COMPULINK’S BROCKMEYER EXPLAINS SMITH’S PHOTO FINISH IN SONOMA
On July 30, LE Tonglet was crowned the Pro Stock Motorcycle champion at the Toyota NHRA Sonoma (Calif.) Nationals over Matt Smith.
The problem with that is the photo finish FOX Sports aired live appears to show Smith crossing the finish line first.
Smith told CompetitionPlus.com in article last week he wanted clarification of why he lost.
Bob Brockmeyer, president of Compulink/BCS Inc., explained what happened in Smith’s defeat in a letter published by CompetitionPlus.com.
The explanation didn’t sit well with Smith.
“He (Bob Brockmeyer) explained how the Papa John’s finish line was not in the correct spot of the race track and that it was lined up wrong with the blocks with the infrared beams and he went on with this full ordeal when in theory, he’s wrong about what he explained,” Smith said. “That’s why I want the letter I received to go out there because he (Brockmeyer) is totally wrong about the way he explained it.”
Brockmeyer spoke exclusively to CompetitionPlus.com Tuesday to further explain what happened in Smith’s defeat against Tonglet.
“What’s happening, the camera being used is called a rolling shutter. There’s a rolling shutter versus a global shutter camera,” Brockmeyer said. “They are using a rolling shutter so it scans top to bottom on the frame. So, as it’s scanning the top, the car which is on top of the picture, which is going to be the far car away gets scanned, and as it’s scanning that car, the bottom car is still moving down track. By the time it gets to the bottom car that bottom car has moved down track, depending on speed of the car obviously, so then it scans the bottom car and then the bottom car appears to be ahead of the top car even though it’s not. The other thing it does is it elongates the cars. If you notice Matt Smith’s bike looks like it’s a lot longer, like a European Top Fuel bike, instead of what it is. The front wheel is egg-shaped because even as it scans the wheel, the wheel is moving enough that it scans the top and by the time it gets to the bottom of the wheel, it has moved down track. Pro Stock CARS look more like Pro Mod cars. The bottom vehicle in the video will always show further downtrack (and distorted) than it is in real life.”
Brockmeyer knows Smith disagrees with his findings, but Brockmeyer said he didn’t have the article to this link, which explains the rolling camera phenomena. Brockmeyer said he didn’t receive the article until Aug. 4.
“The camera being used is not suited to the application. Unless there’s a camera that fits on the race track at the five-inch
(+/- 0) beam height, that the Infrareds are positioned at, and exactly at the finish line down there low, then, camera angles everything else, parallax, whatever is going to come into play. Everybody thinks a camera and a picture can’t be wrong, well it can. If that was a 'film' camera where somebody took a snap shutter with a film, there’s no way you could dispute it because it’s a true actual thing. It would be blurred, but it would be accurate.” Another pic received shows the finish line without the distorting graphics, and while it is somewhat blurred, it clearly shows LE ahead."
Brockmeyer wants people to understand things are not what they appear to be when it comes to photo finishes.
“If you look at the finish lines, it is always distorted,” he said. “In the case of Sonoma, they were focused across the wrong J-Box even though they claimed they were right. That was the J-Box with wiring not the J-Box with the infrared, so they were 13 inches off to start with which produces a huge parallax. Matt Smith says I am wrong, but I think I know where our sensors are positioned. Let’s say that Matt is right and that I have no clue where our Infrareds are positioned. The Finish Line as depicted is exactly in the center of the (wrong) J-Box. Even if it were the correct box, the Infrared sensing lense at that position is in the lower right-hand corner of the box, so the Finish Line as depicted would still be 5" off.
"There are very few cases in this country where the actual sensing sense of the Infrared is in the center of a hole or square cutout in the Guardrail. It is located at the exact position, 60, 330, 594, 660, 934, 1000, 1254, 1320 and not in the center where a hole was roughed-out during construction.
"People aren’t understanding the camera. They think a camera is the real world and can’t be wrong because it is a picture, but it is wrong. We have now had several occasions the last two years where the latest, greatest HD 1080p cameras have shown things that just didn't happen in this real world. I have acquired a real education on this this year, especially the last two weeks in order to help determine the true findings. Note that several years ago, the 0.0000 MOV race between Mike Edwards and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock car) had a pic that showed Edwards winning by the width of a coat of wax on his front end.
Not sure what the exact camera of that day was, but it was correct. And, neither car looked like a Pro Mod due to rolling-shutter skew.”
Brockmeyer acknowledged the situation like Smith’s photo finish has not been easy for him to handle.
“I’m frustrated beyond description because we work so hard to make sure this stuff is deadly accurate,” Brockmeyer said. “In the case of Matt Smith, he’s said I’m just covering our equipment and basically lying, well that’s not the case. If we have a problem, we will tell people we have problem. We find out the solution regardless. If it is a Compulink problem we will tell them that. If the infrared is screwed up, we will tell them that. If it’s something else (camera), we will tell them that.
"The system itself is brutally, rock solid accurate. We are super careful in our setup every time at every National Event. We put in new very carefully calibrated infrareds. We string the beam, we check the sensitivities, we check all the beam heights to make sure everything is right, we do everything to make sure that stuff like this will not happen because of a timing issue.
"That's the Compulink mantra. Perfection if possible. And damn hard to do".
Smith is no stranger to photo-finish controversy.
Back in 2005 in the final round of the U.S. Nationals, Smith was racing against Steve Johnson. In this close race, Smith’s win light illuminated.
TV replays, however, clearly showed Johnson ahead at the finish line – something NHRA officials couldn’t quite explain.
Upon further review, 26 hours later, it was concluded that the leading edge of Johnson’s ultra slim front wheel somehow went unnoticed by the pulsating finish line beam. Thus, on Tuesday night after the race, Johnson was declared the winner.
“That happened in the ESPN era with Steve Johnson and I had my time slip that said that I won, just like LE’s did (at Sonoma),” Smith said. “But, the photo finish showed Steve Johnson won. A day later they overturned that because of a photo finish and I accepted that. I didn’t argue about it because I saw the photo. So, that’s all I’m asking, why are we now 12 years later, and we have a photo of me winning the race, and we are going against that now and going back to the timing system, that they say never fails.”
Brockmeyer had this to say about Smith’s 2005 situation at the U.S. Nationals.
“In that case, and people do not want me to say this, but that’s when we were not doing the timing system,” Brockmeyer said. “The Compulink was being used, but neither myself nor any Compulink rep set that track up at the 2005 US Nationals. At the finish line, everything that could be wrong was wrong. It showed the wrong bike going across. That was a definite two or three feet, there was no question. 2017 Sonoma is NOT a repeat of that day.”
Brockmeyer is unsure what the future of photo finishes will be on live TV, but he has expressed his feeling to NHRA about the matter.
“They are aware of what the deal is and they know what my thoughts are,” he said. “I don’t know what they are going to do. I will say that Graham Light also will not accept anything but perfection. Same mantra as Compulink's. It not only makes Compulink look bad, it makes them (NHRA) look bad. Unfortunately, this cycle is going to repeat again if something isn't changed.”