Bob Whyte, a racing hobbyist and former CIO, can recount thrills and spills in two parts of his life with good humor. A Road & Track reader since he was seven, Whyte can talk about driving a race car and smashing into a stalled car while rocketing through a cloud of smoke at 115 miles per hour (only to escape unhurt). He can relate how he left a stable job as CIO at DirecTV during the Internet boom in 1999 and served in C-level posts at two dotcoms.
It’s only now that Whyte has started a business that seeks to combine his interests in IT and auto racing that he acknowledges being a tad nervous. Whyte has started his own auto racing company, Los Angeles-based Integrated Performance Technology (IPT), which includes an auto racing team in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series (www.grand-am.com). In the process, he’s working to assemble players from the IT industry to sponsor IPT’s race entries and conduct IT conferences on racing weekends.
“Big IT projects have four pieces: hardware, software, consulting and telecom. Project partnerships like that can be a natural sponsorship fit for the IT-rich world of auto racing,” Whyte says.
Whyte has teamed up with Wayne Taylor, 47, a two-time World Sports Car champion. Taylor helped create SunTrust Racing, a partnership between IPT and Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks. Taylor will pilot a Daytona Prototype race car for the team.
Taylor says he was intrigued because “the business model was something I hadn’t seen in my 30 years of racing,” he says. IT sponsors will be able to invite potential clients to IPT-run Race Weekend conferences.
Jeremy Shaw, a veteran racing broadcaster and a senior editor at Racer monthly magazine, says the IPT model that mixes IT and racing offers a good business hook.
And IT is part of the sport, Whyte notes. Pit crews now equip top-level race cars with three built-in microprocessors and use wireless telemetry and data mining tools to quickly analyze the 8MB-sized packets of data that monitor engine performance, oil condition and driver braking habits, among other things, during each lap.
SunTrust Racing’s car finished first at April’s Food City 250 race in Phoenix. IPT plans to add an IT-sponsored car in August.
Whyte calms his business nerves when he thinks of the races on tap. “I love the excitement, the speed and the competition of it all,” he says.