TAG McLaren International gains a racing edge

COMPANY: West McLaren Mercedes
PURPOSE: To process large amounts of telemetry data for successful race care development

APPLICATION: F1 Telemetry Analysis Solution -- Where is analysis of system performance crucial? Most everywhere, of course. But this is perhaps nowhere more so the case than in the world of auto racing. There, a team's value is measured each weekend as drivers and cars compete. While technology has always been applied to this quest, the technology used to monitor system performance today is being applied in quite massive doses. The resultant data is used to calibrate the all-important 'set-up' that attunes a car to a specific racetrack.

The fact is that the evermore-heated search for ever-more measurements and data may soon overwhelm the abilities of the racing crew charged with analyzing this data. For Formula 1 Grand Prix racing teams, such as the Woking, Surrey, U.K.-based West McLaren Mercedes racing team, a move to exploit higher technology is clearly in order.

To gain a racing edge, West McLaren Mercedes has developed a real-time telemetry analysis system that uses Unicenter TNG system management software from Computer Associates International Inc., Islandia, N.Y. Use of TNG Unicenter allows the racing team to view a three-dimensional image of the car that includes an-alyzed telemetry data gained either as bulk data retrieval or in real time. A specialized Formula 1 data collection system from TAG Heurer SA, Marin, Switzerland, is integrated with Unicenter TNG via Computer Associate's Neugent agent technology. The agents were programmed by McLaren and Computer Associates engineers to perform tasks such as algebraic calculations, component correlation and trend analysis. Other tools employed included Microsoft Visual C++.

The volume of telemetry data involved is quite prodigious. On a typical car set-up, said McLaren representative Richard Carmichael, 100-plus sensors collect data clocked at varying rates (down to 10-msec intervals). Ultimately, the team expects to store and manipulate about 25Gb of instrumentation data. According to Paddy Lowe, head of vehicle technology at McLaren, this should improve what-if analysis by McLaren test engineers who have previously relied on flat-file output to compare data from various races. Using a multimedia database such as Jasmine should allow engineers to quickly recall information as needed.

McLaren's Carmichael said the team management takes care in incorporating technology from team sponsors -- he uses the term 'partners' -- such as Computer Associates. "Money doesn't buy success," he notes.

Carmichael added that TAG McLaren Mercedes cannot test at every circuit it must race on. "It's expensive to take cars to Malaysia," he chides. Clever use of technology allows set-ups for the Malaysian Grand Prix to be derived from data collected at, say, European test tracks that have features similar to the Asian venue.

Success is a tradition with Team McLaren. The company was originally founded in 1963 by late New Zealand racing great Bruce McLaren. The company has chalked up at least 116 Grand Prix victories, three Indianapolis 500 wins, numerous Can-Am sports car wins, and one Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. Finland's Mika Hakkinen won last year's Formula 1 World Championship for McLaren, which is formally known as TAG McLaren International.

Does this application have use outside of the rarefied atmosphere of Grand Prix racing? Yes, say our Keane Inc. judges. Creatively and quickly gathering data for corporate benefit, they say, is the name of the game today. In fact, the incorporation of embedded system data feeds within operational corporate systems is now a constantly recurring theme. Now, do they have quite the same flash as a Team McLaren racer? Perhaps that is a question for another day.

-- Jack Vaughan


Jay Huff
Ron Dennis
Paddy Lowe
Charles Askew

Ease of access to data used for setting up Formula 1 race cars

Microsoft Visual C++, Unicenter TNG Agent Factory SDK, Jasmine, Jasmine Studio

Sun Solaris, Microsoft Windows NT

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.