Fast cars backed by fast chips and fast disks

IT plays an important part in Formula 1 racing, and two teams have announced existing technology partnerships will be extended to 2006."All IT is really important.
Written by Stephen Withers, Contributor
IT plays an important part in Formula 1 racing, and two teams have announced existing technology partnerships will be extended to 2006.

"All IT is really important. We do a huge amount of predictive analysis based on computer simulation," says John Howett, president of Panasonic Toyota Racing. "You can't really compete in Formula 1 without world-class IT," he adds, explaining that as a young team, Toyota must rely more on simulations.

The team collects a huge amount of information from over 300 sources, including some 150 sensors on each car (covering engine, chassis and electronics) and a private weather station. Wireless links trickle-feed data from the cars from around the track, followed by high speed bursts as they pass the pits to ensure every measurement was captured.

The data is initially stored on an EMC Clariion that travels with the team, and then mirrored to a larger EMC Symmetrix unit at Toyota's base in Cologne, Germany. Further mirroring there ensures the continued availability of data.

Taking the data to the engineers means Toyota can bring more skilled people to bear on any problems, says EMC marketing director Clive Gold. The Clariion's fault-tolerant design means it can survive this harsh life without being specially ruggedised, he adds.

Panasonic Toyota Racing is also sponsored by Intel, and the team uses clustered Itanium 2 systems for the simulations mentioned by Howett. Despite the processing power, some of the simulations take hours to complete and are run overnight.

Scuderia Ferrari relies on Intel archrival AMD, but processor power is still the bottleneck, according to team manager Stefano Domenicali.

The team uses systems based on AMD Opteron, Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX processors for faster real-time performance diagnostics, fluid dynamics simulations and telemetry applications.

As simulation become more accurate, it "saves a lot of course time," says Domenicali. Fast analysis is also important in applying the results of wind tunnel testing, he adds.

"Simulation and analysis of our single-seat cars in the wind tunnel are key steps both in the designing and development phases," says Ferrari IT manager Antonio Calabrese. "Considering the amount of data we gathered and the time constraints we face, AMD64 technology is helping us process data information faster and react more quickly".

Ferrari technical director Ross Brown says "on the race track, the faster we can analyse telemetry data and discuss car and driver's performance, the better we can plan the race. AMD technology has proven to be reliable and meet our demanding expectations".

"Ferrari are number one in their field... not only [in] performance, but also reliability," says Domenicali. "AMD technology provided us with the number one products".

AMD is happy, too. The Ferrari relationship "strikes fear in our competitor's mind," says Henri Richard, senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, AMD.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello took first and second places in the Australian Grand Prix. Toyota drivers Cristiano Da Matta and Olivier Panis finished 12th and 13th, 2 laps behind the Ferraris.

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