LONDON — At the Isle of Man TT races, EMC is announcing the results of a new data analytics competition, designed to unlock the secret of what makes John McGuinness so fast. John, also known as the ‘Morecambe Missile,’ is a legend in the motorcycle racing world with a distinguished 25-year history in motorcycle racing, and is a 21-time winner at the famous Isle of Man TT races.
At the Circuit Monteblanco in Spain, EMC captured over 700,000 rows of performance, biometric and mechanical data from sensors fitted on the racing suits and bikes of both John and a control subject, Adam “Chad” Child, Senior Road Tester with Motor Cycle News. Some of the variables measured moment-by-moment during the race to help uncover exactly how the rider interfaced with machine include
- engine RPM
- lean angle
The data sets from John and Chad were released to the data science community in the form of an open competition hosted on CrowdANALYTIX to uncover the most compelling insights and answers to the simple question: What makes John so fast? The competition provided a broad range of insights into John McGuinness’ racing style.
The winner of the data analytics competition, Stefan Jol of a leading UK radio group split up each element of the track for analysis. This allowed them to be assessed and, like any business process, the data identified which stages had the most impact on overall performance. As a result, a bike can be set up for the most important elements of the track, and the information can guide the rider on where best to focus.
The winner of the visualization piece, Charlotte Wickham, assistant Professor of Statistics at Oregon State University, made the relative performance of each rider more apparent to the non-data scientist. By displaying them on the track, the difference in cornering was made very clear. While one entered the corner faster, this didn’t equate to a fast exit. John McGuinness braked harder, taking a better line, which in turn allowed him to accelerate quicker and exit at a faster speed.
Of the 750 participants, only 28 could complete the task, and two took the grand prize.
Mike Foley, Director, Data Science at EMC said, “Stefan was the only entrant who looked at how performance in one area of the track impacted performance in the other, which was ultimately why we awarded him the first place. We wanted the community to think differently when approaching this challenge to draw out new insights into why John is so fast, and Stefan did just that. Similarly, from a visualization perspective, Charlotte presented the data in an engaging way which made the differences in the riders clear to those outside of the data field.”
The preliminary findings were so intriguing that EMC will repeat the experiment with a more elaborate array of sensors at the Isle of Man TT, where they will capture significantly more data which will be analyzed to more definitively answer the question: What makes John McGuinness so fast? The project has also been documented in a film, to be released in the Autumn of 2015. A trailer for the film premiered at the TT races and is online here.
“I’ve been racing since I was 18 and I don’t really know why I’m so good at what I do. I thought it was interesting to see just how both the speed and positioning in the corners made the difference, from the test in Spain. I’m really looking forward to what can come out of the data from the TT and hope that some of information can be used to help make me an even better rider and the sport safer in the future,” McGuinness said.
“We were really excited to see how big data can provide revealing new insights about someone like John McGuinness, and have been thrilled with the interest shown in this project from the data science and motorcycling communities around the world. A project like this has never been undertaken before, and is already proving some interesting and significant observations. We are gaining a better understanding of what makes extreme athletes like John perform at such a superior level, but also through big data analytics we are gaining deep insights into how we can make the sport of motorcycle racing safer. We’re looking forward sharing this story with the world in the second half of 2015 through our documentary The Math Behind The Morecambe Missile which chronicles our journey with John and team,” said Jonathan Martin, EMC’s CMO.
About John McGuinness
John is one of the most versatile motorcycle racers around with a huge ability to ride all types and classes of machinery. He’s had multiple successes and set lap records at the Isle of Man, the North West 200, the Ulster GP and Scarborough on all categories of machinery from singles, in-line fours and V twins to GP 500 2 strokes. He has raced all over the world — from Daytona in the USA, to Macau in the Far East.
However, it’s at the Isle of Man TT that John has really made his mark within the world of motorcycle racing and he has already entered the history books as one of the all-time greats. In 2007, he became the first man to break through the 130 mph per lap barrier round the 37.73 mile island course and he was the fastest man for several years — (pushing the average up to 131.578 mph in 2009, then again to 131.671 mph in 2013).
About the Isle of Man TT race
There is nothing on Earth quite like the Isle of Man TT Races. No other motorcycle race is held on such a challenging track as the 37-mile plus Mountain Course with its seemingly never-ending series of bends, bumps, jumps, stone walls, manhole covers and telegraph poles.
The skill, bravery and concentration levels required are immense, with speeds approaching 200mph, and, while difficult to learn and even harder to come first, the rewards for winning on the world famous course are like no other.
Boasting a more than 100 year history, the TT racing captures the imagination in a way no other race can and its sheer spectacle and uniqueness ensures thousands of fans flock to the Island every May and June for their annual fix.