What a day with the Target Racing Team

Yesterday I lived the dream of thousands of race fans: I got to hang out behind the scenes at the Target Racing Team. I interviewed Jacques Lazier, driver of Target’s #10 car. You’ll see him on ESPN on Sunday in Toyota’s Indy 400 race.

I had no idea what went into racing. Jacques spent a lot of time with us. The car he drives costs about $1 million with $100,000 worth of electronics alone. It’s amazing the amount of telemetry data they can get off the dozens of sensors that come off the car.

Ever drive 218 MPH? Jaques does. But, you ever do it with dozens of other cars just inches away from you? You ever do it knowing if you make a single mistake it’ll be the end of your life (or worse?)

I learned that there are actually two different sports going on. One is a physical one. That’s Jacques’ world. It’s one of eye hand coordination, of picking the best line, of having the smoothest hand, of having the best technique.

But there’s another sport: the geek sport. See, Jacques led us into the garage. There we met with teams of geeks who had Dell laptops plugged into the car. They were testing out the dozens of sensors.

As they drive around the track these sensors report all sorts of data back to their laptops and Tablet PCs. They get to watch EVERYTHING going on with the car. There are even laser sensors inside the front wheel that measure distance from the ground and tilt and rake of the car.

The team — most of which has advanced college degrees in physics or engineering — told me how races are determined by who has written the best algorithms to figure out things like gas mileage of both them and their competitors.

The team wouldn’t let me shoot three things: their suspension systems, their engine and gas line systems, and their algorithms.

By the way, I want to shout out to one of my readers: Joe Berkemeier. He wrote me and said he’ll be at the race this weekend covering it for Tracksideonline.com.

Oh, and, yes, the team bragged about how they use Microsoft stuff including Tablet PCs, Windows Messenger, and OneNote. More when I get the videos up in a couple of weeks.

Comments

  1. Robert, that is just fantastic.

    If you were so excited by an Indy car race, I wonder how excited you will be if you get to tour the Formula 1 pits.

    BTW, Microsoft should sponsor a racing team. Several other software and hardware companies do it!

  2. Robert, that is just fantastic.

    If you were so excited by an Indy car race, I wonder how excited you will be if you get to tour the Formula 1 pits.

    BTW, Microsoft should sponsor a racing team. Several other software and hardware companies do it!

  3. Oh brother, not another OneNote/Tablet case-study marketing pitch. I think I have heard this 50x over the past 2 years, one hit and they play it on the radio until it hurts your teeth. But in all reality, it has everything to do with Microsoft’s close relationship to Target Stores, and not any indictor of a wider trend, as no other racing teams are looking to emulate such a setup. Telemetry systems have been around since forever, and car-mounted routers are somewhat commonplace nowadays, basically just a gimmick writing in Ink. Red Bull Cheever Racing is doing some interesting stuffs too, but you won’t see that in a MFST Press Release. But anyone that thinks that races are won by “algorithms” obviously has never been to the tracks.

  4. Oh brother, not another OneNote/Tablet case-study marketing pitch. I think I have heard this 50x over the past 2 years, one hit and they play it on the radio until it hurts your teeth. But in all reality, it has everything to do with Microsoft’s close relationship to Target Stores, and not any indictor of a wider trend, as no other racing teams are looking to emulate such a setup. Telemetry systems have been around since forever, and car-mounted routers are somewhat commonplace nowadays, basically just a gimmick writing in Ink. Red Bull Cheever Racing is doing some interesting stuffs too, but you won’t see that in a MFST Press Release. But anyone that thinks that races are won by “algorithms” obviously has never been to the tracks.

  5. Yep, if you are impressed by Indy suspect you’d find Formula One even further advanced. I was lucky enough to see the McLaren Formula One team pits at the Melbourne Grand Prix a few years ago. The technology was impressive.

  6. Yep, if you are impressed by Indy suspect you’d find Formula One even further advanced. I was lucky enough to see the McLaren Formula One team pits at the Melbourne Grand Prix a few years ago. The technology was impressive.

  7. Christopher Coulter comments “… But anyone that thinks that races are won by “algorithms” obviously has never been to the tracks.”.

    Watch F1 (Formula 1). Every race is decided by the complex computations done to determine when to get the car IN to the pits, when to get it OUT of the pits, how much fuel to put in to the car and a whole lot of other things. That is just the strategy part of it. Just think about the algorithms on the car itself. It’s just mind-boggling.

    I know for a fact that Ferrari has been long-time users of Microsoft software. They do all their development on Windows!

  8. Christopher Coulter comments “… But anyone that thinks that races are won by “algorithms” obviously has never been to the tracks.”.

    Watch F1 (Formula 1). Every race is decided by the complex computations done to determine when to get the car IN to the pits, when to get it OUT of the pits, how much fuel to put in to the car and a whole lot of other things. That is just the strategy part of it. Just think about the algorithms on the car itself. It’s just mind-boggling.

    I know for a fact that Ferrari has been long-time users of Microsoft software. They do all their development on Windows!

  9. Robert — I’m envious.

    There was a rumour floating about in the last two years that Microsoft was to become a major sponsor of a F1 team (Toyota if I recall was mentioned). I guess it was nothing more than an rumour. Microsoft, though. has some history sponsoring motor racing — I believe they were at one time a major sponsor of an Atlantic series team.

    Anybody out there know if there was/is anything more to the story?

  10. Robert — I’m envious.

    There was a rumour floating about in the last two years that Microsoft was to become a major sponsor of a F1 team (Toyota if I recall was mentioned). I guess it was nothing more than an rumour. Microsoft, though. has some history sponsoring motor racing — I believe they were at one time a major sponsor of an Atlantic series team.

