Sunday, Sep 24

Horsepower Meets Brainpower at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Thursday, Aug 07 1731

It’s common to see Go Pro cameras suction-cupped to vintage race cars at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, but one competition machine is different. It has not only several cameras affixed to its bodywork, but also a variety of aerials and is that a GPS antenna on its roof?
That rumbling race car with the antennas means a Stanford University class is in session.  For the past four years, one of the cars competing at the Reunion has been a high-speed lab for engineering students from the famed university near Palo Alto.
It’s all part of an initiative called the Revs Program at Stanford, which was introduced in 2011 out of the vision and initial support of Miles Collier. There are two distinct elements of this partnership, the Revs Program at Stanford in CA and Collier’s Revs Institute for Automotive Research in Naples, FL, which provides the cars for study and its collection and archive for this scholarship.
You might call the Revs Institute the horsepower and sheetmetal side of this automotive alliance. The museum, which is open to the public, has more than 100 significant automobiles, ranging from pre-World War 1 antiques to style and engineering leaders of the 1920s and 1930s to the best assemblage of Porsches in the U.S.  Jay Leno has called the collection, “A place where automobiles have an intellectual status and are put on the same level as great artworks.”
The Revs Program at Stanford is designed to forge new scholarship and student experiences around the past, present and future of the automobile. Courses and research are multidisciplinary, and include topics as diverse as car culture and design, autonomous autos, transportation and sustainability, and even the study of how Dale Earnhardt, Sr. built his fan base. One class restored a 1962 Cadillac DeVille.     
The two elements of the Revs partnership come together at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, where a car from Naples is matched to students from Stanford. This year those upcoming engineers will be outfitting a V-12 powered 1965 Ferrari 250LM with telemetry to continue gathering data that could be used, among other things, for their autonomous car project.
Driver Gunnar Jeannette will also be “instrumented” to provide biological feedback that is integrated into the Revs database. Last year’s driver, Bruce Canepa, when asked about being checked for brain wave information, commented, “Well, I hope they found something.”
Miles Collier, who founded the Revs initiative, says of the joint institute and program work at the Reunion, “Nothing is more satisfying than using these exciting historical automotive artifacts to inspire brilliant students to undertake innovative, hands-on research that will have important implications for the future."
Speaking from the Stanford side, Revs Director Chris Gerdes sees the opportunity as a big part of ensuring the future of automotive heritage. “At Stanford we aim to inspire new generations of scholars through hands-on learning with historic vehicles and this weekend is the perfect opportunity.”
So when spectators at the 2014 Reunion spot the red Ferrari festooned with cameras, antennas and that disk-shaped GPS they can know it is Revs’ combined horsepower and brainpower at work.

Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for, where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

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