wasn’t maximizing my grip. In this example (The FIRM is clockwise) you see red where I lifted before T4, some red heading into the esses where I probably lifted but didn't need to, and when I lifted to make a leisurely upshift after T8.



What did I think after this review?
I think this device could help me to become a better driver. I think it could help me the most:
  • Going faster in fast sweepers, which I think can have a big impact on my lap times. I think it will make it easier to try and go a little faster on subsequent laps when I can see the "safety" of a red LED or two. I really want to take this to Road Atlanta and see if I can make some gains in T12 and T1 using this…
  • Validating how I'm doing in slower corners where I feel like I'm doing well already, like T4 at Roebling Road
  • Ross Bentley had a speed secret that I am going to paraphrase badly and it goes something like this: "A driver on the right line but under the limit is going to be slower than a driver that is at the limit but not necessarily on the right line. Drive the car, not the line." Apologies to Ross for the mangling, but I really feel like the device helps me to drive the car at the limit, and when I do, it kind of shows me what the right line is.

I think I will find more places where it can help me, and the immediate feedback it gives you gives me lots of opportunities to try and improve.

Does the Apex Pro replace your other apps/tools?
For me, the tools/apps that I currently consider to be essential for improving my driving must have:
  • Lap times while I'm driving
  • Predictive lap times and +/1 deltas of my best lap
  • Ability to download my data in order for review and to make videos

Right now the Apex Pro does not provide all of these (although I understand some things are in the works) but freestyle mode (not connected to the app) lets me get the benefits of the device, and still get my lap times, predictive lap times, and data using my other apps like Harry's or RaceCapture. So for me it wouldn’t replace my existing tools/apps/devices, but it would add to them.

How much is it?
It is $449 US and $12 for an additional base it you want to switch it between multiple cars. They sell it direct here but there are also other retailers that carry it, that may include discounts such as PCA discounts.

Verdict
I have sent the demo unit back but I think I am going to have to get one of these!

Edit: I just bought one, 4/4/2018. I missed having it at my most recent track day...

For more information, check out their website: https://www.apextrackcoach.com and the FAQ: https://www.apextrackcoach.com/faqs/

Last edited by steved0x; 04-05-2018 at 02:56 PM.
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Old 03-01-2018, 12:12 PM   #3
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Nice review. This forum should have a dedicated section where very knowledgeable and helpful people (like yourself) could submit reviews... a dedicated section would allow better (or at least quicker) archive searching. Personally, I love reading reviews; the value of perspective from an unbiased party (especially for products that are for/can be used for Boxsters) is invaluable.
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Old 03-25-2018, 06:25 PM   #4
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I saw that they just released a window suction mount for the Apex Pro. This was a sticking point for a few folks i talked with that didn't want to permanently mount a base on their dash and risk possible damage if they needed to move it (or remove it). I didn't have any trouble when I removed the base for my demo unit, but this window mount would let me take it in another car, like a student or a friend.

I also found out that Just Track It is offering a deal (no affiliation, just passing the word), if you register for one of their track days you can put $50 of your registration toward the device and effectively get a $50 discount. More details at the registration page on clubregistration.net for their events and possibly on their site at justtrackit.net.

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Old 07-09-2018, 11:01 AM   #5
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I just sent this thread to a few folks that were asking about the device, and I wanted to include my latest videos with the Apex Pro:

The new data export feature (iOS and possibly Android, a big update just came for the Android app but I haven't gotten a chance to test it yet) - this video was made using the Apex Pro + iOS app, with the data extracted and overlaid to the video using dashware.

https://youtu.be/9a-uqVjly2Q

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