WHAT IT REALLY TAKES TO WIN, PART I -- TECHNOLOGY

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WHAT IT REALLY TAKES TO WIN

PART I -- TECHNOLOGY

 

Look, we're a scrappy, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of people.

We like to talk about what it takes to win -- in war, in sports, in business, in life in general. And we really like to hold up those pivotal characteristics as things to aspire to, to hold onto when the going gets tough. Now, let's be perfectly clear: some of the traits common to those who enjoy the spoils of victory are admirable. You DO have to be willing to overcome fear and take chances, you DO have to be averse to giving up, and you DO have to put in the time an effort to become not just good, but one of the best at your competitive craft. But down under all the courage and grit, we know that sometimes winning isn't just up to those things.

We don't necessarily love being reminded of it, though. In my last column I mentioned the scandal that nearly closed down the Daymar Rally, and it didn't start over anything as simple as a flaw on the face of sportsmanship, no matter how much it turned into that by the end. It started over the Strip Charger, a little piece of machinery designed to give one vehicle -- and thus its driver -- an edge. Technology has been a controversial aspect of sports for as long as there have been sports, and obviously the Daymar Rally isn't immune to this kind of controversey. But, as much as we'd like to pretend that it always comes down to the athletes involved, sometimes it takes technology to win.

In theory, the Daymar Rally leaves the choice of vehicles almost completely open to the teams and drivers. However, it doesn't escape notice that most of the divisions have clear favorites that are used by virtually all teams, as they're the hands-down best (almost to the point of being the ONLY vehicles in their respective categories). The exception here is the bike category, where longtime favorite Drake is seeing challenges to the reign of the Dragonfly in the forms of the new Nox and the promise of Origin's X1. -- There might be some discussion of variants, even in the buggy category where different models of Tumbril's cyclone present different advantages, but at the heart the vehicles are nearly identical in most forms. It will be up to the engineers on each team to tweak the ships to see the best performance possible.  On their wish lists the modifications they'd like to see made possible by vehicle companies and the Rally's officials.

There's already some open-ended technology involved. Daymar is a limited free-fire race (meaning weapons fire is permitted after reaching the first checkpoint), and at the moment there's no real regulations on the types or overclocking of weapons used, other than what will fit on the vehicles and what their smaller, less complicated power systems can handle. But I don't know of many teams that are putting a lot of stock into this aspect of the race -- except, perhaps, when considering the weight of one weapon over another.

A lot of teams, though, would love more options in other areas. A lot of the larger components common to starships, be they for racing or otherwise, don't really fit into land vehicles, or even really have a place - there's no need for coolers in most cases, as races tend to happen on worlds where at least some form of atmosphere is present that can help to radiate vehicle heat. Likewise, they don't have the complicated avionics that require heavier power-plants than just a simple battery. Some things, though, almost seem mandatory: like the ability to adjust transmission gearing and performance, or the potential to adjust vehicle suspensions -- a must in the buggy division, where the sensitive wheels of the popular Tumbril Cyclone are so easily damaged that they pop right off the frame if you say something rude to them. Suspension's just as important in the bigger rover division, where the RSI Ursa has to rely on detours when its ground clearance inevitably fails.

Possibly even more importantly, GPS and RPS tech really should be brought into the fold. Rally races like Daymar rely on accurate navigation heavily already - but the industry standard towards Quantum-Interactive apps, which use Mobiglas's powerful positioning algorithms to calculate relative locations and distances to waypoints, fall short for ground vehicles -- leaving a Rally crew either needlessly divided (with the driver keeping eyes on the terrain while the engineer is glued to his Mobi) or dependent on complicated networking, using the positions of their support ships or vehicles at the checkpoints themselves, rather than simple beacons. The chatter is that these systems, constantly thrown into flux by competition between communications giants, are -close- to a new system, but whether it would be implemented for next year's Rally is anyone's guess.

So, there you have it - as much as we'd like it to be all about guts and grit and moxie and chutzpah and vim and vigor and balls, that's not all you need to win in a race like the Daymar Rally. In some cases, the rules determine what's allowed and what isn't - but just as often, the technologies themselves either rise to the occasion, or fall flat. Here's hoping we'll see more control directly in the hands of race teams, in the future - even if it's the hands of the engineers, rather than the drivers.

Next time, we'll talk about another aspect of racing that can make the crucial difference between victory and defeat: support.

 

I'll see you out there,

 

Billy Hyde

 

*Image by Mr_Hasgaha

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