IMSA Driving Innovation Technology Forum Explores Future Collaboration

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

IMSA President John Doonan often describes IMSA and the portfolio of sports car racing championships it manages as “the” platform where the automotive and advanced technology industries merge and collaborate…and where business get done.

In conjunction with the Rolex 24 At Daytona, many of those constituents came together at the International Motorsports Center – headquarters to both NASCAR and IMSA – for the inaugural IMSA Driving Innovation Technology Forum Powered by rEvolution. Versatile NBC Sports anchorman Leigh Diffey moderated a panel discussion that attracted an audience of automotive and technology industry leaders that nearly doubled the forecasted attendance.

Before Friday’s on-track activity occurred across the way at Daytona International Speedway, Doonan welcomed the audience and set out his vision for IMSA, setting the scene for remarks from several technology industry leaders. A vibrant question-and-answer session followed and led into networking opportunities, with lines forming to connect with the panelists:

Matt Kurdock, Senior Technical Director, IMSA
Jacob Bergenske, Director, Bosch Motorsport North America
Shawn Henry, Chief Security Officer, CrowdStrike
CJ Moses, Chief Information Security Officer, Amazon
Steve Clayton, VP Communications Strategy, Microsoft
Taylor Newill, Senior Director, Oracle

“We’re at an incredible moment in our sport – all of motorsport, but specifically, endurance sports car racing,” Doonan remarked. “IMSA is the place with the most technologically advanced and the most sustainable race cars in North America, thanks to our partners at Michelin, Bosch, and VP Racing Fuels, and our auto manufacturer partners. The IMSA Platform has, in fact, become a launchpad for auto manufacturers, a proving ground for their next generation of powertrains, and a showcase of their future design direction. The racing cars are the ultimate expression of their road products – this is the essence of what IMSA is all about.

“The companies represented here today are amongst the world’s most influential technology and automotive corporations. They are not speaking to what’s happening on the racetrack today but sharing how their vision for new and emerging technology is accelerating development times and driving competitive advantage.”

Newill explained why racing and the information technology industry make a natural combination. “I was asked last year after one of the Formula 1 races in the U.S., ‘Why are Microsoft and AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Oracle getting involved in motorsports?’” he said. “The data highlights why we are all here. There’s an incredible amount of data, and our companies provide tools to turn that data into increased performance. Each of the IT tools that are being used are there to help the business run better.

“We’re not a wrench that can help tighten the wheels; we are compute power that can help process the data.”

IMSA’s Kurdock explained that the introduction of the hybrid-electrified Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category in 2023 represented a “step change” in terms of the complexity of the cars. As a result, IMSA is much more reliant upon data and data-logging equipment to obtain timely and accurate data to create parity for each competing automobile manufacturer.

“We’re at a factor of 40-x where we were three or four years ago in terms of the amount of data moving from each car and being processed,” added Bergenske of Bosch, a company that has partnered with IMSA from the outset of the new GTP cars.

The real-time availability of data can also benefit fans by providing a deeper level of engagement. Shortly after the flag dropped at the Rolex 24, IMSA – in partnership with AWS – launched a new fan telemetry service that provides real-time telemetry for all GTP entries showing Energy Regeneration, Energy Remaining, Speed, Gear, Brake/Throttle levels, and Pit Status.

Those following the new telemetry during the race’s late stages via https://www.imsa.com/gtp-telemetry/, whether on their phone or via computer, might have noticed that the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 was able to add less energy to the car during its final pit stop relative to the chasing pack. This data-driven strategy resulted in a two-seconds quicker pit stop that allowed it to emerge ahead of the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R, which was a critical factor in Penske’s eventual victory. Accessing race data brings the fans closer to their heroes and certainly took my enjoyment and engagement to a new level.

Clayton revealed that using artificial intelligence technology recently allowed Microsoft to develop a new type of battery that uses 70 percent less lithium than existing technology and that similar applications of AI technology could be used in racing car designs to develop new materials much more rapidly: “Previously, what would have taken 10 years, took a few months,” he said. “I think it can help with the big challenges, material science, and help sustainability efforts in particular.”

Amazon’s Moses said that the increasing reliance on computers and computer-generated data helps humans become more productive. “I think one of the things we always need to remember is that technology is a value-add to the human – that’s always the case,” he said. “In the cyber security space, it’s easy for us to think that computers are attacking computers, but there is always someone behind the keyboard, on both sides. You want the person behind your keyboard to be smarter than the other side, and the more technology you can provide them allows them to be more focused on the things that matter most.

“In the case of motorsports, that’s to have your driver be the most prepared for that environment and use the technology most effectively,” he added. “The driver who best utilizes the technology available to them, and the team that does so behind them, will be the winners in the end.”

CrowdStrike’s Henry encapsulated how critical data has become.

“The vast amounts of data being captured through motorsport from research, development, through to on-track performance, provides a competitive advantage for the manufacturers involved,” Henry stated. “Race data has become sought-after intellectual property. It’s how OEMs shape future road cars, and appropriate security is necessary to protect it.”

Given the positive reception to the initial gathering in Daytona Beach, IMSA and rEvolution are planning additional activities for later this year.

“The inaugural IMSA Business and Technology Forum far exceeded everyone’s expectations,” commented Diffey. “It’s one thing to hear from entities already involved in the sport, but to have leaders from technology companies that have [changed] and continue to change the world, [that] took it to a whole new level. It was a landmark day in the timeline of IMSA and reflects the growth trajectory the sport and business are on.”