Holden Racing Team looks to data insights for pole position

Holden Racing Team looks to data insights for pole position

HRT CIO Lee Webster says data analytics is an essential part of race days

Holden Racing Team couldn’t send its V8 cars out onto the track without telemetry data analysis, such is the importance of the information for teams these days.

Speaking to CIO Australia, Holden Racing Team CIO Lee Webster said that its teams run a controlled telemetry system called Motec.

“As the cars are going around the circuit, they are constantly transmitting data back to the pits because there are 100 different sensors on the car,” he said.

The data is transmitted back to a Dell server. The server sends the telemetry data out to a number of workstations used by pit crews. The Holden Racing Team crews can look at data such as when the driver is braking and how fast they are going.

“There is no automatic braking system [ABS] in V8 supercar racing now so the crews will want to see if the left wheel is going at a different speed to the right wheel,” said Webster.

Crews can look at telemetry data on touch screen tablets or workstations. When the crews are analysing the telemetry, there are lines running across the screen showing different data feeds such as brakes and speed.

“Every lap is analysed to the end degree. Sometimes the driver may not want to tell you that he’s locked his tyres up because he made a mistake, but the crews can see that information from the telemetry data,” said Webster.

The pit crew can use that information to tell the driver where he or she is going wrong on a corner and not to brake so hard next time.

“We couldn’t go racing without it [telemetry data],” he said.

Holden Racing Team drivers also get to see how they’re performing as ruggedised laptops are passed to the driver when they come into the pit.

“While the driver is in the car, he can look at the telemetry and overlay his best lap with his current lap and see the difference where he’s lost or gained time,” said Webster.

Read more: Kelly Racing streamlines car design process, gives V8 team competitive advantage

The company has being a Dell customer for 12 years. The vendor provides laptops, professional support, PowerEdge servers, Powervault storage, network switches, projectors and SonicWall security services. All products work together to analyse racing data and improve performance.

“We turn our laptops over [to Dell] every two years. We turn our servers over every three years to make sure we have the latest technology,” he said.

“Performance is king in our business and Dell’s hardware helps us stay ahead of the chasing pack. We wanted a partner, not just an [IT] supplier, and Dell is always willing to listen and help implement new systems or networks.”

For example, he said that it wants to develop a telecommunications soft client with the vendor. If Holden Racing Team crew members are at home, they can listen to what is happening in the pit and see the telemetry data in real time using their laptop and the soft client.

The soft client will be rolled out in time for the 2015 V8 racing season.

Webster heads up a team of six IT staff. And unlike some CIOs who spend most of their time in the office, he occasionally gets his hands dirty.

“I was pushing the Holden race car out last night to get it into the hall. It’s not something I’d be expected to do normally but I don’t mind doing it,” he said.

And Webster doesn’t mind the new competition that Volvo, Nissan and Mercedes have bought to V8 supercars.

“I think it’s great that they are there, particularly now Ford has said they are going to be pulling out [of V8 supercars]. We welcome it as a team. Bring on the competition.”

Like most sports teams, social media is a big part of Holden’s fan engagement. Holden Racing Team has 19,600 followers on Twitter and 125,822 likes on Facebook.

The company employs an in-house Web master who looks after the Holden Racing Team, Supercheap Auto Racing and Holden Special Vehicles websites.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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