IndyCar has always been one of the fastest and most exciting of all motorsports. But with all of that speed, excitement and high-octane adrenaline comes the inherent risk of danger and tragedy, of which the sport has had its fair share.
Now, however, great strides in safety are being made, with the revolutionary Aeroscreen cockpit protection to be implemented on all cars for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season to prevent tragic accidents similar to that which claimed the life of Justin Wilson in 2015.
Following the conclusion of the 2019 season, which also witnessed its share of frightening crashes, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and 2014 series champion Will Power attended the first crucial test of the Aeroscreen at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday.
Developed in collaboration with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, the Aeroscreen consists of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework similar in appearance to the Halo cockpit safety device employed in Formula One and Junior motorsport formulas including F2 and F3.
Although there were initial concerns over how to combat visibility distortion, light reflection and fogging, the RBAT design includes and anti-reflective coating, anti-fogging devices and a cockpit-cooling duct that combat these issues.
And, according to Dixon, the first test went seamlessly with the driver experiencing no issues at all with the new safety innovation.
“Today has been pretty much seamless,” Dixon is quoted on Motorsport.com. “We went through a bunch of configurations for cooling and where we can push the air to control the helmet – how it feels and how much pressure you have there. Ultimately it’s just very quiet. I can hear my radio for a change – normally I can’t hear it, so that’s kinda nice! But there’s actually a lot less load on the helmet too.
“Visually there’s been really no impairment. Some of the areas with tear-offs and where they seam in the middle [either side of the centerline wicker which now extends beyond the middle of the nose and up the aeroscreen] will be fixed down the road to make it even better. But ultimately, today we’ve just run through a long list of projects we needed to get through and it’s been pretty seamless. It’s spot on. Good to go.”
Echoing Dixon’s sentiments, Power said that the Aeroscreen worked well during long runs and that his vision was unaffected.
“Really no major issues. Just like Scott said,” added Power. “The tear-offs is something they’ll work on and how they fit… but the vision’s fine, there’s no problem in doing a stint with bugs and stuff that get on the screen.
“Little things need to be worked on, but honestly, I’m so happy that we have it. It’s really a huge step in safety and I think it’s the best of both worlds – you’ve got a ‘halo’ and you’ve got a screen. I think that you’ll see other open-wheel categories follow suit…
“When you’ve driven it for a day, you’re going to feel naked without it. If you took it off, you’d feel naked because there’s so much protection there. Very, very happy that we’re moving ahead with it.”