This year, traditional working environments changed overnight as everyone shifted from an office to their homes. However, my household has always been far from a traditional work environment. My husband, Cameron, is a professional race car driver.
He’s had a pretty successful career over the last ten years. He’s won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, a Tequila Patron Endurance Championship and two Trans Am Championships. Cameron also had the opportunity to race at iconic events, like the Bathurst 12 Hour and Dubai 24 Hour.
On a typical Thursday to Sunday, Cameron is away from home and driving race cars. When he’s not driving, he spends his weekends coaching amateur drivers that want to become better racers. Last week we had planned for Cameron to have the weekend off. He’s been busy competing full-time in the Trans Am Series this year and has spent nearly every weekend at a racetrack (with proper social distancing and mask requirements) since racing resumed in June.
On Wednesday, he received a call from a team he’d previously raced for, Turner Motorsports. They needed a driver to fill in for their full-time professional, who was unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions. This was a tremendous opportunity for Cameron — he booked the next flight out of Austin, Texas, to arrive at Sebring International Raceway in time for the first practice session on Thursday morning. He had two hours to spare at home before his flight, so he jumped on his racing simulator to get a few laps behind the wheel of the car he was set to drive.
The race weekend was nearly as perfect as you’d want any race weekend to be. The car, the drivers and the team were flawless. Cameron and his co-driver, Robby, won IMSA’s Alan Jay 120 at Sebring International Raceway. As I sat in the pit lane watching the race from the pit box, I had a chance to observe the technology around me and its impact on the race.
Racing is more than just putting a driver in a car and hoping they cross the finish line first. The drivers and the car certainly play a massive role in the success, but racing has become a data-driven sport. Technology has become a requirement for teams to have a competitive advantage.
At the highest racing levels, every successful team has a group of Data Acquisition Engineers (DAGs), performance engineers and software engineers who collect and interpret data to improve the car’s performance. The data is analyzed to determine the adjustments necessary to improve the handling, aerodynamics and driver’s performance.
Most modern race cars provide real-time telemetry data that shares information on the engine performance, fuel mileage, tire pressure and track position. The in-car telemetry data is shared in real-time over the cloud to the team in the pit lane. The teams utilize the telemetry to build analytics tools and leverage machine learning to develop insights that improve overall performance.
In the pit lane, the team monitors the in-car telemetry alongside a live video feed from cameras located on each turn of the track. The cameras transmit the video feed to the pit lane, where it’s split between multiple displays in the pit box. A pit box is set up with various video displays to allow the team to gain insight into data telemetry, on-track activity and in-car activity. In some instances, cars are integrated with a live in-car feed that enables the team to monitor the video as if they’re sitting in the driver’s seat. A typical pit box has at least eight video monitors with matrix switchers managing the video feeds.
TV networks also utilize these feeds. In this case, NBC Sports was pulling the IMSA video feed to use in its broadcast. At fan-friendly racetracks, video displays are located around the facility to provide fans with turn-by-turn video access to all the on-track action without leaving their seats. Peerless-AV recently added over 800 Xtreme Displays and UV2 TVs throughout Daytona International Speedway as part of its $400 million Daytona Rising project. Meanwhile, Donington Park in Derby, United Kingdom, selected Tripleplay for digital signage and IPTV delivery.
Although the spotlight is on the cars and the drivers, racing revolves around technology. It’s a data-intensive and technologically advanced sport. Watch Cameron and Robby drive the #95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 to victory lane on NBC Sports. Catch the prerecorded race on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 4:00 p.m. EST or watch it on-demand with NBC Sports Gold.