SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - APRIL 2017

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 61 of 107

PLUGGED IN YELLOWCOG SUGGESTS MONITORING THE DRIVER CAN IMPROVE PERFORMANCE AS WELL AS PROVIDE ANOTHER LAYER OF SAFETY By Dan Sanchez As many SCORE racers know, driving for many miles on wide open Baja terrain is hard on the body. Aside from the constant vibrations and jarring back and forth, heat and dehydration have shown to diminish a driver’s focus and reactions. This is one of the many reasons why Marc Smith, Managing Director at Yellowcog, has been pushing for the use of driver monitoring systems. “Monitoring allows teams and medical personnel the ability to see how a driver’s physical state is at any time during a race,” said Smith. “As an example, they would be able to see if the driver is dehydrated, which can result in slower reactions or look at the data collected after a race, and see how they react when approaching another vehicle to pass, or simply at what point the driver reaches exhaustion.” From Patient Monitoring To LeMans The idea of driver monitoring didn’t come immediately for Smith and the team at Yellowcog. Before the company came into its own, the team first started running a medical hospital patient monitoring company, which still exists as a separate division. “We started Yellowcog from what we learned in the medical field, and applied it to athletes like marathon runners and cyclists,” said Smith. “Then four years ago, we were approached by the motorsports industry and as fans of motorsports we wanted to see what we could do.” The first monitoring systems Yellowcog used in a motorsports environment, were attached to a driver during the 24 hours of Le Mans race. The driver was actually a Gran Turismo Academy driver, an international virtual-to-reality contest that allows the best Gran Turismo game players to compete for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a real-life professional race car driver. “The idea was to provide fan engagement,” said Smith. “The gamers turned drivers were monitored so fans could see the driver’s vital signs on a huge screen as they reacted to real driving situations. This demonstrated to fans that were watching, how hard drivers work.” Testing In Real Racing Situations The 25 Hours of Le Mans proved that the monitoring system yielded a tremendous amount of data that could be used for the driver to later analyze performance, or to engage fans as to what’s happening to the driver during the race. “Again, info from the drivers were made available so fans could see what was happening to them on a big screen,” said Smith. “Fans paid more attention and teams learned more about the driver’s physiology and psychology at the same time.” “The system worked perfectly, including driver changes. While there were other prototype devices out there, we were the only ones with devices that were proven at a race like LeMans,” said Smith. Yellowcog also had an opportunity to test their system during Indy 500 races and GT races in desert conditions. “One of the first responses we received from a team was temperature related,” said Smith. “Drivers weren’t complaining about heat, but the crew chiefs noticed that lap times were getting slower. Once they used the Yellowcog system and realized that the driver's core body temperatures were overheating, they allowed more ambient air to enter into the car. This allowed the driver’s core temperature to cool down and lap times increased. The funny thing is that the driver reported that the car performed much better, but the crew chief had not many any changes to the race car.” Will Driver Monitoring Be Useful In SCORE? With heat as a major factor, Smith doesn’t simply suggest that driver monitoring be simply used for determining if an off-road racer is overheating or dehydrated. According to Smith, the system can also be used by the driver, who can go back and look at the data to improve their personal performance. “The driver can see the peaks and valleys of how he/she is reacting to different situations, and learn how to manage their physical and physiological condition at different moments in the race,” said Smith. As an example, the data can show what is happening to them as they overtake a vehicle or if they’re getting too exhausted driving countless miles behind someone else’s dust. “Over time, drivers can see the information and make it less dangerous for them and anyone around them,” said Smith. “Overall, there are definitely priorities that are different for each participant in motorsports. The series cares about safety, the teams care about winning, and drivers care about their own performance. This is simply a way that could provide additional answers for everyone involved to reach their goals.” Tapping Into The Driver While at first, many would imagine having wires and sticky nodes attached to a variety of areas on the driver’s body, but the fact is that systems like the Yellowcog monitoring devices are much simpler and more comfortable. “The actual device is a small one-ounce box that fits into the vehicle,” said Smith. “The system can integrate into the vehicle’s existing telemetry and GPS systems and sends it as any other data. We utilize what’s already there to get the driver’s date to where it needs to be.” The information from the driver can be collected from a variety of devices. “We understand from our experience in racing, that drivers have varied preferences, so we offer a variety of devices from a heart-rate monitor that you see at the gym, to more expensive versions that strap around the chest and monitor everything from heart rate to breathing,” said Smith. “There are also wrist straps and even ear pieces, all of which allow drivers to choose their specific way of monitoring, depending on what they feel is most comfortable.” Overall, teams and drivers can select what they actually want to monitor, depending on the level they want to reach and the overall costs involved. For SCORE racers, this is a bit different than what has been offered in the past within the motorsports arena. “Teams have tried monitoring successfully, but it has so far only been limited to a closed track, utilizing a laptop and a device that’s bolted to the vehicle,” said Smith. “What we wanted to bring is the capability that someone could use a system that is made up of a small core piece of hardware that can be tucked away and be easily integrated with what’s happening today as well as in the future.” In addition to providing drivers with information on how they can improve, a monitoring system can also be useful in providing medical teams at races, vital information during an emergency. “These systems can be installed in rescue helicopters and get integrated with automatic data systems,” said Smith. “Medics can see the physiological data before and after an event, which helps to use for diagnosis. Moving Forward While this type of technology is currently being used in close race courses, and most recently by all the crew of every America’s Cup racing teams, the hope is that it can provide SCORE racers with added information that they can utilize to gain a safety and performance advantage. “Right now we’re selling to drivers and teams all over the world who understand that the advantages this type of system brings,” said Smith. “With SCORE we believe the first step is to allow teams to use the system and get that data back. Then they can decide how it can work for them.” SOURCE

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