    Anybody out there know if there was/is anything more to the story?

  11. BTW strange as it seems Jaques seems like the correct spelling of his name — you use both Jaques and Jacques(what I would expect but apparently is not correct) in your post.

  12. BTW strange as it seems Jaques seems like the correct spelling of his name — you use both Jaques and Jacques(what I would expect but apparently is not correct) in your post.

  13. You are a lucky man Scoble. I would love to go inside stuff like that.

    This stuff is so cool. I would like to see what F1 and MotoGP (cars and motorcycles, respectivly) do. I would think they take slightly more data. An F1 car is worth something like $14 million.

    Sorry, I love racing. :)

  14. You are a lucky man Scoble. I would love to go inside stuff like that.

    This stuff is so cool. I would like to see what F1 and MotoGP (cars and motorcycles, respectivly) do. I would think they take slightly more data. An F1 car is worth something like $14 million.

    Sorry, I love racing. :)

  15. “You are a lucky man Scoble. I would love to go inside stuff like that.”

    Matt, you will be able to in a way, when the video is published. ;)

    Very cool stuff, Scoble, can’t wait to see it!

    /me is a racing fan.

  16. “You are a lucky man Scoble. I would love to go inside stuff like that.”

    Matt, you will be able to in a way, when the video is published. ;)

    Very cool stuff, Scoble, can’t wait to see it!

    /me is a racing fan.

  17. Sweet. Channel 9 right? I am LOVING Channel 9.

    My goal is one year to either go to Indy for the US Grand Prix (F1) or the US Grand Prix out at Laguna Seca (MotoGP).

  18. Sweet. Channel 9 right? I am LOVING Channel 9.

    My goal is one year to either go to Indy for the US Grand Prix (F1) or the US Grand Prix out at Laguna Seca (MotoGP).

  19. Christopher: you’ve never had the pitch in HDTV.

    Yup, and as the movie title goes, 8 Million Ways to Die. And I have never had the pitch with your insane laugh and ‘green-guy-day-at-the-races’ hit either. These videos would work so much better if you story and script plan them out, with multiple shots and fades, instead of casting yourself as the main bumbling gee-whiz character. I know part of the supposed ‘charm’, but it makes me seasick, and I doubt it reaches beyond the normal audience it would have anyways. You don’t have to Marketing Dept. spend thousands, but gosh, get them to hire a real videographer, scripter and director, and someone that can do Avid and Vegas tricks in their sleep.

    Decided by the complex computations? No, as so many other human, material and emotional factors that defy computation, plus ‘full analysis’ is always another race beyond. A good indicator, and a good strategy, but as any comptent battle general knows, you deal with the scenario at hand, as nothing ever goes according to plan. And all the intelligence in the world isn’t worth a dime, if not used when needed. You can’t reduce this to a data game.

    Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances – Sun Tzu c. 490 BC, Chinese military strategist

  20. Christopher: you’ve never had the pitch in HDTV.

    Yup, and as the movie title goes, 8 Million Ways to Die. And I have never had the pitch with your insane laugh and ‘green-guy-day-at-the-races’ hit either. These videos would work so much better if you story and script plan them out, with multiple shots and fades, instead of casting yourself as the main bumbling gee-whiz character. I know part of the supposed ‘charm’, but it makes me seasick, and I doubt it reaches beyond the normal audience it would have anyways. You don’t have to Marketing Dept. spend thousands, but gosh, get them to hire a real videographer, scripter and director, and someone that can do Avid and Vegas tricks in their sleep.

    Decided by the complex computations? No, as so many other human, material and emotional factors that defy computation, plus ‘full analysis’ is always another race beyond. A good indicator, and a good strategy, but as any comptent battle general knows, you deal with the scenario at hand, as nothing ever goes according to plan. And all the intelligence in the world isn’t worth a dime, if not used when needed. You can’t reduce this to a data game.

    Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances – Sun Tzu c. 490 BC, Chinese military strategist

  21. Scoble, I’m not worthy. I’m so envious. Having grown up an Indy Car fan since 1973 (Johny Rutherford won the Indy 500 pole that year and the race was full of brutal accidents), you HAVE to invite your book editor the next time you get Indy Car inside access! Preferably for team Andretti Green. :)

  22. Scoble, I’m not worthy. I’m so envious. Having grown up an Indy Car fan since 1973 (Johny Rutherford won the Indy 500 pole that year and the race was full of brutal accidents), you HAVE to invite your book editor the next time you get Indy Car inside access! Preferably for team Andretti Green. :)

  23. Isn’t it adorable when geeks try to understand sporting events and they are inevitably unable to view it from anything other than a geek lens?

  24. Isn’t it adorable when geeks try to understand sporting events and they are inevitably unable to view it from anything other than a geek lens?

  25. Dmad: well, when you get to see the video I shot of the team. They are the ones who said there definitely is a “race within a race” between the geeks.

  26. Dmad: well, when you get to see the video I shot of the team. They are the ones who said there definitely is a “race within a race” between the geeks.

  27. Dmad, that comment is a bit out of line I’d say. I happen to be a programmer who loves cars. So what if when I build my car I plan on hooking the laptop up to see if I can smooth out the fuel map. Having my car run it’s best is important to me, especially once I get it track ready.

    -TJ

  28. Dmad, that comment is a bit out of line I’d say. I happen to be a programmer who loves cars. So what if when I build my car I plan on hooking the laptop up to see if I can smooth out the fuel map. Having my car run it’s best is important to me, especially once I get it track ready.

    -TJ