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A Technical Insight In To The Brabham-Digital Vision & Machine Learning

As one of the newest members of the Brabham Team, Technical Advisor David Murray-Hundley shares a first technical insight into the vision of Brabham-Digital, the game-changing digital platform set to underpin the Brabham Racing team's return:
I was introduced to motorsport as a kid by spending weekends at Audi Sport in Milton Keynes. I'd sit in the Audi Quattro rally cars freshly returned from races, complete with battle scares, and I wasn't afraid to bug Michèle Mouton and Hannu Mikkola, given half a chance. A devout Mansell fan until, aged 16, my dad introduced me to Ayrton Senna at the 1990 British Grand Prix, Senna's book 'Principles of Race Driving' still influences both my personal and professional life.

Obsessed with the Atari game, Pole Position, I wrote my own game for the BBC Micro aged 11. In hindsight, I created the fastest 0-150mph motorbike in the world. It was, however, obvious from the track layout that I'd never been to Le Mans!

I studied Artificial Intelligence when people thought it would never catch on and was part of many internet firsts in the 1990s, including being on the founding team at Commerce One that hit $22bn market cap.

So why join Brabham? Brabham is leveraging the power of its global iconic brand through a groundbreaking, interactive digital platform to create a new business model and also push change in the motorsport arena. The return of Brabham Racing as an open and transparent team will drive digital content to provide unique motorsport experiences and inspired learning, taking consumer to brand engagement to a new level, as well as identifying how to work smarter in the back-end operations of a race team.

The knowledge sharing and e-learning platform comprising Brabham-Fan, Brabham-Driver and Brabham-Engineer web applications will provide members with unrivalled behind-the-scenes access that will place the community at the heart of the action.
As a lifelong motorsport fan and spectator, I have always wanted to see the sport progress in line with technology. There are a lot of closed doors in motorsport, which to me makes no sense. No doubt there is a kid out there right now who can build technology for a race team that will shock the industry. Brabham, on the other hand, has always embraced innovation, going against the grain, doing crazy stuff (at the time) and winning. Brabham has always been about innovation and has regonised that motorsport needs to change drastically.

So in this blog I thought I would talk about Machine Learning and the innovation we are looking to work on with some of the partners we are going to announce in the future.

For years, people and companies have tried to record every aspect of man and machine in action. Indeed, even man, machine and track in action. Imagine today if we were able to look back and have data around how the greats, such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Stirling Moss, were actually doing lap by lap. Or even know what they were thinking, or how different variations understood could lead to the perfect lap or race.

Working with partners, we want to have sensors that measure everything from throttle usage, gear changes, acceleration and braking rates, to suspension changes, travel and front and rear wheel velocities, and to share that data with our community.
I remember watching the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix and watching Ayrton Senna spin behind Michael Schumacher. Up popped his heart rate on screen, which was only 164bpm. As a fan, I remember I wanted to be in that car on that track and although I wasn't really aware of what 164bpm meant it felt like, I felt part of the action. I got a real insight into what was going on in that car, or at least that's how it felt. When was the last time we saw anything like this in motorsport as fans?

Biometric Sensors have vastly improved in the last ten years, let alone since 1994. We are looking at back-end technology that allows fans to understand what the success of the driver is.

I recently looked at some data produced by EMC's data science area after a number of biometric tests were run on a driver during testing at top speeds of over 200mph. At that speed, most of us would most likely be 140bpm, 150bpm, 170bpm? Well this racer was 120bpm even at the top speeds, meaning his oxygen intake was lower, he was under less stress, more consistent in performance and getting less tired.

This is where Machine Learning comes in. With any testing, racing miles of data will be generated that needs analysing. The challenge we have is presenting and using the data in a way that is imaginative and smart. In fact, we hope to crowd-source data people from the Brabham community to help us. When we apply Machine Learning techniques to the data analysis process we will come up with useful variables that are used for any point of a lap. Right now we don't know how many but it will be those useful variables that can make a difference. These useful variables from Machine Learning will explain why a driver is faster or indeed slower during a lap or entire race. Did the driver brake later? Accelerate longer?

Imagine if this data was produced each race weekend and our Brabham community was able to help be part of delivering the perfect Brabham lap for the team.

This leads us onto our roadmap for pushing the boundaries around technologies. Smart Sensor Technology is an area we are looking at, which until now has been for those teams with extremely deep pockets. The costs have come down and we hope, just like seeing Senna's heart rate on screen, that we will soon be able to measure the body temperature of our drivers along with other sensors. Let's face it; measuring our own health is part of most smart phones so why, as fans, can we not see this when cars are out on track? Only the other day while out running, my watch vibrated to let me know my heart rate was over 135bpm… So we hope to soon be able to alert the drivers, and the community, to any change in the drivers' body condition.
Let's not forget. Machine Learning is never going to replace David Brabham's or our skilled team's natural ability or experience, or our passion for motorsport. What we hope Machine Learning can do for our drivers and the team is show where we can go even faster on track, maybe where they feel challenged and help them manage themselves by keeping relaxed and calm.

Of course none of this is new. F1 and Moto GP have been using this technology for years but it has been secretive and expensive. In many ways we are just looking to apply technologies that already exist and evolve them or present the data in better ways. Ultimately we want to give the fan an experience that is one step away from actually driving the car, exactly how I felt in 1994 watching Senna in Brazil. Wouldn't it be even more of a change to have a team deliver its race weekend powered by the help of its fans?

We hope 2016 will see the iconic Brabham Racing team return to the track for the first time in over 20 years, and as the first open and transparent world-class operation. Please come and look around www.brabham-digital.com and see what we are doing. I can be contacted at david.murray-hundley@brabham-digital.com

DMH