When Aston Martin Racing achieved its maiden win at the FIA World Endurance Championship Shanghai 6 hour in November, all eyes were on the new car – as drivers Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen powered the Vantage GTE to the chequered flag.
But as every motorsport devotee knows, success on race day is also the result of a massive co-ordinated effort behind the scenes. Everyone has a part to play, from the car designers to the pit crew to the race strategists, not to mention the networks and devices that help them perform to their full potential.
Spirent is incredibly proud to play a small but important part in Aston Martin Racing’s performance throughout the season. Our Test as a Service platform, iTest, helps the team to ensure its trackside local area network (LAN) is properly configured and performing to the high standards the team needs – every single day.
Pit-lane: Aston Martin Racing’s nervous system
For Aston Martin Racing, every practice day, qualification day and race day relies on a high-speed local area network (LAN) connecting the driver and the car with the pit crew, engineers and managers.
The pit-lane LAN functions as the team’s nervous system, carrying everything from radio communications between the driver and the crew, to telemetry and video data between the car, the garage and the onsite control room.
That network connectivity is essential to the team’s success. Any failure in radio communications could cost the team its position in the race – and any loss of data might impact the team’s ability to make vital real-time adjustments, or to contest an official’s decision.
The challenge of continuous rebuilds
The pit-lane LAN setup was designed and tested at the Aston Martin Racing factory, and is torn down and rebuilt at each circuit. And that’s where the headache lay. Every time the network is rebuilt, someone has to ensure it’s set up and functioning properly.
That meant Aston Martin Racing engineers were spending an hour or more each time manually checking that the right devices were properly connected and running the correct software build, that there were no faults in the network, and that no alien devices were present.
Doing the verification manually not only tied up hours that engineers could more usefully spend on other tasks, but also created a risk that something might be missed or overlooked.
Automating testing with iTest
Aston Martin Racing’s network engineers were testing for the same things every time, so it made sense to automate. The most efficient way to do that was to use a proven network test automation solution and develop the tests needed to meet the team’s specific requirements.
That’s where we came in. Spirent’s iTest solution is the market-leading network Test as a Service platform, and we were able to use it to create an automated test application for them.
Working with the Aston Martin Racing team, we authored a set of automated test scripts in iTest that the team could run each time and receive a report indicating whether the network is correctly configured:
Is the network configured in the same way as the previous build?
Are all the relevant devices connected?
Are there any faulty segments, connections or devices?
With the network configuration tests set up in iTest, the Aston Martin Racing team can now quickly and easily verify the LAN setup at any event around the world, from the Le Mans 24 Hours in France to the 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan. All they have to do is click a button and wait a few minutes for the report.
A fast and effective solution to manual testing headaches
Challenges like these are a pleasure to solve with iTest. It’s a powerful automation solution that can be customised to just about any test scenario – and it’s a quick solution, too. We spent half a day talking to the team about their situation and their requirements, and then produced a complete working test environment in just a few iterations.
The main benefits to the team have been two-fold:
Time savings and ease of use: Before using iTest, the team was spending over an hour at each race circuit manually testing the network setup. Now the tests are automated, they can easily be run in around three minutes, with a report highlighting any problem areas for investigation.
“Testing the network manually used to take over an hour each day. With iTest, it only takes a couple of minutes.”– Alistair Grimshaw, Senior Analysis Engineer, Aston Martin Racing
Minimised risk: The iTest sequence provides full test coverage across the LAN, covering multiple VLANs and as many as 150 endpoint devices. That eliminates a common risk associated with manual testing; that something might be missed or overlooked.
As a result, the team gains the reassurance that the LAN will be working as expected at every race. “Without iTest, I wouldn’t be able to check the network anywhere near as frequently or as methodically,” Alistair Grimshaw, Senior Analysis Engineer at Aston Martin Racing, told us.
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