Edition 134 The Need for Speed…And Data

A few weekends ago, I treated myself to an experience that I first dreamed about as a 9 year old.

On Saturday afternoon, I toured the Tickford Racing pit garage during practice for the Supercars event at Sydney Motorsport Park. I was one of 10 that gained an insight into the workings of the team with a personal tour from Tim Edwards, the Team Manager of Tickford Racing. It was fascinating to finally make it into the inner sanctum.

On Sunday, the weekend was better still as I took two hot laps in the Monster Energy Ford Falcon V8 Supercar, driven by David Russell, one of the co-drivers during this year’s Endurance races. And, no, this wasn’t one of those road car type mock up jobs – this was the real deal, the actual car that, the previous evening, had taken part in a 300km night race, complete with the battle scars of close racing.

For 41 years I’d wished for this moment. For all that time, I’ve imagined what it would be like. When it finally arrived, it was everything I didn’t expect.

The speed is simply brutal. On exiting pit lane, David floored the car and as the tail wiggled, I realised this was going to be one hell of a ride. I gripped the seat for extra support, such was the impact of hard acceleration and hard braking.

He flicked the car around turn 2 and it was amazing to see how quickly his reactions were. I’ve seen it thousands of times on TV – but nothing prepares you for it when you’re in the car itself. The Falcon drifted and he pulled it back into line with a sharp grab of the wheel, which actually looks more like an aircraft joystick than your typical steering wheel.

As he belted it down the main straight at more than 250 km/h, what struck me was how late he braked. The braking markers appeared – 300 metres, 200 metres, 100 metres – it was after the last marker that he braked hard and fought the Falcon into Turn 1. Meanwhile, whilst he’s doing that, your stomach is still at the 300 metre marker.

It wasn’t just the speed that struck me.

My first two observations upon entering the car were:

  1. How incredibly low David sat in the car, with his legs almost parallel to the floor;
  2. How hot the cockpit was. Stepping into the car was like stepping into a sauna, but with fumes from the 5 litre V8 racing engine thrown into the mix.

However, here’s the biggest observation I made – there is data everywhere. The dash doesn’t have your typical instrument cluster. On the steering wheel there is a small electronic screen that displayed 10 different items. The gear selected is one. Temperature readings are others. Funnily enough, speed didn’t feature.

When I hopped out of the car and removed the racing overalls, I wandered over to where the race engineers were sitting – in front of a bank of computer screens with even more data. Micro sectors of the lap. Low oil pressure warning sign. Engine temperature. In a sport where 1 second covers the first 20 cars in qualifying, data is critical to winning races, or finishing last. Data helps the team to engineer a better car – and instruct the driver where to improve on his lap – a pseudo real time performance appraisal.

Today, I’d like you to ask yourself:

  1. What data am I recording in my family business each day?
  2. Who is monitoring that data and what are they doing with it?
  3. Who’s holding you accountable for your performance?
  4. How do you know whether you’re heading for a podium, or languishing at the back of the pack?

This Week’s Tip

“Data provides feedback. Feedback creates improvement. Improvement generates success”
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