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Finding Out Why Isle of Man TT Star John McGuinness Is So Fast

Being a fast racer usually involves a good, dependable, fast motorcycle and tons of training and skills. However, there is something mysterious that makes some riders more successful than others, and no, "talent" doesn't even begin to explain things.
Why John McGuinness is so fast 6 photos
Finding Out Why Isle of Man TT Star John McGuinness Is so FastJohn McGuinnessFinding Out Why Isle of Man TT Star John McGuinness Is so FastFinding Out Why Isle of Man TT Star John McGuinness Is so FastIsle of Man TT Star John McGuinness
EMC thought about using their Big Data computing system to try and find out what makes one of the most hardcore road racers in the world, John McGuinness, so fast. "Mr. Pint" has no less than 23 TT victories to his name, and no intention to stop racing in the Isle of Man.

Three wins short of the King himself, Joey Dunlop, McGuinness, 43, is also one of the oldest motorcycle racers who lap around Mount Snaefell, and is one of the best guys at doing this. So seeing EMC choosing him to try to understand what makes a rider fast was only natural.

EMC data scientist Mike Foley acknowledged that, given John's level of performance, the "equation" of his success as a rider was a very complex one, involving a large number of variables.

To verify the data collected, EMC needed a control subject, and they chose motorcycle journalist Adam "Chad" Child. Both bikes were fitted with a big number of sensors that measured speed, acceleration and braking, banking angle, and a lot more.

However, sensors went on the two riders themselves, too, gathering biometric data, so that EMC's computers could get a bigger, better picture of what was going on during a race.

The findings were surprising, as John's heart rate, fatigue, stress levels were significantly lower than Adam's. Sport psychologist Doug Barba understands that John is "a more efficient information processor, he knows what to look at and where the important information is. He's not letting irrelevant or uncontrollable stuff into the picture."

This translates into a clearer mind, focused better on task-relevant decisions. Analyzing the lines of the two riders around the Isle of Man, EMC also noticed that McGuinness prepared the approach to the turns earlier, banked harder and carried more speed upon corner exit. That meant a shorter distance traveled at higher speed, with smooth and consistent use of the throttle.

Funny thing, John says that during a race, everything happens subconsciously, and it was only after seeing the data analyzed when everything started to make more sense. He also added that if such data became available more widely and were integrated into the racing scene, it could indeed help riders become better, faster, and more aware of their potential.

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