Every race in the MotoGP brings with it a deluge of professionals, equipment and structures – something matched only by the events of the F1 calendar. Ensuring that the necessary hospitality services are provided for the technical personnel, journalists, and numerous VIP guests present on the track is no easy task.
The structures for these events must be assembled and disassembled for each event of the season, within extremely tight deadlines. Not only this, but they must survive the most inclement of weather conditions – from the summer heat of southern Spain to temperatures close to zero in European winter races – passing through mud, rain, wind, and powder.
For every race, three large branded trucks are placed in the shape of a “C” where, in addition to the technical rooms, there are six offices, a fully equipped professional kitchen and a relaxation space that can be reconfigured between the three trucks. This area can seat 90 guests and is adaptable for use in catering as well as meetings with the press. All of the hospitality areas are littered with LCD monitors and audio speakers, as well as featuring a comprehensive WI-Fi network alongside a series of specific services requested by Yamaha Motor Racing.
“The customer’s first requirement was targeted to ensure the simplicity of the installation in terms of wiring and installation. Any technician in tow, not necessarily specialized, had to be able to wire everything without any margin of error“, begins Alberto Virdis of LINK.
STEP ONE: SYNTHESIS AND DESIGN
Even before proceeding with the installation itself, the LINK technical team put themselves at the disposal of the client. Here, they acted as “consultants,” to make the right decisions regarding fixtures and equipment, to create an environment that was congenial and functional to the needs of the Yamaha Motor Racing technicians.
“The client had a clear idea of what the new hospitality area’s AV system should do, but they needed expert support to determine which fixtures were the most suitable to use. Above all, they needed a partner who was able to interpret and synthesize the project, providing a compact and practical system to use“, explains Luca Opizzi – project leader for LINK.
“We put ourselves on the line, working hard to support the design and specifications communicated by the customer” continues Luca.
“There were various disciplines involved within the project – those who dealt with satellite connectivity, some with lighting and some who dealt with the preparation of offices and kitchens. LINK is committed to finding practical solutions to meet every requirement, providing a system which can be described as ‘turn-key’ in the truest of senses” concludes Luca.
One of the main guidelines that were stipulated at the design stage was that of absolute simplicity, to allow for an optimized workflow in the preparation phase. This workflow would, of course, need to be repeated every time that the system is assembled and disassembled.
In addition to this, the LINK team has had to work to find specific products on the market and, when these were not commercially available with the precise characteristics required, create tailor-made solutions for the project.
HOUSTON: THE NERVE CENTER
To meet the requirement for simplicity, the decision was initially taken to concentrate all of the machines into the core rack of 42 units. This rack would come to be known as “Houston,” serving as the nerve center of the system, from where all the signals and commands would stem.
“Houston” contained a range of systems, including Black Magic video controller with attached matrix, a Yamaha MX5 mixer (controllable via WiFi remotely via specific App), a system allowing for online streaming and, of course, space for all connections to be organized and patched. This connection system was taken care of via a clear, pre-wired panel, which LINK designed and created specifically for the task.
In turn, the various zones had to be served by a variety of audio and video systems, as well as data (IT services and networking), RF signals for the transmission of television channels within the internal hospitality circuit (with both terrestrial and satellite receptions), as well as power supply for all peripherals.
Again, with the mantra of flexibility and simplicity at the system’s core, a specially designed signal distribution system was provided, allowing for the assignment of the various video programs to devices scattered throughout the hospitality area. This objective was achieved through Vision Lite’s Visionary Solution software, alongside a web interface and a management system for the drag and drop matrix, supported by a rackmount server to run the video output management service.
MANY SIGNALS YET FEW CABLES
The use of hybrid cables available within LINK’s catalogue was essential for the construction of the system. These products made it possible to simplify substantially the cabling used – leading to the central infrastructure containing just 11 cable and 3 connector types.
One example of these solutions is the CAT6A SF/UTP Ethernet + Digital Audio + Power Hybrid cable CVS LK2CAT6SF 12/3 AD2 , able to transmit two pairs of digital audio, two CAT6A cables, as well as power over three 3.5mm² cables. This combination has proven to be the perfect choice within a system of this nature.
Firstly, it was used to distribute signals to loudspeakers through analog audio cables or conveying Dante over TCP/IP. Secondly, it was used to distribute signals to the various televisions via TCP/IP connection, for use with IPTV decoders. Additionally, the cabling was used to support a range of other audio applications, such as to the microphone inputs and auxiliary outputs for journalists through analog audio cables, or by using CAT cables as multicores before breaking out to yet more analog connections. Finally, the cabling was also used for electrical distribution to the antenna.
To be able pick up the different signals at various strategic areas, “tiles” were provided within the floating floor of the venues. These were fitted with a wired trapdoor, under which are found the most common connections such as XLR, Neutrik etherCON, LAN & Shuko – all ready to be patched and used immediately.
“Each tile is served via a single cable under the floor, which is connected to a pre-established connector on the “Houston” centre. This means that within a matter of minutes and with just a couple of simple gestures, users can access all available audio, video, data and power points at any of the pre-established areas” specifies Alberto Virdis.
A second fiber optic ring (with 4 SM cores featuring expanded beam connectors) provides added flexibility and durability, thanks to LINK’s unbreakable fiber. The fiber was used for distribution between the three Extreme Networks Ethernet switches, arranged with ring topography to guarantee redundancy. The cabling also takes care of RF signals, again with full redundancy. For this type of signal connection, LINK has developed a wired rack drawer with two modulators and two DVB-T control units, used to manage all digital terrestrial signals. In more detail, the channels conveyed were mainly of three types:
1 – Content distributed by the track-side video team.
2 – The distribution of local digital and terrestrial channels, with the addition of the generation of a multiplex channel within the internal RF spectrum, for the propagation of Sky satellite signals to all television stations.
These signals were distributed inside the mobile vehicles through the same multicore fiber cable that allows data to pass between the Ethernet switches.
3 – The final stream transported – the RF signal, via SCR protocol, from the satellite receiver to the Sky decoder located inside the “Houston” center.
This system is a prime example of LINK being able to provide the right product to allow for the passage of multiple signals, each very different, within a single cable.
Another aspect that required a careful choice of materials and technologies was concerning weather resistance, especially in three particularly exposed points:
1 – Under the floating floor.
2 – Under each TIR – located roughly one meter from the ground and near the wheels of the vehicles. Here, the connectors remain exposed continuously, even during long journeys around Europe.
3 – On the roof – connecting two motorized dishes for the reception of Sky channels, as well as for internet connection via satellite.
The supplier of these satellite systems, as planned, was requested to supply Yamaha Motor with a fast cabling system on a single multipolar connector with an IP67 rating. It was, therefore, necessary to transport the RF signal through coaxial cables, from up to two antennas running in parallel, to allow the control of the motor through the serial port from the controller unit located inside the TIR. It was also imperative that the system featured a connection on the roof for the local control bypass and, finally, the connection of the power supply for the motorized dish.
“The installation itself was already quite complex, but the real challenge was to succeed in delivering to the customer a system that is “bombproof,” and that offers fast and straightforward commissioning, a margin of error equal to zero and retains the possibility of being able to carry out future upgrades” adds Alberto Virdis.
“I think it would have been impossible to achieve this result without the use of our hybrid cables and the robust solutions offered by the unbreakable fiber, something that can withstand extreme bending and flexing without the risk of breakage…” concludes Alberto.