For a few years now the Dakar has been using the Tripy device for all participants such as assistance, staff and press vehicles. Lets take a look at this little gadget unheard of in the US.
Tripy is an electronic roadbook in the form of a dash mountable and water proof device about 150mm x 90mm (5.9inches x 3.5inches) in size.
As part of the entry fee A.S.O. lends out one Tripy device per vehicle that is mandatory to be installed and used. Once the daily stage is selected from a menu the screen turns into a road book that shows you the next change in direction or obstacle ahead. The distance towards the next point of interest in the top left corner counts down as you get closer and the device beeps when you are just about to reach it. In our Dakar configuration it beeps 1000 meters prior to alert of the course of action about to occur.
The left half displays an icon depicting the road book symbol that lets the user determine what type of action lies ahead. These icons typically are a drawing of the type of street intersections, speed zone, dangers or other obstacle ahead. At times they spell out the name of the road to take or inform in plain words what to expect. After the point has been reached Tripy automatically advanced to the next screen.
The user may also manually flip page by page by pressing the left-right arrow buttons to check what to expect further ahead.
If you get too far off your route the road book icons get replaced by a big fat arrow pointing into the compass direction of your next point until back on course.
In the top center you see the allowed speed limit for the current section. Once your vehicle exceeds it the current vehicle speed right next to it turns from white into red. You are now breaking the allowed speed limit and Tripy is recording it. Keep pushing into the wrong-doing zone and you earned yourself a violation that needs to be explained later to A.S.O.. This can result in stiff penalties of multiple hundred Euros. Each additional incident increases the fine until the vehicle is a DQ (That includes us in the Press)
If you are an assistance vehicle associated with a team your violations not only result into fines but also adds time penalties to your team. In Dakar every crew members action is accounted for making it a team sport.
On the right side you see things like current speed, compass heading, elapsed distance, remaining distance, time of day, battery status, GPS strength, external power status and others.
There is a Manual Mode where the user can simply enter GPS coordinates and Tripy points into the exact direction of that point with a distance counter. This can be useful to find a point if you have no maps and need to get to a known point.
Every time a Tripy equipped vehicle enters the daily bivouac the device reports to the A.S.O. where they verify its proper configuration and look at the path taken. This is unnoticeable to the user. Here they could revise the pre-programed routes or reset the vehicles speed limits since large trucks and cars have different limits (90-110kmph).
The A.S.O. safety officer will look at a cars violation and make a judgement call if the excessive speed recorded was due to a brief overtaking on the highway or a gross negligence. In our Dakar press vehicle we caught a case once where we drove past 125kmh during a multi truck overtake maneuver. The Tripy’s status indicator in the bottom corner of the screen turned from green into solid red for the remainder of the day. We feared to be greeted in the form of a bill at the bivouac but only noticed that the red dot eventually turned back into green. A.S.O. most likely analyzed what happened and noticed no ill intention on our part.
Ever since A.S.O. has implemented Tripy the amount of accidents that are commonly associated with assistance vehicles supporting a race has drastically dropped. As a part of the race it is frustrating at times that one can not exceed the 110kph limit on totally open and empty highways but rules are rules and this one increases safety overall.
Other side effects are that every competitor operates under the very same assistance vehicle restrictions leveling the playing field. Fuel milage also increases lowering costs and environmental impact.
Trip can also be purchased by the public for none Dakar use. It comes bundled with computer software allowing your very own road book creation. The associated software reads basic vector graphic maps such as GDX files and might be a helpful tool for US based off-road racing. Tripy can record tracks similar to what your typical Lowrance device does. We are hooked and may get a unit to play around with since this may make a nice addition to a US based desert racer that currently only uses a large screen GPS. To learn the full capabilities of the public Tripy version read the instructions manual HERE and also visit the Tripy website.
Words and Photos by Klaus Rasch.