Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tech Day at Infineon Raceway

Today was an absolutely incredible day here at Infineon Raceway. The IZOD Indy Car Series organized a Technology Day for writers.


After arriving at the track and shooting photos of the Indy Lites practice, we met at the Media Center and were assigned to one of the team's pits for the morning IndyCar practice. This meant that we were sort of captive in the pits rather than being out around the track taking photos, but we got a first hand look at what goes on as the teams work to make final preparations to their cars before the afternoon qualifying session.


After the practice session, we had lunch in the Honda Hospitality tent, hosted by Erik Berkman, President of Honda Performance Development. I've got lots of notes from our lunch meeting, many of which will be included in my forthcoming article.


Then we were driven up the hill to the Versus TV Compound, where Robby Green, VP and General Manager took us through the many tractor trailers that house the various television production facilities, including one trailer containing cameramen operating the numerous remote controlled cameras scattered around the racetrack, and the main control room where the director and producers control the on-air broadcast.


Then we went back down to pit row where we were met by Bryan Herta, former IndyCar Series driver and owner of Bryan Herta Motorsports. We each received Motorola headsets so we could hear all of the race team communications and also ask questions.


Then we met with Jack Arute, the primary on-air commentator for Versus' coverage of IndyCar racing.


Next, we went to the pits of deFerran/Dragon Motorsports, where we met with Eric Zeto, the team's race engineer (who I also interviewed yesterday for my article) and Raphael Matos, driver of the #2 HP deFerran Dragon entry. They explained how the team collects and analyzes telemetry throughout the race.


We then had a bit of a break, so I went back trackside to take photos of the Historic Grand Prix cars during their final practice session.


To round out the day, we were driven up to the IZOD IndyCar Series Paddock Club, where we met with Gil deFerran, 2003 Indy 500 winner and owner of deFerran/Dragon Motorsports, and Tony Cotman, the project manager of the 2012 IndyCar. We also met with Matt Ellis, the manager of Infineon Raceway.


It was an incredible day.

I've also got a bunch of videos that I shot throughout the day that I'll be uploading later once I can edit them down. So check back again later next week.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Racing in Sonoma

Friday was the first day of practice here at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. I climbed up the hill to watch the action in turns 2 and 3. Shooting late in the afternoon, this proved to be a dramatic location, with some excellent photo opportunities of cars as they crested the hill.
Here's Marco Andretti, driving the number 26 car for Andretti Autosport. Marco already has a career win here at Infineon.
Will Power, driving the number 12 Verizon Team Penske car had some demons to vanquish. Coming over this hill during the race last year, he collided at full speed with the stationary car of Nelson Philippe, who had just spun. He broke two vertebrae in his back and missed the rest of the season. Power now leads the points total for the 2010 Indy Racing League season.
Power had no problems negotiating the turn during practice, and would go on to clinch yet another pole position during Saturday's qualifying session.
I'm here this weekend to work on an article on how de Farran Dragon Racing uses technology from its primary sponsor, HP, in the preparation and operation of its car, driven by IRL rookie driver Raphael Matos. I attended the Indy 500 this year as a guest of HP and will use the opportunity afforded by this weekend at Infineon to complete the research for my article.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Most Fun I've Had With My Clothes On

I've got to admit right off the bat that today, I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store. I finally got to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time. I got to ride in an Indy Car 2-seater race car.

I watched other people doing this at several tracks, most recently when I was in Indianapolis for this year's Indy 500. At that time, I was ready to pay to ride, but then learned that all of the opportunities were already sold out for the entire weekend. Well, today, I finally got my chance.

Here I am all suited up and waiting for my turn.

I'm at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California to photograph the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, the last road course race of the 2010 Indy Racing League season.

Thanks to my friends at HP, today I got to partake of the "Indy Racing Experience." What's more, my driver today was Davey Hamilton, one of the drivers with Dragon Racing, the team sponsored by HP. I'm currently working on an article about the team.

The 2-seater is a larger version of an actual Indy car. It's got the same engine that they ran last year. The only difference is that it's longer, with a second seat behind the driver.

After arriving at Infineon Raceway at 9am, I signed several pages of release forms and then went into a changing room to don my firesuit and boots. Then, I waited until it was my turn to put on a balaclava, helmet, and gloves and climb aboard behind Davey. After the crew strapped me in and surrounded my head with a Hans device, they started the engine and we took off.

What a kick. Going from zero to more than 100mph in a few seconds and then braking through the corners and up the hill at Infineon (still Sears Point as far as I'm concerned) was an incredible rush.

If there was any downside, it was that the two laps were over way too quickly. I talked with Davey afterwards and told him next time I want to drive.

I shot some video while at the track and also got some onboard video shot from a car-mounted camera. I've edited the footage together and posted it on YouTube. Here it is. Enjoy.

All I can say is, if you've ever thought of doing a 2-seater ride, go for it. And thank you HP for making my ride happen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Did You Know That I Am "Renowned"?

For the past several months, I've been working on a productivity study comparing AutoCAD 2008 to AutoCAD 2011. The basic idea behind this study was to attempt to quantify the potential time saved - or productivity improvement - that a typical user could reasonably expect to achieve by upgrading from their current version of AutoCAD to the latest release.

In order to quantify this improvement, I devised a series of tests involving timing the repeated re-creation of a selection of drawings using both AutoCAD 2008 and AutoCAD 2011. The drawings I used were representative of those that would be produced by typical AutoCAD users.

By upgrading from AutoCAD 2008 to AutoCAD 2011, I reduced the time required to create these drawings by 31 percent, reducing the overall time from 13.5 hours to 9.25 hours. When I then switched from AutoCAD 2011 on an older workstation running Windows XP to a newer workstation running Windows 7, the time required was reduced further. On the more modern system, it took just 7.5 hours to create the same eight AutoCAD drawings, an overall reduction in time of 44 percent from AutoCAD 2008.

I thought that was pretty dramatic. So did Autodesk. And so did the folks at HP and NVIDIA, co-sponsors of the study.

The complete productivity study is now available on the Autodesk website.

I'll also be participating in a webcast next Tuesday, August 17, from 10:00-11:00am Pacific time. I hope you'll join us for the webcast, hosted by Heidi Hewett.