Computers have taken over. In a good way and not quite in the Skynet sense of the word… at least not yet. Imagining our lives without these gadgets is near impossible nowadays. Every domain, from space travel to baking, computers are indispensable tools for us. And inevitably, they have made their way into motorcycling as well and that includes the pits of MotoGP… the pinnacle of MotoGP.
It was bound to happen because, in order for the world to move forward, we have to learn from the past. And the past, in a sense, is data. Data that needs to be processed. Data that is stored efficiently in the form of 0s and 1s. And unless someone has come straight out of a certain James Cameron script, computers are needed to process that.
In MotoGP as well, the rider rides and keeps trying to push past the limits of the motorcycle and those of his own. And his team of engineers, they keep trying to figure out ways to keep him safe when he’s there. And of course, trying to make him go faster. If you have ever seen a MotoGP weekend in progress, it is chaotic out there and yet… in order.
In testing, racers go out on the track and do what they are meant to do… go fast. And fast is a volatile term in MotoGP as the standards keep going higher consistently. He pits and explains to the engineers what helped him in achieving that perennial goal and what didn’t.
Engineers convert his language to their own 0s and 1s and combine that with the data from the little computers in the motorcycles fed by tens of sensors that clear the picture further. That our friends… is a lot of data to process and so… computers.
In 2018, we saw an alliance which made what we are trying to state even clearer… when Lenovo teamed up with Ducati for the MotoGP effort. Folks at Ducati are purists. Motorcycle and motorcycle racing is all that there is to it for them.
But in an age where everyone is on the clock and a race is on even off the track, they needed help. The help of computers that could help them process all the data they need to keep their rides safe and on the sharper end of the standings.
And it is because of that need that we see the folks in the pit clad in Bologna Rosso with their Lenovo ThinkPad P1s ready to crunch numbers at a blistering pace. The results may seem insignificant to a Layman but that smallest degree of change in geometry, that subtlest revision in the chassis and the slightest change in the stiffness of the suspension… they make a world of difference when the rider goes out on the track after that. After all… 0.005s can be the difference between the top step on the podium and the next one.
A MotoGP motorcycle is the pinnacle of motorcycle tech for a reason. Every aspect of it is adjustable. The engine, the engine braking, the chassis, the suspension, the tyres and, of course, the electronics that control some of these aspects.
So, what’s required of the engineers is simple, find the best combination, apply it and see if it works. And as a result of that, what’s required of that ThinkPad P1 in their hands is also… simple. Process the data, run simulations, test the thousands of combinations of different settings, and filter out the best possible ones. And then the rider goes out on the track again.
It is a cycle that is repeated countless times in search of that one slight workaround that works the best. And all of that was for just one track… This season was supposed to have 20 races so it is not hard to imagine how much work goes into preparing that Desmosedici GP for the best possible shot at victory… on just 20 occasions in a year.
Most importantly, all of that is not limited to MotoGP. The whole point of that immense research and testing is to make production motorcycles better. An example could be the winglets that the new Panigale dons. One cannot begin to fathom the extent of research that went into making those winglets for the Desmosedici GP and then, for it to trickle down to a Panigale V4 that you can actually go out and buy for yourself.
At xBhp, we have been using the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 for a while now. It is comforting to know that we have with us a gadget that probably played a small part in Dovizioso’s victory or the Panigale V4 that we rode on Sepang. Of course, it is a team effort and the racers, the engineers, the crew chiefs, the technicians and so many others had a part to play. But that little ThinkPad P1 sitting on our table had a part to play as well.
After experiencing the Lenovo ThinkPad P1, we got to know why it is THE computer that belongs in that Ducati pit. It is powered by the latest-gen Intel Core i7 processors and so, the laptop is capable of blazing through a variety of tasks. Be it single-core loads like feeding resource-hungry applications with the data or multi-core tasks such as complex simulations and rendering.
In case of a mobile application like laptops, the capability of a processor is somewhat limited. One of the major bottlenecks is cooling. Especially in the outdoor setting of MotoGP. ThinkPad P1 packs a beefy cooling solution in its petite packaging to sustain the boost clocks that the processor achieves for longer durations. The result is faster and that is all that matters in MotoGP.
Another significant component is the discrete graphics card. The Nvidia Quadro line is the perfect companion of workstation requisites and the ThinkPad P1 features the P1000 model with 4 gigs of capacity… ‘Gigi, we are done with the last simulation you asked us to run… is Petrucci back in the pits yet?’ Yep…
The high-frequency RAM and the Solid State Drive go a long way in supporting the CPU and GPU to amp up the performance even further. Another requisite is durability… MotoGP pits are dangerous places running high on adrenaline. Pits are no comfy office spaces and therefore, no place for fragile. The ThinkPad P1 though is a prominent part so that does solidify its status as a machine in possession of extreme portability, profound performance and surprising ruggedness.
We have the firsthand experience of these characteristics of the ThinkPad P1 from both, the recent and the not-so-recent past. Coincidentally, we had a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop with us during our roadtrip called Mission Red Planet… where we rode a ‘Ducati’ Multistrada through 10 countries and finally reaching Italy to meet the then ‘Ducati MotoGP’ stars Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden…
Being banged around in the panniers and used consistently throughout the 10 country roadtrip is a valid test of ruggedness we reckon. These things are truly marvellous… aren’t they?
And here are some pictures from Mission Red Planet: