Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Racing to victory at 240 mph

Speed is everything in the ultra-competitive Verizon IndyCar Series. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is using Lenovo technology to help transform big data into engineering insights, running complex simulations that reveal how to optimize racecars for peak performance.
It’s hard to hear yourself think over the roar of revving engines, squealing tires and the cheering crowd at the Verizon IndyCar Series event. Everyone’s eyes are glued to the track as racecars scream around the course at speeds of up to 240 mph. Well, almost everyone’s.

Huddled around the timing stand in the pitlane is the team from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM), all poring over their laptops. Charts, graphs and numbers flicker across the screens, spitting out up-to-the-millisecond stats on the team’s DW-12 Hondas. Each car is equipped with over 100 sensors monitoring acceleration, brake temperature, wind force, aerodynamic balance, tire pressure… you name it. And all of this data comes streaming in from the cars on the track in real time.

“We’re racing such powerful, lightweight cars that the margin between success and failure is miniscule” says Piers Phillips, General Manager at SPM. “Just a few milliseconds can make the difference between qualifying second and pole position, or between first and second place.”

So how exactly do SPM’s engineers turn raw racecar data into a competitive advantage? “That’s where Lenovo comes in,” says Nick Snyder, Engineering Manager at SPM. “The quantity of data we take off the cars is huge, which is why we’ve got to move quickly to turn it into insight we can action during a race.”

Parked beside the SPM engineers is what looks to be a typical 18-wheeler transporter. But then Snyder reveals that it’s actually a mobile data center filled with Lenovo tech and capable of running complex data analytics right there alongside the racetrack. And because each engineer is equipped with a Lenovo laptop, they can delve into that data right away to understand exactly how the SPM cars are performing.

“Being able to process data there and then during a race gives our engineers real-time insight into the mechanical, electronic and aerodynamic properties of the car as it’s going round the track,” says Phillips. “Once they understand how the car’s behaving, they can instruct drivers to make adjustments to get the best possible performance, which could make all the difference in a close race.”

Snyder adds: “We never attend a race without that trailer! The durability of the Lenovo equipment is just astonishing. We’ve driven that server to racetracks across the US and never once had a component failure.”

Back at SPM’s Indianapolis workshop, the team has another Lenovo server for race simulations. Engineers take a car, model it mathematically, run it around a virtual course and see how that data compares to data collected from real races.

“Each simulation is different,” explains Snyder. “We change the body shape, chassis structure, suspension, downforce, etc. etc. and then put that virtual car through thousands of different race scenarios in just 15 minutes. We can run as many simulations as we need to figure out which car configurations work best.”

The crowd whoops in admiration as cars swing round a tight corner at eye-watering speeds, all willing their team on towards the finish line. The SPM engineers are silent, deep in concentration.

Behind every SPM victory, every champagne celebration is the engineering team – the guys you see at the race who aren’t watching the cars zoom around the track. It’s the guys looking down at their laptops, calmly working with one of SPM’s most valuable resources: its data.

“We’re one of the only IndyCar teams really pushing the boundaries of the big-data approach to racing,” says Snyder. “We feel our partnership with Lenovo has given us a big advantage over other teams. Now we just need to focus on leveraging the technology to shave those precious milliseconds off our laptimes – and leave our competitors in the dust.”
“We’re one of the only IndyCar teams really pushing the boundaries of the big-data approach to racing.”
– Nick Snyder, Engineering Manager, SPM
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