We joined the deFerran Dragon IndyCar team at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma to take a look at how the team uses technology in a very demanding environment. The team is sponsored by HP, which provides the technology necessary to run complex simulations and make split-second decisions.
IndyCars are powered by 650 horsepower Honda engines and race at up to 230 miles per hour. We had a chance to speak to deFerran Dragon team members and take photos of the Grand Prix of Sonoma while standing just a few feet from the cars racing by. Raphael Matos drives the #2 deFerran Dragon car, which raced in Sonoma. Davey Hamilton drives the #21 deFerran Dragon car, and will be joining Matos this weekend in Chicagoland.
The deFerran Dragon team is tech-centric from the top down nature. It is co-owned by Gil de Ferran, Steve Luczo and Jay Penske. Steve Luczo is the chairman and CEO of Seagate, a company that provides hard drives to companies such as HP and Apple. Jay Penske is a tech entrepreneur who is the CEO and Chairman of Mail.com. Gil de Ferran is a former IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner.
IndyCar racing teams travel the globe, racing everywhere from Indianapolis and Alabama, to St. Petersburg and Sao Paulo. This means the entire team and its gear have to be highly mobile.
The team’s engineers use several HP EliteBook Mobile Workstations both on and off the track. While planning for races, the team’s engineers run simulations to prepare for the next race. These high-end mobile workstations are powerful enough to run complex track simulations and SolidWorks wherever travels may take them. With the latest Intel and NVIDIA technology, the Elitebooks are powerful enough to use as primary machines, freeing engineers from working with desktop PCs.
The team is pretty rough on its gear, including its EliteBooks. Each week is a mad dash to the next raceway, and ultimately the finish line. The EliteBooks are not fully ruggedized, but they are built to be much more durable than your average notebook. They’re built of tough materials, including magnesium alloy and aluminum, making their structures rigid and impact resistant. Underneath the displays aluminum shell is a magnesium honeycomb to keep the glass from shattering. The keyboard has a special coating to improve longevity. Ductwork drains liquids spilled on the keyboard to prevent permanent damage.
We met up with Davey Hamilton earlier this year in Los Angeles, where he explained exactly how in-car telemetry is used by the team. The demo cart was outfitted with HP Envy 13s, a notebook that some of the team’s managers carry.
Unfortunately for deFerran Dragon, the #2 car was clipped from behind with just seven laps to go, going from 10th to 21st place in the blink of an eye.
Business class notebooks are clearly the right tool for the job for IndyCar teams. Several other teams, including the GoDaddy team that stars Danica Patrick, use HP mobile workstations in the pits. Other teams, such as the Verizon team led by IZOD IndyCar Series points leader Will Power, opt for Lenovo ThinkPads. Despite having millions of dollars to spend on cars, travel and crew, a couple of IndyCar teams inexplicably use low-end consumer notebooks that are more suitable for writing book reports.
HP EliteBook Mobile Workstations are available in several sizes and configurations, ranging from the compact 14″ EliteBook 8440w to the 17″ EliteBook 8740w. Those who don’t need all of the muscle found in the mobile workstations can find the same durability features in HP’s business EliteBook series. With a 12″ display, the 2540p is the most mobile model and can be purchased for less than $1,000 in its basic configuration.