Toyota Drives Microsoft Windows 8 to Daytona, NASCAR

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-02-23

Toyota Drives Microsoft Windows 8 to Daytona, NASCAR

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) USA, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., is using Windows 8 technology to literally drive racers and crews in NASCAR competitions, such as the Daytona 500.

TRD, which serves as the North American racing arm for design, development and assembly of Toyota’s factory racing engines and chassis, worked with Microsoft to design a touch-enabled app for Windows 8 as the centerpiece of a new strategy to improve the performance of the Toyota teams competing in NASCAR. Indeed, a Microsoft team is on hand at Daytona International Speedway this weekend to help out with the application, known as Trackside.

Erwin Visser, general manager of Windows commercial marketing at Microsoft, who initially posted a blog entry about the Trackside app on Dec. 17, 2012, said, “Our Microsoft team is with TRD this weekend at the season opening NASCAR races in Daytona, Florida, to see how things are shaping up on the race track with their Windows 8 Trackside app running on the new Surface Pro,” in a February 23 post.

When drivers, crew chiefs and team engineers expressed the need for a more mobile computing platform to monitor real-time performance data, TRD delivered the Windows 8 Trackside app and deployed it on Microsoft’s Surface Pro with Windows 8 Pro.

Previously, during practice drivers and crew chiefs had to record racing performance data with software on a laptop, or even with pencil and paper, requiring drivers to get out of their race cars to view information about the car’s performance, as well as to explain what was happening on the track.

Yet, now with the Windows 8 Trackside app and Surface Pro, the race team can efficiently capture performance data through the touch-based app and share it with the crew in real time, enabling mechanics to immediately get to work fine-tuning the race car for enhanced performance, Microsoft said. Trackside also offers touch-enabled data that gives the crew chief and driver insight and analysis on timing and scoring data versus competitors, allowing a team to determine if the right adjustments have been made to the car or what adjustments may need to be made.

“Trackside running on Surface Pro means more time is spent on the track and less time is spent talking,” said Steve Wickham, TRD’s vice president of chassis operations, in a statement. “Teams are back on the track faster, allowing them more time to determine the optimum setup for the race car. Our mission is to take advantage of the latest innovation in technology to quickly get better data -- which translates into faster cars on the track.”

Since 2007, TRD has been developing racing software on the Windows platform for teams to analyze and improve performance. TRD differentiates itself within the hypercompetitive racing business through technology innovation, Microsoft said. Today, RAB Racing with Brack Maggard is one of the first Toyota teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series to use the new Trackside solution.

Toyota Drives Microsoft Windows 8 to Daytona, NASCAR

TRD officials said the Toyota racing subsidiary stays at the forefront of racing technology by working with Microsoft. “One of the biggest differentiators between TRD and our competition is that we have invested heavily in Windows software,” said Steve Wickham, vice president of chassis operations at TRD, in a statement. “Recently, however, we’ve been getting pressure from teams to improve communications and to introduce a more mobile computing platform that can be used trackside.”

“For Toyota teams to finish first on the track, we must also be the first to innovate our technologies behind the scenes,” said Darren Jones, group lead for software development at TRD, in a statement. “We chose Windows 8 because we get enterprise-ready security and management, the familiarity of the Windows development environment, and a fully capable touch-enabled interface.”

TRD provided teams with applications that run on laptops, but the drivers found them difficult to use. “I’ve just come off a 175-mile-an-hour run. I’m strapped in, my adrenalin is pumping, and the car is being jacked up and down,” said Kenny Wallace, who drives the #99 Toyota Camry for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard. “I can’t be fumbling with a mouse and keyboard to tell my crew chief that we have to figure out why I’m losing a couple hundredths of a second in the third corner.”

Microsoft’s Visser explains why TRD moved to Windows 8. “TRD most recently had a Windows 7 version of the app called TRD Race Strategy,” he said. “It was a timing and scoring-based app that TRD used during practice runs to compare lap times. The app worked great on laptops, and stationary monitors, but it wasn’t touch-enabled and had to be used with a mouse and keyboard, making it difficult for drivers to access information while sitting in the car. TRD needed something more mobile for the track environment that could improve communication between the driver and crew.”

Visser said Windows 8 filled that mobility void with a small and convenient touch tablet that the driver can easily use while sitting in the car and then hand to the crew chief, without any data getting lost in translation. To design the Trackside app for Windows 8, TRD was able to repurpose its original code from the Windows 7 Race Strategy app, and re-skinned it with a Windows 8 user interface to deliver its mobile touch based experience, he added. Moreover, the ability to reuse code saved TRD significant time in development and testing.

“Throughout the 2013-2014 race seasons, TRD will expand its support capabilities to roll out the app on Windows 8 to remaining teams across all three national touring NASCAR series,” Visser said.

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