Bringing big data to the racing world

NASCAR may dominate the U.S. racing scene, but elsewhere in the world Formula One is king. From Italy to China, F1 is viewed as the pinnacle of competitive motor sports, drawing hundreds of millions of viewers and generating massive revenue streams. According to the latest figures provided by the organization's global broadcast report, worldwide viewership reached 515 million in 2011, Reuters reported. After factoring in race hosting and television airing rights fees, trackside advertising and sponsorship revenue and ticket sales, the annual revenue generated by F1 totals approximately $1.5 billion, according to Autoweek.

With that much at stake, it's no wonder that the companies responsible for building race cars would take every available advantage to improve their vehicles' performance. In the case of Britain's McLaren Group, that includes deploying big data analytics to get the most out of their automobiles, ZDNet reported. The company's researchers outfitted each of its race cars with approximately 160 sensors that typically create one gigabyte of raw data during each event. That information is automatically sent in real time both to the team's garage and to a company technology center. The racing team can leverage that data to tweak the performance of their race cars in the midst of an ongoing race to address emerging structural issues or take advantage of track conditions.

Building state-of-the-art racing machines
Meanwhile, McLaren's team of engineers utilize the data gathered during races to enhance their efforts to build state-of-the-art competitive racing machines. Leveraging data analytics tools is especially important to the development process because the company builds nearly entirely new race cars from the ground up each year.  According to McLaren Group CIO Stuart Birrell, only about 5 percent of the parts used to create new vehicles are from earlier models. With the expectation of creating new high-performance vehicles each year without relying on past technology, engineers can significantly benefit from the insights provided by big data solutions.

As McLaren researchers go through the design process, building models and subjecting them to fluid dynamics, wind tunnel and live track testing, data analytics software provides feedback on a vehicle's performance every step of the way. The cars are equipped with roughly 300 sensors to collect information regarding how it responds to various conditions. Even after engineers have created a finished product, the company's race cars are continually examined using big data as the racing season rolls on. Birrell told the news source that the organization's current data analytics efforts are focused on making micro adjusts to improve the speed and performance of their racing machines and identify any issues that may be affecting their ability to compete.

Like members of many other industries, McLaren engineers have just begun to realize the benefits of Hadoop big data tools. Given more time to pursue their data analytics programs, researchers will continue to find new applications for the burgeoning technology.

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May 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Hey, that’s not a McLaren……….

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