Laptops connected to the race car gather a wide variety of key racing information—downloaded directly from the pit at any given racetrack—to be studied later. This includes data on lap speeds, steering wheel position, braking, turns, track conditions and G-forces at work, according to Joe Traut, chief engineer for Gorilla Racing, which is based in Ayer, Mass.
But Gorilla Racing quickly discovered that data is only as good as its accuracy and availability to end users when its needed most.
After some close calls—wherein laptops were damaged or information was not properly synchronized following races—Gorilla Racing hit the pedal, turned to GenXSP LLC and chose the service providers SyncSave managed backup services offering featuring Televaluting software that GenXSP had use of from an OEM deal with Asigra Inc.
Gorilla Racing tested its mettle in 13 races this year as a participant of the Grand-Am Cup series of professional racing events. Each race stretches over about 200 miles and generally takes more than 2.5 hours to complete.
The Nissan 350z is maintained by DWW Motorsports; the race team is Gorilla Racing. The support work is contracted out to DWW, which performs maintenance on the vehicle in its shop. (DWW stands for David W. Woodle, the owner of the shop, noted Traut.)
Gorilla Racing competes in the "grand sport" class of racing, which features very fast cars. The team typically lines itself up against race cars such as the BMW M3, the Porsche 997, the Acura TSX and RSX, and the Chevy Cobalt, to name a few.
Gorilla Racing rebuilt the heart of its race car using its Motec Systems USA engine management system, since circuit rules allow Nissan models to use a completely different engine make. It is the Motec program that feeds data into laptops during races, Traut said.
"Every time we go out in the car [during a race], we can watch all the sensors. When the car comes [into the pit], we can download every single wheel speed, steering angle, throttle input—everything the driver did," he said. "From the car, we get rpm [data], temperatures on the gear box and temperatures on the rear end."
This isnt just nice-to-have information. "Thats all pretty important data when you have two drivers because they like to compare driving styles and adjustments," Traut said. "No two drivers drive the car the same, so its important they can learn from each other."
The Gorilla Racing team can use the saved data to streamline performance on a specific track, for example, determining how a specific brand of tire handled on the track under a drivers unique steering control. The results are then analyzed to help improve the cars capabilities and performance in time for the next race.
This year, the Grand-Am Cup series took the Gorilla Racing team from Daytona, Fla.; to Virginia; to the Dominican Republic; to the California Speedway, in Fontana, Calif. The rigors of travel and constant repacking of hardware, tools and other materials were deemed too high a risk for laptops carrying sensitive data, Traut said.
"The real problem is, if something happens to the laptop, we cant get that data from the car. We had one time where the computer wasnt stored very well within the trailer, and it was damaged. We had to get another laptop on the road," Traut said.
Further pushing the envelope to institute a reliable backup offering requiring little or no intervention, Traut said race preparations and time spent at the track took a heavy toll on backup duties once an online connection was made available.
"Youre trying to back up [data] as best you can, but when you have race groups going out and some of the days are quite long, you do what you can. But it just wasnt a foolproof method. Theres so much to worry about—so many lists, making sure you have the right equipment, all the right parts, everything is recorded—there just isnt enough time in the day. It [is] one of those nagging things that will turn around and bite you," he said.
On the recommendation of a friend within the IT services industry, Traut and his organization kicked the tires on SyncSave, an off-site managed backup services offering from GenXSP. SyncSave also provides managed e-mail, managed security and spyware protection, noted Steven Gorriaran, president of GenXSP, in Providence, R.I.