Corvette Racing Leads the Way in Electronics
Corvette Racing is known for its innovative approaches to engineering a winning edge, and the electrical wizards at Pratt & Miller have been working overtime to preserve that advantage. In the past, the team has used the standard arrangement of a few video monitors and engineering stations in the hot-pit lane to keep track of the cars' progress on the track. Prior to this season, the engineering staff at P&M designed a surveillance hub that employs 30 flat-screen video monitors (with 140 degrees of sight line) incorporated into an extremely sophisticated network of computer management.

All of the equipment is housed in a proprietary custom enclosure that has become the envy of pit lane. Normally, the system is powered by regular pit-lane electricity; however, should that power be interrupted, there are team-specific generators that automatically kick in to supply power to the network. If a lag occurs between the moment of power loss and the generators' light-off point, an inverter battery system (boasting 9,000 cold cranking amps) steps in to keep the voltage supply virtually seamless.

The new pit-lane surveillance system provides tire, brake, and fluid temperatures; engine-management data; and other read-outs in real time, allowing the engineers to keep close tabs on the cars' physical condition. The team also has access to satellite weather surveillance, giving it the ability to monitor possible changes in atmospheric conditions. All of this information is relayed back to the Corvette transporters parked in the paddock, where the team's system of four computer servers manages the incoming data.

In addition to observing real-time vehicle conditions, the new system allows engineers to predict potential outcomes. Using data from the cars, weather information, track configuration and conditions, and other factors, such as anticipated driver fatigue, the team has the ability to forecast a 30-lap window within the race. This can be useful for making decisions about race strategy or even predicting mechanical failure. All of this information flows among the three tiers of engineers housed in pit lane with the race team.

Meanwhile, the race team itself has 12 monitors on which to watch the progress of the two race cars on the track. They can literally follow the cars around the whole circuit, observing potential traffic problems as well as track conditions. Little is overlooked in managing the environment in which the cars perform. The new set-up is impressive, giving the team a very sophisticated competitive edge.-GJ