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Innovation chat with Vicente Pechuan Vilar, engineering specialist at Magneti Marelli Motorsport

The future of Motorsport? Very difficult to guess it. For this reason, after the interviews to LapTime Club 2014 Innovators Alessandro Sarcina and Cristian Cascetta, we decided to introduce Vicente Pechuan Vilar, Engineering Specialist at Magneti Marelli Motorsport.

Besides his daily professional job, Vicente is also one of Magneti Marelli LapTime Club community engagers, and recently published some interested ideas inside the community. Read his community profile here, and enjoy this new Innovation Chat!

Hello Vicente, and welcome. In your personal opinion, does the motorsport future belong to connected cars?

First of all, I wanted to thank the LapTime Club for allowing me to express my ideas in such an open environment. I’d also like to make use of the opportunity to thank everybody who is contributing to this flow by voting and, most of all, by expressing their opinions. Furthermore, remember that most of times the ideas from people outside of the motorsport environment are usually the fresher, most clean from preconceptions and vices. All opinions are welcome!

So coming to us, does the motorsport future belong to connected cars? Well I guess that depends on… connected to what? If you mean to the internet or to some kind of big, public database, I don’t think so. When talking about motorsport, information is key to success, so teams seldom share data, it’s like gold for them. For this reason, data will always be a secret, in my opinion.

On the other hand, if we are talking about vehicles connected between themselves and all this info being monitored by race control, that would be definitely a yes! And not only motorsport, I think one day all road vehicles will be interconnected and, somehow, they will all know what vehicles around them are doing. But coming back to our sports environment, I believe there are still some concepts to exploit: if a car has a mechanical problem, why not to show it not only to the rider, but also to the riders behind him? If race control wants to give an urgent message to all drivers, why not to do it, simultaneously, to all of them? Or to the team? And how?

And to end with it, think about it: when I worked and lived away from races, I imagined all teams had, inside their box, a set of monitors where they could see what their riders were doing, real time. Nothing further from reality… when I came to MotoGP and finally worked with teams inside their boxes, my eyes were fully opened when I saw that, during the races, the only way they have to know what their riders are doing, is through TV broadcast! So, if you are not Marquez or Rossi, meaning that your rider never appears in TV, you are looking all the time at monitors that tell you partial times in current lap and show a yellow dot if he’s doing his pest partial. That’s all, for all the race! Come on, in the 21st century still with this? So as you can imagine, there’s still a long way to go.

Actually the matter will not be if they will be connected, but what data will be shared and how.

Wearable in motorsport: which innovative product development do you foresee in the near future?

I must confess, I love science fiction… since I was very young, so I feel very familiar and consider almost-normal some of the things I’ve “grown with”, watching on TV and films. You know what I’m talking about… Star Trek, Iron Man… you can see them wearing very cool accessories! And I’d love today’s riders/drivers to wear them. And they’d also be useful.

  • Health sensors all around the body, to help medical control to know the status of all riders, all the time. Also, for TV purposes and rider knowledge himself.
  • Accelerometers, to engage safety hardware, like specific airbags or other car/bike safeties.
  • Small monitors worn in the wrist of the mechanics, each of them showing specific data for specific purposes.
  • Head Up Display (HUD). This one I particularly love. I can’t wait, and I believe it’s a matter of time, to see bike information displayed in the visor of helmets. This could help a lot safety and improve information visualization and reaction times.
  • Mini cameras. All around the bike and the body of the rider, to be used by TV or team’s purposes, to monitor situation in 360 degrees.

Which innovative solutions and best practices related to infotainment but useful for the motorsport industry could you imagine?

I have always intended infotainment as a better, easier and “more advance” way of displaying information to the user and interacting with it. Actually, infotainment mixes information and entertainment. It’s like curved-3D TV in opposition to old style, black and white TVs.

We have come a long way in this sense, info is showed in much nicer, powerful and easier to understand modes. The thing with motorsport in particular, is that there is a huge amount of information to be analyzed, and displaying it in the best of the ways is not always easy. Besides, it requires a lot of effort from the user, in order to create the appropriate layouts, which in the other hand renders it much more personal and narrowed upon single needs.

Some of the solutions I’m sure will come sooner rather than later we’ve discussed above. For example, the HUD, Head Up Display, already used from decades in the jet fighter industry, and in use in some road cars such as some BMWs, Peugeots… for me, it’s a huge step in information displaying to the user. In this case, the user being the rider/driver. For the technical staff, I can already imagine touch-screen monitors, mouse that can handle the computer pointer without the need of a solid surface (so, basically, having your hand in the air), small tablets to easily show the rider the info he’s usually most interested at, computers that send voice commands and information to the user, and user that can respond, data transfer through ultra-fast wifi, so cables will be needed only as a backup… without forgetting phasers and plasma torpedoes!

What about the application of telemetry tools – such as Magneti Marelli WinTAX – to other non-motorsport sports?

We, motorsport  workers and co-workers, tend to be very proud of ourselves, to believe we are working in an environment that’s actually the pinnacle of performance and speed. We tend to forget that competition itself means the search for perfection and defeating your opponent (with best practices and always friendly approach, that’s for sure), and competition is vast and wide, and goes much, much beyond motorsport, right? Let’s think about a couple of non-motorsport sports, and think how tools like WinTAX could help.

  • Biking. I can’t imagine any other sport that puts so much physical stress into the sportsman. Yet, even without mechanical engines, it’s so focused on speed and performance. I can imagine everybody willing to have situation continuously monitored in real time, speed, strokes per minute, oxygen consumption, calories, position on GPS, distance to a particular rider… for road biking and mountain biking!
  • Marathon. Same here, very focused, in this case, on health parameters. I guess all professional long distance runners would love to see nice data from their performance, and it would help them and medical experts to exploit human capacity to further limits. Also for rush races! Like Usain Bolt and company.
  • Triathlon, Decathlon… sensorizing bike and shoes, and putting a GPS to all riders, in order to see where they’re strong and where they’re not, compared to their best performances and to others.
  • Swimming, skiing, America’s Cup

In the end, it’s about imagining which sensors and which data would make for each particular sport, and being able to analyze data with WintaxPossibilities are endless!

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