To say that 31 year old Australian Moto2 racer Anthony West is resourceful would be a gross understatement. His latest exploit, apart from racing in what he describes as the hardest, most competitive and closest racing category in which he's ever competed – and that's in more than most riders who are still racing – is to develop a smartphone app aimed at fellow motorcycle enthusiasts entitled AntWest Race Sense.
We recently caught up with Ant to discuss the upcoming app and the extensive racing experience he brings to its development.
The Race Sense app utilizes the inbuilt sensors in your smart phone such as accelerometer, GPS tracking, inclinometer and time, to provide what is in essence a fully functional data acquisition system designed to mimic the advanced electronic telemetry systems of MotoGP and WSBK.
"With sponsorship's so hard to find and I need another way to survive," says Ant. "I spent some of my own money developing it with an Italian guy who also likes to ride himself, and who writes programs. He's actually writing one at the moment for Team Orange in Japan."
Team Orange, incidentally, is one of the top teams in the very popular sport of drifting in Japan, which is one of Ant's interests in the off season along with downhill mountain-biking and video making.
The app is designed to be a useful tool for someone who races for a living and a very fun toy for those who just like to brag to their mates about what lean angle they got at their ride day, and what top speed they reached down the main straight.
While not the first app to measure speed over ground, nor even the first location tracking and mapping app, Ant and his Italian partners at DATA RACING have designed Race Sense to fulfill the needs of a genuine MotoGP racer. It provides information such as acceleration and braking forces, lean angles and speed and position on the track – in other words, the sort of data a serious track day tragic dreams of having every time they watch the bikes in a premier class race with all their telemetry aids.
The app also plots all the info onto Google maps and links to Facebook and Twitter so you can share your track day triumphs (but probably not tragedies) with your friends. Ant, who is a bit of a video tragic himself as we mentioned, also requested a feature on the app that matches tracking data to video plus it will store your sessions in memory for comparison of multiple laps.
Race Sense will be available soon for iPhone, Android phones and windows phones. The accompanying desktop app will only be available for the PC platform initially, with a Mac version to follow soon after. And, as expected, it will also be available in Italian with more languages on the drawing board.
We'll be putting the app through its paces on release - stay tuned.
The long hard roadAnt's story of resourcefulness is epic and doesn't stop with developing a new smartphone app. His long and checkered career in premier class motorcycle racing is as dramatic a saga as you can get in sport, one of sublime physical and athletic talents combined with super human, dogged persistence and determination in the face of years of financial hardship and soul-searching insecurities.
Ant started his motorcycle racing career at the age of 17 and has remained a professional motorcycle racer ever since. Apart from the odd infrequent break due to lack of funds – read sponsorship when you don’t have a rich benefactor – he has kept himself competing at the top levels in a myriad of premier categories when lesser men would have hung up their racing boots. He's raced in 125's, 250's, 500's, Supersports and Superbikes.
His present team of QMMR, owned by the racing-mad Arab Emirate of Qatar which is home to the Losail F1 track, is new to the Moto2 paddock, but they don't do things by halves in Qatar. His team mate is a 21 year old señorita from Valencia by the name of Elena Rossel. "She's strong and fast, say Ant. "Some people ask why she is here, with last placing in races, but I would bet she could beat any other rider in any other class because she's fast. And this class is so competitive."
Ant works hard to support the team and coaches their two Qatari riders in the Spanish championship. "Road racing in Qatar is quite a new sport so they don't have a lot of experience and we're trying to help some Qatar riders get faster," he says.
We know that to be able to compete in any sport at an elite level requires a phenomenal amount of skill and mental toughness, but to Ant, that's the easy part. Just being able to front up to compete, let alone be competitive, is the tricky part.
"From when I started till now, the riding part has actually been easier than the rest of it," Ant explains. "Just trying to survive, get sponsorship, and living in Europe … it's been quite hard. Mentally, it's been more difficult that anything."
Ant is still quick to smile – even if that smile is a wry one when he tells the story of one team he rode for that was so poor he was told he couldn't crash the bike as they didn’t have any spare parts to fix it.
But now things are looking up again. "I think I'm one of the only riders in Moto2 who doesn't have to pay for their ride. The other teams are asking for 300,000 euros or more."
But Ant doesn't necessarily feel lucky. He see's that as his job – to prove he is worthy of the privilege by giving his team good results. And he works hard to do that. Two second places on the podium, first in Malaysia then immediately followed by Australia at the tail end of the season, their (and his) best results so far, finally went some way to paying that off. And changing the chassis on his bike from Moriwaki to Speedup halfway through the 2012 season just emphasizes what a tough job that is. It's like starting with a brand new bike and getting on it to race with no testing.
"It took three races just to adjust the position of the handlebars and footpegs," Ant says. "Silly things like that which could have been sorted in one day of testing. But the last few races it's been starting to feel good and I'm getting my confidence back."
Confidence has a very large part to play in motorcycle racing, more than in any other form of motorsport, insists Ant. "It's definitely the hardest thing about this racing. It's not riding the bike, it's confidence. And that's what makes the difference in this class. Sometimes it's one second [separating] 20 people. If you adjust one little thing thinking about something in one corner you can lose four places. For me, out of all the racing I've done, the Moto2 class is definitely the hardest class. It's very competitive."