Australian Grand Prix with Motorola and The P.A. People
Few events compare to the Formula 1 – the largest motor sport event in the world – and its party atmosphere. Celebrating its 20th year at Melbourne’s Albert Park, this year’s Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is the first in the FIA Formula One World Championship season. The race in Melbourne is followed by twenty-one Grands Prix, finishing in Abu Dhabi on 27 November 2016.
Now in its 67th year, the championship is recognised by the sport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), as the highest class of competition for open wheel racing cars.
The 5.303 km Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit is built every year partially utilising public road sections around Albert Park Lake, which is a small man-altered lake south of Melbourne’s main business district. In preparation for the event, work starts two months prior to the race – erecting trackside fencing, pedestrian overpasses, grandstands and other motorsport infrastructure. All infrastructure is then removed within six weeks of the final race.
One partner company dedicated to the success of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is The P.A. People. Based in Sydney, The P.A. People is among a very select group of event communications specialists world-wide, with experience extending to events such as both summer and winter Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games in Doha Qatar (2006), the Inaugural European Games in Baku (2015) and the iconic Sydney New Year’s Eve celebrations on Sydney Harbour.
Their partnerships include some of the most innovative and dynamic companies internationally, ensuring that regardless of the complexity of an event – such as the 2016 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix – the right solution is delivered.
One such partner working with The P.A. People is Motorola Solutions. Motorola Solutions was selected by The P.A. People for the radio network and two-way radios deployed at the 2016 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. The P.A. People has used Motorola Solutions equipment and solutions for over a decade, due to their high quality. “We want to have the best product and the best service, and Motorola Solutions has the best product,” says Chris Dodds, Managing Director of The P.A. People.
The project kicks off with the design and implementation plan of the audio and communications system. Despite having provided these services for five successive years, The P.A. People must still ensure that the design works optimally each year. While the track is relatively unchanged from year to year, various activity areas and suppliers change, making it necessary to ensure that the design accommodates any alterations.
Once the required gear is transported to Melbourne, set-up commences just six weeks before the first day of the event weekend.
At the commencement of the installation of the audio system around the track, the only infrastructure in place is an underground fibre optic network provided by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. By race day, The P.A. People had installed approximately 470 speakers over 6km at 20m intervals, using a total of 28 km of cable. Nine stainless steel cabinets, containing amplifiers that receive all audio back to The P.A. People command centre, were installed. Each cabinet required up to 800m of cabling back to the speakers.
Antennae for the radio contract are erected or attached to high locations for maximum coverage. Site 1 is a 40m pole with antennae at the top and six Motorola SLR5000 repeater bases at the bottom. Site 1 does the entire Event area while a scaffolding tower , a.k.a. Site 2, provides excellent coverage within the pit building.
The nerve centre of The P.A. People operations is the ‘bunker’, located in Formula One Management’s command centre. From here the team manages the entire track audio system, the sound system for the International and National Press Conference rooms, and sound amplification over the entire event area.
Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) manage the event from their command centre, the race control room (RCR), where race staff view every section of the track via screens to ensure that the event is running smoothly and safely. At set-up, The P.A. People supply and install a video wall for Race Control, install the audio and communications system and then hand over to the CAMS team to monitor the track. Constant footage from over 40 cameras positioned around the track ensures that Race Control can view every section of the race in order to maximise the risk-free running of the event.
Prior to the race, the two-way radios operate on the Orion Connect Plus network with the benefit of city-wide coverage. During race week they cut over to a separate Mototrbo IP Site Connect system (the ‘event radio system’). Changing over to the event radio system enables a tactical network as the network is dedicated to event users. As a result, the network can be more responsive and all radios can key up very quickly – critical for such a big event.
The P.A. People deploy a combination of Motorola Solutions portable (DP4600 and DP4800 series) and mobile radios to staff: engineers, race control, sector marshals, medical staff, recovery and rescue crews, cleaners and fire fighters.
The radio design came to the fore when the Event weekend in 2016 experienced the best that Melbourne’s weather had to offer: extreme heat followed by cold, stormy days. Scott Davidson, senior systems engineer for The P.A. People described it as, “first dusty, then wet, then muddy, but the radios stood up to it all”. Arthur Cooksley, Senior Marshall, is stationed directly underneath an audio speaker around the track, yet reported that “the radio clarity was good and I can hear over all the noise.”
When setting up and integrating all the radios in the fleet, The P.A. People were able to use Motorola Solutions’ Software Radio Management application to bring all radios online on the network quickly and easily. The application can program up to 16 radios at one time and track which radios have been successfully programmed, providing a clear view of the entire radio fleet and a code plug history for each radio.
“The radios are rugged and reliable,” says track manager for The P.A. People, Campbell Waller. “We’ve been using these radios all around the world. We first purchased a lot of these radios in 2006, and they are still going today which is a testament to their quality.”
For the first time at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, in 2016 a second contract was awarded to The P.A. People for the radio network. This contract entailed taking over from an incumbent supplier of 20 years to provide two MOTOTRBO IP Site Connect sites and more than 500 Motorola Solutions two-way radios with 12 channels. Two-way radios provide critical communications for the duration of the event. For example, medical teams who wait at the side of the track all carry radios. They are also deployed to security staff, engineers, fire fighters, race control, as well as recover and rescue crew, who are on hand to remove damaged cars or debris from the track.
Craig Moca, Manager, Engineering, Australian Grand Prix Corporation, has high praise for The P.A. People: “With the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, there are no second chances; it has to run perfectly. The P.A. People know our event and they deliver – every time. The P.A. People’s service is excellent.”
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