FAST TRACK SUCCESS
With a Lenovo wind at its back, Ducati Corse is racking up Motogp wins
Besides for a 10-times bigger team of race engineers, Formula 1 has a massive data upper hand over its two-wheeled motor-sport cousin. Each car is packing around 150 sensors and can transmit about 2 GB of data per lap, which can extrapolate up to 3 TB of raw data in a full race. Much of that gets flushed out by specific software and algorithms, and the usable volumes settle down at around 200 GB per weekend. It’s not a far leap for Motogp and its 150 GB per race weekend. But gathering data is one thing, processing it is another.
In April 2018, before the Gran Premio Motul de la Republica Argentina (second race of the season), Lenovo signed on as a sponsor for Ducati Corse. Later on, the team did a one-two at Mugello and claimed another win at Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. This is where we meet them, atop the podium and clutching Lenovo hardware.
‘As a racing team we need financial support, but there is a lot of data,’ says Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti. ‘There is also a lot of work for the engineers and we need fast, reliable computers and servers. More than that we’re also discussing ideas for the future with Lenovo, products we can maybe develop jointly.’
As a team, Ducati employ about 100 people, and 70–80 of those employees are engineers. The development team is split into component task groups focusing on chassis, electronics and engine, and those three main engineering
focus areas each come with its own unique hardware demands.
‘We divide the team into two main areas. Those at home who design the bike and those at the track who try to put all of the bike’s race potential on the ground,’ explains General Manager Luigi ‘Gigi’ Dall’lgna. ‘It’s important to exchange information between these two areas in the most efficient way possible. On Monday morning, after the race weekend, the people at home should start working on the problems we found at the track, because those solutions and new parts must be ready for the next event.’
That turn-around time is usually around 15 days (race day to race day) and includes the mammoth task of bike prep on the race weekend. Each race bike is dismantled and rebuilt after every session on a race weekend. Free practice and qualifying, every time the bike goes out on to the track. It’s on the Friday and Saturday that the engineers try and make the bikes as fast as possible under the track circumstances. That’s effectively building a full race-ready steed twice a day for three days.
There’s beauty in the symmetry of the work. The engineers describe the process as arriving at two equally fast machines ready for one incredible qualifying lap and then nursing them through the full race distance.
‘This is my real office,’ proclaims Dall’lgna as he waves his Lenovo X1 Tablet around. ‘This contains all the tools and information I need to do my job. Not only on the racetrack, but also in Bologna. I don’t use paper anymore and have data on here that stretches back to probably 2015, and its really important for me to have this kind of instrument to work with.’
The best thing about Motogp is that technologies developed here take about three to five years to make it on to the street. Under race conditions, however, there isn’t such a lengthy development period. A data link to the engineers in Bologna keeps information current and devices such as the tablet mean the decision makers always have the reference materials at hand when forced to make judgement calls.
Gabriele Conti is the team’s software and strategies manager, and heads up development for any software that runs on the bike. ‘Gigi is using the X1 Tablet, like me, that’s connected to the team server. This device is just a small part of what we need, but an important part. On the bikes there is a data logger that makes about 100 GB of data on a weekend. We have to wait until the bikes come in to download the data, because the telemetry is limited by regulations of Motogp.
‘It takes about five minutes to download the data then we have to interpret it, discuss with the driver, and change calibrations and upload to the bike. We use the laptops to do these downloads and uploads, and save the collected data on our central server, which is shared with our Bologna headquarters.’
It’s within these specific use cases that there arises the need for specialised products and joint solutions development between Lenovo and Ducati. The race team is also the perfect testing ground for pro-level hardware that Lenovo want to take to market because engineering tests workstations to its limits like no other job on Earth.
Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo blitzed the field in qualifying and went on to a dominant victory on race day in near perfect conditions at Montmelo. It seems the Italian giant has finally woken from its years-long Motogp championship slumber.
Clockwise from top: A pit walk on qualifying day has engineers busy prepping for that one hot lap. Jorge Lorenzo beams in a small press conference, confident in the speed of his bike on the weekend. Ducati Corse engineers discuss changes.