#DrivenBy: Mario Skobowsky
We’re all familiar with the following scenario, aren’t we? Just one more important e-mail to quickly send, and then suddenly, disaster strikes: ‘Blue Screen’, error messages and a whole string of computer crashes. Not even DTM teams are safe from computer glitches, but the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team has an effective weapon to combat intractable IT problems – systems administrator Mario Skobowsky (34).
“The biggest challenge is to make the infrastructure so stable that nobody realises that IT is there at all,” says Mario, revealing the secret of his success. “That’s how it is in normal life. Nobody ever calls us to say that yes, their computer is working, thank you. People only call when it stops functioning. And that’s just how it has to be at the racetrack. If nobody gets in touch, then everything’s fine.”
Mario is in charge of all cabling, computers and data connections at the DTM racetrack. In order to network the whole of the paddock, he has to install from 500 to 700 meters of cable each race weekend. He also supervises all of the team’s computer equipment. “I have to look after all the laptops that are required,” says Mario. “And not just those needed by the mechanics and data engineers, but also laptops belonging to members of the board and other people.” Between 30 and 35 gigabytes of data will be ‘consumed’ during a race weekend depending on exactly how long the cars are out on track.
For two years now, the team have used fully networked workstations and meeting rooms in the Race Base which is connected to the pits. “It’s ultimately the hub of the whole operation,” explains Mario. The server system is integrated into the Race Base and connected to the engineers’ workstations in the pits as well as to the pit wall by means of fibre optics. The entire system is portable and available for every race, so, it makes very little difference whether the race is in Hockenheim or Moscow. “It just takes a bit longer to get to Moscow,” says Mario with a chuckle. He might have to contact a couple of folk beforehand to clarify matters regarding cabling. “But otherwise, the procedure is identical.”
The team have not suffered from server failure so far. “But we did have one instance of the timing signal (external supplier) dropping out completely ten minutes before the start of the race, and there were no data streams.” That was the fault of the weather. “So, our people were left without any information about where the car was on the track, what position it was in and what lap time it had just posted.” In such an emergency, everyone pulls together to find a speedy solution and helps each other out as best they can.
For Mario, that’s another reason why working at the track is so exciting and special. “We’ve only a small role to play, as it’s mainly down to the drivers and engineers. We’re just a small cog in a big wheel, but if that cog stops working, then the wheel falls off,” says Mario. Motor racing is a team sport. “And the commitment on the part of everyone, the fact that we all pull together, that enables us to always go about our work with a smile on our faces.”
By the way, Mario even has the motor racing bug outside of the DTM: “For nearly ten years, I used to go regularly to watch MotoGP at the Sachsenring. Now, if time allows, I like to go with my son to GT3 races or to motocross meetings, and sometimes even to Red Bull Air Race events.” That way, Mario can relax for a change and enjoy a race without having to deal with any pressing emergencies.