The NTT Indycar Series should have started on the streets of St Petersburg, Florida in March. The teams were in place, the haulers unpacked, the cars prepared, grandstands built and ready to be filled by fans eager for their first taste of racing this decade. Even the first burgers of the weekend were on the grills.
Then the virus struck.
Instead of hitting the track, on the morning of Friday 13th of March, the trucks were packed and the teams headed back to their various bases, mostly in Indianapolis. This included Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and drivers Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.
The following months have been, in Rahal’s words, “filled with frustrating uncertainty.”
One thing the tight team didn’t do, was stop preparing for the next green flag, whenever that might be. Now they know. The Indycar series will get that green, behind closed doors on the Texas oval on June 6. And their season will now finish – where it so nearly began – back on the Streets of St Petersburg in October.
“I’m definitely excited,” says Rahal. “It’s been a long time coming for us, and a lot of frustration on many people’s parts. There has been so much uncertainty, but everybody is in the same boat. Everybody’s health is more important than anything else. I’m just really glad that we are going to go racing in a few weeks’ time, and it should be good.”
The quarantine has forced a new way of working for the team’s engineers and drivers, and one they have embraced with technical partner Acronis.
“I’ve spoken to the team a lot, stayed in contact with them all, and everybody is doing well, fortunately,” continues Rahal. “We have a very good group of people and as importantly a great group of owners who stayed committed to all of our employees throughout all of it. That allowed us to keep our heads down and keep working, the engineering staff and myself, Takuma, Spencer…. Everybody.”
Acronis became a partner with RLL in 2019, with its renowned data protection and cybersecurity. This means that even though quarantined at home, there was plenty of information already recorded and available to absorb and implement.
“We have been going through tons and tons and tons of data! We’ve been working with the engineering crew and making sure we are on top of our game to make sure when we go back to work we are ready, and we are prepared to be successful. Certainly, Acronis has been a big benefit and a great partner for our team, and we are excited to have them, but obviously, their involvement in what we do with the data and what we can learn has really increased. Since they have got more involved with the team it has been great.
“For me, data is a challenge you know? I do like it, but I wouldn’t say I’m in love with data as much as Takuma who likes to sit down and compare everything! I like to observe but I don’t like to over-analyze. I like to observe and determine what the best path and course of action is for me. But yes, and we all know the importance that it has for performance and trying to beat everybody else.”
Besides the sporting side of things, the virus and its subsequent lockdowns around the world has forced a new way of working from home for many, and that includes the RLL race team. Data collected and shared is not only sensitive but priceless information. It is paramount that it is safe, and again that is where Acronis is stepping up to make sure that commodity is as safe as houses, even with staff working remotely.
Cybercrime is on the up during this unprecedented situation, something that’s also not lost on Rahal.
“In this day and age, and going forward that security is critical,” he says. “I think what we are going to see is a huge shift in the workforce, and even the workplace. What we’ve seen in this whole deal is you don’t need to be working on top of each other inside of an office. A lot of people can work remotely, and you need that.
“Our data is an extreme asset that we have, yes. Is that asset shown on the bottom line of a financial statement? No. But it is a huge asset to what we do day in and day out. So, cyber security, and everything else, is, no doubt, critical.”