It takes more than great driving to win IndyCar and Indy Light races. It also requires great data.
That data drives each of the decisions that will be made by racers as they speed through the streets of St. Petersburg this weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix.
UPDATE: As of Thursday morning, general admission to the race was cancelled. A decision on holding the race was expected to be made later Thursday.
St. Petersburg technology firm Spirion will be safeguarding the data of one of those racing teams. As part of a sponsorship of the RKM Racing team and driver Robert Megennis, Spirion will install its data privacy software on team computers to protect critical driver, car and race performance engineering data, both on and off the track.
The sponsorship also gives Spirion exposure and access to customers of other major technology companies, as well as branding on Megennis’ No. 27 Indy Lights car for the 2020 race season, which kicks off Sunday in St. Petersburg.
“It’s a perfect fit for growing the business. It’s the right audience,” said Kevin Coppins, president and CEO of Spirion. ”But also being in the marketplace from a branding standpoint, and investing in the city as well.”
The relationship with the RKM team — one of seven Andretti Autosports teams — is a microcosm of what Spirion does for its more than 500 business customers, including some of the world’s largest universities, aerospace and financial firms. RKM is using Spirion’s software to protect what matters most — its intellectual property.
Related story: St. Pete data privacy company Spirion targets growth
The St. Pete Catalyst got an exclusive look at a presentation by Megennis to Spirion employees, showing how he uses propriety data to power his career.
“Everything that happens in and around the race car is measured and reported,” said Megennis, a 19-year-old driver with 15 top-three finishes and 52 top-10 finishes who is starting his fifth year of Road to Indy competition.
Sensors in the car measure the engine RPM (the speed at which the engine turns), the speed of the car, upshifts, downshifts and braking, among other metrics. Those measures are turned into charts that Megennis and his team use to improve performance.
“There are hundreds of things you can change on a car. Changing the right one makes you go faster,” Megennis said.
Before each race, Megennis studies the data, as well as track notes that detail every corner and every bump at the track; the St. Petersburg track, a 1.8 mile, 14-turn circuit, is a bumpy street circuit with long straights and not many corners. He also looks at onboard video from a camera on top of the car, which helps visualize the notes, and he practices with a specially designed simulator that can replicate precise conditions at each track.
“If you combine all three of these with the sim work and I’ll have a really good idea of what driving this next race track is going to look like,” Megennis said.
The data gives Megennis a competitive advantage, so protecting that data is critical, Coppins said,
“We make sure that data is isolated from the rest of the data they have, and then they can protect it and secure it, which is what we do for companies all the time, so it’s a great fit,” Coppins said.
Spirion also will protect employee and fan data that RKM has collected.
Spirion is the fifth sponsor for the RKM team, joining four other major technology firms:
- Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), a Silicon Valley company that designs, develops and sells network products and services
- SailPoint Technologies (NYSE: SAIL), an Austin, Texas company with identity governance software
- Sirius Computer Solutions, a San Antonio, Texas IT solutions integrator
- CyberArk Software (Nasdaq :CYBR), an Israeli security solutions firm
Under a program developed by Gary Megennis, partner at RKM Racing and Robert’s father, the sponsors’ prospects and customers get a full-day immersive experience with the team, from watching the drivers prepare to going into a trailer during the race to watch the data in real time.
“We’ll have had 1,000 people join us at racetracks in 14 cities by the end of the year. Of those 1,000 people, how many are not Spirion customers now and how many will be Spirion customers by the time we get to the end of the race in San Francisco,” Gary Megennis said. “That’s the idea, to include these people, most of whom are customers of one of the other four [sponsors] and introduce them to Spirion through this six-to-seven hour experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
That approach to sponsorship was a big part of what attracted Coppins.
“The other part is it starts here in St. Petersburg,” said Coppins, who can get a clear view of the race track from Spirion’s office on the 19th floor of 200 Central downtown. “What better way is there to get plugged into the community than to sponsor one of the cars that’s driving around the streets of the city?”
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg gets underway Friday and continues in a series of races through Sunday, culminating in the NTT IndyCar Series race at 3:30 p.m. Megennis will compete in the Indy Lights race from 1:15 to 2:10 p.m. Sunday.