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RFID Gives Racing a Winning Edge

Using active RFID tags, the Indy Racing League not only times and scores 16 events, it also provides critical data to drivers and race crews, and helps engine, tire and chassis makers develop products.
By Patrick Karle
Pit stop data is particularly critical for Honda. “Races can be won or lost in the pits, and pit loop data helps us identify how a driver exits the pit box, and then gets the car up to speed,” says Griffiths. “It can give us an indication of the relative fuel economy of the cars, and that helps us get a direction for future development.”

The TransXpro is mounted on each car and transmits a signal to the decoder

Honda installed an extensive AMB multiloop timing system at its Hokkaido test track in Japan. Porsche has been running a similar system at its test track in Leipzig, Germany.

Firestone engineers rely on the transponder data to test the performance of tires. Page Mader, general manager for Firestone’s race tire development, says that knowing the speeds on the straights and in the corners can help them gauge how a car is running the course, which influences tire traction and patterns of wear.

Firestone engineers in the pits use a variety of electronic and mechanical tools to measure each tire’s temperature, pressure and diameter after the car runs laps in practice, qualification and the race. They load tire and transponder data from the correlating laps into a spreadsheet application to form a time-speed baseline. Firestone engineers compare and analyze the data to see if the tires are performing to specification on the track, as well as how all the teams with various chassis and engine combinations are performing competitively at any given track. “We can tell if the teams are running the tires at the correct specifications for pressure, diameter and camber,” says Mader.

Firestone maintains all data collected from each IRL competition in a historical database. Data can be mined for later analysis, and the analysis is used to make informed decisions about car setup.

“Our goal is to build better, safer, longer lasting tires,” Mader says. “The accuracy and quality of the IRL’s timing and scoring data to 10,000ths of a second gives Firestone a perfect engineering baseline for building new tires back at the main plant in Akron.”

Sam Garrett, U.S. technical liaison for race car manufacturer Dallara Automobili, of Parma, Italy, says Dallara generally has two or three engineers present at every race, collecting data on how various conditions affect the performance of their cars. The data reveals ways Dallara can improve aerodynamics, cooling and suspension characteristics, and helps the company solve performance problems for its customers, who are the owners of more than 50 percent of the IRL teams’ cars, including the Honda-powered Andretti-Green Racing and Toyota-powered Team Penske.

Koskey says the AMB TranX Pro system produces uniform information, and IRIS distributes it with scientific precision. Drivers, owners and race officials use the data for their own purposes.

IRL officials use it to officiate the race; teams use it to set up their cars; engine, tire and chassis manufacturers use it to design and develop their products; the ABC Sports announcers mine the data for statistics for commentary during the broadcast; and the fans at the race and at home rely on it to see who’s winning. In essence, it’s an open system that is unmatched in the ultra-top-secret world of auto racing.

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