INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA: May is undoubtedly the busiest time of year for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, with a month-long schedule of talk shows and qualifying day shows leading up to the Indianapolis 500 race during the Memorial Day weekend. At this year's ninetieth running of the Indy 500, the IMS Radio Network will once again be fielding all-analog Lectrosonics UM250C transmitters, UDR200C receivers and ALP600 directional antennas to bring "the Greatest Spectacle in Racing" to listeners worldwide.
"We use the 250 series belt-packs, with the antenna extended and mounted on the reporters' headsets. So we get an elevated ground plane, of sorts, by putting it on top of their heads," explains chief engineer Tom Allebrandi, whose TA Electronics firm also had a hand in installing the track's two-and-a-half-mile-long A/V systems. Six sets of Lectrosonics wireless transmitters and receivers are typically deployed around the track. "Here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400, and the U.S. Formula One Grand Prix, they're used primarily for pit reporters, and reporters that also cover the garage area and the track's hospital."
"At the Speedway," says Allebrandi, "The UDR200C receivers are mounted in our ninth floor studios in the Pagoda. When we're on the road they're mounted in the production truck. We use the Lectrosonics ALP 600 log periodic antennas mounted on a horizontal boom arrangement."
The Lectrosonics equipment has proven itself adept at negotiating the dense RF environment at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to Allebrandi. "The track is the RF sewer of the world on race day! That's one of the beauties of the Lectrosonics receivers, with the tracking front-end." This year, he says, ABC/ESPN will be using approximately thirty frequencies and the IMS Radio Network will use eight or nine (six transmitters plus a few IFBs). Then, there are the local TV and radio stations, and the walk-ons from around the country, plus 33 race teams with two or three frequencies each and dozens of track officials, track maintenance, police, fire, EMS and even the FAA.
But that's nothing compared to the U.S. Grand Prix, which this year will be held at the track in July. "Formula One itself last year used 435 frequencies," Allebrandi recalls. "They transmit all kinds of data and telemetry. Their TV camera crews use microwave links from the camera to a guy standing outside the garage with a pole that functions as a repeater to an RF catcher up on the roof, and on and on. It's unreal."
As the radio broadcaster for the Indy Racing League (IRL), the IMS Radio Network takes the Lectrosonics gear on the road throughout the year. Conditions at tracks around the country can be less than ideal for wireless equipment, but Lectrosonics is up to the task. "On some of the road courses, like Watkins Glen in New York, and Infineon in California, we're operating over some pretty good distances," Allebrandi reports. "At St. Petersburg [Florida], which is a street race, from our production truck, which is located near the start/finish line, to our Turn 8/9 reporter, for instance, is almost twelve city blocks."
The IRL season's oval courses, just one mile or a mile-and-a-half long, are less challenging. "Fortunately we have a clear line of sight at all of those, with the production truck's 48-foot mast, and the turn reporters are elevated. For instance, in Texas, they're on the roof of the VIP suites and condominiums, so the guys are eight stories up in the air, which contributes to our success in transmitting over those kinds of distances."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network affiliates include the LeSea Broadcasting network, which provides worldwide shortwave radio coverage, and the American Forces Radio Network, which broadcasts to United States military installations and ships around the world. The radio network's Indianapolis 500 coverage on Sunday, May 28, will also be broadcast live on XM Satellite Radio channel 145, "Indy Car Racing."
Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theater technical communities since 1971, Lectrosonics wireless microphone systems and audio processing products are used daily in mission-critical applications by audio engineers familiar with the company's dedication to quality, customer service, and innovation. Lectrosonics is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.