EMC uses data science to unlock the secrets behind the Morecambe Missile

To Understand Why John McGuinness, Legendary Motorcycle Racer, Is So Fast EMC Collected Data From His Suit And Bike, And Released It To The Global Data Science Community For Analysis.

LONDON, June 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- News Summary:

  • EMC ran two competitions to help understand what makes John McGuinness so fast – one focussed on data analytics and one on data visualization.
  • Sensors embedded in his suit and bike collected a vast amount of data at a Spanish test circuit in March 2015, which was released to data science community to analyse and interpret.
  • The winner of the data analytics competition is Stefan Jol PhD, a Revenue Management Analyst at a leading UK radio group, in recognition of his unique perspective of how performance in one part of the track affected later performance.
  • Charlotte Wickham PhD, assistant Professor of Statistics at Oregon State University, came in first place for data visualization with a live chart displaying the difference in relative performance between riders.
  • Data will be captured again at the Isle of Man TT races to gain additional insights.


Full Story:

Today at the Isle of Man TT races, EMC Corporation (NYSE: EMC) is announcing the results of 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. Engine RPM, lean angle, g-force, pulse and respiration were some of the variables that were measured moment by moment during the race, to help uncover exactly how the rider interfaced with machine.

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 available online here.

Additional Quotes:

John McGuinness, a.k.a. 'The Morecambe Missile'
"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."

Jonathan Martin, CMO, EMC
"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."

Additional Resources

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.

About EMC

EMC Corporation is a global leader in enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service. Fundamental to this transformation is cloud computing. Through innovative products and services, EMC accelerates the journey to cloud computing, helping IT departments to store, manage, protect and analyze their most valuable asset – information – in a more agile, trusted and cost-efficient way. Additional information about EMC can be found at

EMC2, EMC, and the EMC logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of EMC Corporation in the United States and other countries.  All other trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners.

SOURCE EMC Corporation


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