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Mark Colby - Life Racing Systems Designer

Posted: Sun Dec 21, 2014 9:10 pm
by west_minist
After Uni I did five varied years at Marconi Research and GEC Sensors. The normal stuff: experimental radar, satellite image processing, safety-critical system analysis, a passenger aircraft telephone exchange ... and once I wrote a report I didn't have security clearance to read :-)

It was time for a change - I joined Pectel Control Systems to work on racecar engine and chassis management electronics. That lasted seven years, ending in April 2002 when I left to become Systems Designer at the birth of a new company, Life Racing. Right now I'm in it down to the silicon, designing a new range of control systems from scratch. In case you are wondering, all the cars on this page are controlled by electronics I had a major hand in.

Motorsport's challenges aren't always obvious. During the 1999 Safari rally I had to produce some new software for the Ford Focus WRC engine management electronics in just a couple of hours (an additional strategy to help cope with some unexpectedly harsh conditions). I was back in the UK, so as soon as I had written and tested the new code, the team downloaded it via a portable satellite dish sitting on the sand in the middle of the desert, to program into the car for the next stage. This works fine, albeit slowly - except when a tribe of nomads parks its camels in front of your dish.

Re: Mark Colby - Life Racing Systems Designer

Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:01 pm
by west_minist ... ing-Syvecs
Hello to all. My name is Mark Colby; I'm the system architect, embedded software engineer and custom silicon designer behind the Life Racing and Syvecs ECUs. It's great to see people using them and getting good results, but that's not really why I'm here! It's been pointed out to me that there is some question over the relationship and relative abilities of the Life Racing and Syvecs products and I've been asked to clear that up. I will try to find time to revist this thread occasionally to answer any questions posted, but my time is extremely pressured currently so please don't take a delayed response as a slight!

I've been at the sharp end of motorsport ECU design since 1995 (before that I was working on avionics and radar amongst other things). I was a founding partner of Life Racing in 2002. The F88 ECU was Life's first product and is still it's core device, having been under constant development since it first ran in 2003, with perhaps 300 firmware releases and numerous hardware improvements and extensions in that time. The principle with the F88 is to strive always for the most accurate control, as required by highly stressed engines such as a high-boost high-compression restricted-intake WRC or Le Mans engines, and low-inertia engines such as Superbikes or rotaries. With a little slaved IO the F88 will happily control a twin-turbo, twin drive-by-wire, multi-point injection V8, with full knock control, traction control and paddle shift control all built in - and it often does

The guys behind Syvecs have been using Life Racing ECUs with great results since the get-go. Pat in particular is the most technically adept guy I have encountered in the general after-market arena. They wanted an ECU that met after-market needs and which could utilise the same ECU core with different OEM connectors. We make the S6 for them for that purpose. They have a generic-connector version and a number of plug-and-play solutions, with more in the pipeline.

To be clear : the S6 has precisely the same core hardware, core software and custom silicon as the highest specification F88. The engine control fundamentals in these ECUs are identical. So are many of the key strategies, such as knock control. Improvements made to one are often also made available in the other, and it is not always one-way traffic; some strategies have appeared in the S6 first. Indeed it is arguable that the S6 boost control strategy is more flexible for after market vehicles currently than the F88's is. There is absolutely no intent that the S6 have inferior control, nor does it. Incidentally the same is true of all the reduced-cost F88 variants (F88R's hold lap records in Irish Superbike and Isle of Man TT victories).

The difference between the ECUs is mainly the number and types of inputs and outputs and a few strategy differences related to that. Which ECU you choose to run is really a matter of which is most suitable for your project. For example if I was running a relatively standard (albeit high powered) Subaru personally it would likely be on S6 not F88 as it is a better fit and the ultimate control would be the same.

Syvecs are well versed in the differences between the ECUs and can supply Syvecs-badged F88s as well as S6s if required, and frankly they have more experience setting up modified road cars (more standard sensor linearisations and base maps ready etc) than I do!

I hope that's helped, and good luck with all your projects!