“A once in a lifetime experience.” “It revs you up and takes your breath away.”
That’s what it’s like to take a corner at 180 mph, and it’s what people are saying about The Indy Racing Experience, a two-seat IndyCar program that uses real IndyCars—stretched to accommodate a passenger—authentic driver gear and Indy racetracks to provide one of the most unique rides around. Equally breathtaking is how fast the program is growing thanks to the HP computer systems and peripherals it relies on, says Scott Jasek, who co-owns the company along with Jeff Sinden and Joe Kennedy.
“Ultimately our experience is the finest in the world because it’s the safest in the world, and it’s the safest because we have reliable access to the information we need to take cars to that speed with passengers onboard,” says Jasek. “Of the three major sporting events in the U.S. each spring—the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500—you can’t play golf at Augusta, you can’t ride a horse in the derby, but thanks to HP and the growth of our business, you can ride in an Indy car at Indianapolis during May,” he says.
“Whether it’s tweaking the performance of our cars, evaluating ride conditions, improving design elements, or being efficient with our reservation handling process, HP technology has absolutely allowed us to grow our business,” says Jasek, noting the company has yet to advertise.
While HP desktops and servers support activities such as bookings and finances, HP notebooks collect data each time a ride is completed. Engine parameters such as oil pressure, fuel pressure, temperature, RPM and throttle, are recorded using an onboard engine control unit (ECU). At the end of an event, the information is downloaded onto HP notebook computers at the track and transferred to HP servers at company headquarters. The data is used to improve car design as well as to proactively deal with possible engine trouble.
“We’re always analyzing in order to make sure nothing’s going wrong with the engine, and to build new pieces to help keep the cars running at their best,” says Kennedy, noting that the two-seater IndyCars were originally engineered by Dallara, a company based in Italy which also relies on HP computer systems.
HP hardware is involved in all aspects of The Indy Racing Experience, from the moment customers watch the orientation video on an HP monitor, to their arrival at the track where confirmation numbers are checked on a rugged HP notebook, to the digital picture and video they receive at the end of the ride, recorded by an HP camera, printed on an HP printer and burned onto an HP DVD.
“We’ve always used HP,” says Kennedy, remarking on ease of use and reliability as key deciding factors.
“It’s the underlying infrastructure of products, software, service and support that make IndyCars run at their best,” says Bruce Michelson, HP Distinguished Technologist. “And pit stop adjustments can be compared to a ‘well tuned’ technology refresh cycle and ongoing innovation from IT. In both scenarios, service is the key and the end users don’t need to think about what’s going on behind the scenes.”
Service is also key for a second division of The Indy Racing Experience, SRS Entertainment, which uses HP technology to grow its business too. Beginning in 2001 with two mobile information trailers and five Indy show cars—shells of cars that enable people to “touch and feel” the inside—the company now has 20 mobile advertising units and handles roughly 9,000 events a year, using simulations and interactive touchscreens.
“Imagine building an interactive display that’s like a living Web site where people can walk in, and touch and feel your product or service,” says Jasek.
Just about every piece of computer equipment used in the interactive displays is from HP, including the touchscreen monitors, the printers used to print the graphics and the desktops used to design them. SRS Entertainment continues to grow, receiving orders on a weekly basis.