With a Len­ovo wind at its back, Du­cati Corse is rack­ing up Mo­togp wins

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents -

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.

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