Into the technology fast lane


Windows 10, Office 365 and Dell help make HRT a winner

From the pits, it’s the noise that first gets to you. Close up, it is beyond loud. It assaults every part of you, tearing at your head, pulsing through your body.

V8 Supercars isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Inside the car things are different. The noise is still there but that’s the least of the inconvenience. The heat during the race can reach 60 degrees – unsafe without the race suit. With a top speed around 300km per hour the cars vibrate incessantly and the force of cornering and braking at high speed comes with violent effect.

It’s into that environment that 100 on-board sensors operate, sending continuous messages back to a highly-trained crew housed at the rear of the pits: the crew hunched over Dell laptops running Windows 10 and Office 365 as they strive to keep the Holden Racing Team (HRT) cars running at their optimal level.

And that’s absolutely vital: at a race in Adelaide this year the difference between finishing first and finishing 21st was just 4 tenths of a second!

HRT is Australia’s most iconic and successful V8 Supercar team in history, with its battles with Ford and other rivals the stuff of legends.

But if race day is the end point, it is in both the lead-up and the aftermath that technology also makes its mark.

The V8 Supercar circuit encompasses tracks throughout Australia and New Zealand, requiring IT with mobility, security, speed and robustness and simplicity at its heart.

As long-term Microsoft and Dell customer, Holden Racing Team made the decision to update to Office 365 more than two years ago, seeing its cloud-based structure as delivering that need for mobility and the ability to access real time data anywhere at any time. The more effective HRT are in conceptualising, planning and delivering incremental innovation away from the standard office environment, the more effective they will be as a business and a team.

It also proved to be both cost effective and flexible.

Windows 10 has the great advantage of being built on a converged platform, specifically for mobile use in the rapidly changing work space that HRT typifies. It also works across all devices – laptops desktops, tablets, phones and PCs – and boasts the sort of enterprise-grade security that is essential in the highly competitive and traditionally secretive world of motor sport.

The HRT upgrade to the Windows 10 operating system will be deployed to 150 devices across the entire group by mid next year.

Lee Webster, V8 Supercars’ chief Information Officer, has been pleased with the seamlessness of the change-over, which only occurred following a trial of the product by the IT department.

“We haven’t found anything that hasn’t worked,” he said. “Which is good. Going from Windows 8 to Windows 10 – everything worked.”

Lee said the organisation was also using Microsoft Azure to process the data it receives from the cars in real-time.

“We’ve got test machines in Azure and we’ve got test servers running there. But the main thing that we’re doing is the Azure site recovery where we basically replicate all of our servers and all of our key environments. It seems to be working very, very well.”

The relationship with Dell and Microsoft has enabled HRT to substantially cut down on the time they need to spend in preparation for an event, with the IT allowing set up times at each meeting to be slashed.

HRT Commercial Director Bruce Stewart said their continued investment in cloud technology and devices, “means we’ve halved the amount of freight and also halved the setup time that it takes us at the track.  That’s really important.  It enables the boys to spend more time in setting up the cars, focusing on the job at hand.”

Technical Director Matthew Nilsson said the technology allowed design work to be completed on a laptop anywhere at any time. “We can actually be at the circuit in our technical centre that we have in the truck and we can actually be doing some of this design work.

“If we had an issue with a part they want us to check, we have the ability to be, say, in Perth or Darwin, log back into the network here at Clayton in Melbourne and be able to actually either check the part or do some new design work that we might want to fast track for the next event if time is limited.”

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