One of the very first deployments of the new INFOPAD mobile computer was not out in a warehouse doing physical inventory. It wasn’t on the rear deck of a truck recording cylinder serial number barcodes or UPC barcodes off hardgoods as the driver made a delivery. It wasn’t even on the lap of a salesman doing a quote in the office of a welding supply customer. No, the public debut of the newest and most advanced piece of technology offered by INFONETICS was at New Castle Motorsports Park near Indianapolis, October 15th for the historic RoboPong.com 200 mile race for racing go-karts.
In only three years the RoboPong.com 200 has become arguably the most prestigious race in the country for the sport of karting – racing go-karts. Hosted by former Indy Car driver Mark Dismore, the event attracts teams and drivers from all over the world – including some huge names in pro auto racing: 2005 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon, 2003 IRL Champion Scott Dixon, IRL driver Tomas Scheckter and top female drivers Sarah Fisher and Katherine Legge and other pro racers.. This year’s event was even covered by national motorsport publications, live Internet radio and SpeedTV.
INFONETICS Account Specialist Jim Conlin owns and heads the Conlin SpeedSports team that features his two daughters, Dana and Tracy, who not only race against each other but some of the top kart racers in the country. And although they race from spring to fall in a regional series, the RoboPong.com 200 is focal point of their entire year. With a background in endurance sports car racing, Jim uses his experience to an advantage in preparing for their 200-mile kart race.
At 200 miles the race is 20 times longer than a typical kart race at local tracks. The New Castle Motorsports Park course is a 16 turn paved track on which the karts reach speeds of 75mph and cornering G-force loads similar to sophisticated racecars. Taking almost 4 hours to complete, the race makes demands of the karts and drivers that the teams don’t encounter the rest of the year. Because of the sheer physical demand karting makes on the driver each team has between 2 and 4 drivers to share the job. Drivers trade places when the kart comes into the pits to be refueled. Jim’s experience has been that one of the most important aspects of long distance racing success is having information immediately available to make critical decisions on race strategy. And with so many variables in play reliable communications is a must.
A big factor in any type of race is the weather. In karting the racing continues even in the rain. Rain tires are available for better grip, just like the big racecars, but knowing if you’ll need those tires and exactly when to pit to put them on can earn or cost a victory. When the INFOPAD was booted up and the wireless broadband cellular connection established, the web browser was immediately set to the local live weather radar site. That way the Jim would know in advance if adverse weather would be a consideration. And, in fact, it was. About an hour and a half into the race dark clouds moved into the area and a quick check of the INFOPAD display saw that a rain cell was in the area but would pass to the north by 10 or 20 miles. The information didn’t really give the team an advantage in this race but certainly would have if the cell was plotted to the south a bit. As it was, it allowed the team to refocus on their original plan whereas other teams may have been distracted by what they felt was uncertain weather conditions.
Running along with the live weather radar on the INFOPAD was an MS Instant Messenger session. Because the fuel tank size was regulated, each team would have to refuel about every 50 laps. An unscheduled stop before all the fuel was used would require a major adjustment in pit stop strategy. Success in this race requires that the team know exactly how many laps had been comleted since the last refueling. For this Jim relied on yet another of his daughters. With her laptop connected to the track’s wireless network and positioned near official timing and scoring, Julie used Instant Messenger relate official scoring and lap counts as well as the all important fuel lap count she was keeping on the team’s kart. Julie would also IM any other details relevant to Jim’s race management. As they had the previous year, the team also employed two-way radios for voice communications. But by using IM for the race info, it left the radios more available for team-specific dialog. The combination worked great right up until the radios went dead halfway through the race. Then instant messaging became Conlin SpeedSports’ only means of communication. Without the INFOPAD and Instant Messenger the team’s race management in the closing stages would have been crippled.
As it was, the Conlin SpeedSports team finished a respectable 16th out of 81 entries after running as high as 7th. If it wasn’t for a broken chain on lap 97 that kept the kart off the track for 8 minutes, the team would have easily finished in the top ten. The team’s drivers Dana Conlin, Tracy Conlin and Lynsey Tilton were the highest placing females in the race for the second year in a row and had the satisfaction of finishing ahead of professional lady racers Sarah Fisher and Katherine Legge. The team readily and graciously acknowledges some very special supporters for the 2006 RoboPong.com 200 without whose help the team wouldn’t have been anywhere near the front: INFONETICS, Bad Goat Racing, Team Biland USA KartPower, Stoney Creek Motorsports, PowerSports, Goodyear BW Tire and BGR Graphics.
SpeedTV has indicated that the RoboPong.com 200 will be broadcast on a Saturday evening this winter. More information on when the event will be televised as well as other information about Conlin SpeedSports can be found at www.ConlinSS.com.