How DS Virgin Racing uses trackside technology to win

With the ambition of developing race winning cars, DS Virgin Racing needs three main components; the best people, the best car and the best technology. We delved into the trackside action with the Formula E team to see how game-changing technology affects the way they run their business...

“Technology is power, you can have the best car and the best team but if you don’t run your team in the most efficient way you won’t win races,” Sylvain Filippi, DS Virgin Racing’s Chief Technical Officer says.

Technology is key to how we operate as a team, both trackside and back at base. On race day critical decisions need to be made in extremely demanding time frames, so one of the constant questions we ask both ourselves and our Official IT Partner, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), is how can we use technology to better our team as a whole and – let’s face it – win more races?

Data – understanding what is good and what is not so good

Everything we do trackside at DS Virgin Racing revolves around data. The exciting stuff people see on TV and the performance of our team, it all comes from analysing race data. 

Data analysis is critical on site, just because something worked at one track doesn’t mean it will work on the next one. Because Formula E races through city centers the tracks we race on differ hugely, so analysing car data from both Free Practice sessions on Saturday morning is key.

Because the structure of a Formula E race day is so compact, time is of the essence between practice sessions. Getting the data from the car and driver to the engineers in between laps is crucial. There was a time when this was done manually with a guy running around with a USB stick(!) but thanks to HPE the data is now uploaded straight to our server and is appropriately distributed from there.

“We are currently working on doing this wirelessly and to save the drivers getting out the car we will be passing them a tablet where they can see the data and talk it through with their engineers on the radio,” explains Filippi. “They won’t even need to move and this is huge for performance because at the end of the day the drivers need this feed back so they can do better on their next run and every second counts.”

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Mission Control – a global operation

What most people won’t know is that Formula E restricts teams to just 20 operational people trackside, so we will build a Mission Control at Silverstone where additional engineers will receive the race data for analysis – no matter where the team are in the world.

The idea is to dramatically improve efficiency but with this comes challenges such as how do we get the data from A to B safely and securely? Well, this is where HPE come in, they’re working on it.

“At Hewlett Packard Enterprise, we are excited to support the DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team. Critical decisions need to be made quickly, which requires on-demand, track-side delivery of data. We look forward to deploying the next phase of technology solutions to enable championship-winning performances,” Martin Risau, Senior Vice President, Analytics and Data Management Practice at HP Enterprise Services, says.

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Big Data – making sense of the numbers

Often the data delivered during races is what we call ‘big data’ and it’s too much for a human brain to process, trying would immediately give you a headache. Our team are great but they’re not superhuman so to improve efficiency and save people’s time and efforts we are creating our own bespoke software that will have an input of chaotic data and an output of visuals that anyone can understand.

“As a race team, understanding the value of efficiency is essential. The reason we approached HPE is because we knew that they could connect the dots for us. At the time we approached HPE we had a great team and a great car but what we really needed was the information technologically expertise and that’s what HPE bring,” Team Principal Alex Tai says. “The key isn’t being an expert in any specific technology, math or data analysis but more about constantly challenging yourself to see what is coming next and trying to improve, often technology is key to finding the answer.”

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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