The NTT IndyCar Series took another major step forward in safety today when they tested the new aeroscreen developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies. The full-day test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was conducted by Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon and Roger Penske’s Will Power. The former series champions and Indianapolis 500 winners turned laps on the oval both individually, then in tandem to test the handling in turbulent air.
One of the obvious concerns with the new aeroscreen was the driver visibility through the curved PPG-supplied material. The screen material appears to be very strong and was put through the paces to test handling, cockpit temperatures, aerodynamic stability, helmet and cockpit airflow, and a variety of other items.
Power and Dixon combined to run nearly 650 miles on Wednesday. Power ran 129 laps at a top speed of 224.591 mph while Dixon completed 128 laps with a best of 224.501 mph. Neither reported issues with visibility, head buffeting or car handling, all positives for the Aeroscreen that will be fitted to all NTT IndyCar Series cars for the 2020 season.
There is a halo piece inside of the aeroscreen that serves as the upper mounting piece. There is a carbon fiber frame at the top of the cockpit opening where it bolts into position. A central spine on the leading edge of the screen is also another new feature. The top of the screen has a sponsor banner that will provide teams with advertising space to sell to sponsors. At the moment, IndyCar does not plan on requiring teams to put anything on that area.
Dixon said that he was pleasantly surprised how quiet the entire cockpit is with the wind deflected. The Kiwi said that he could hear his team radio for the first time than ever before. “There’s actually a lot less load on the helmet. Visually, there’s been no issue. Some of the areas with tear-offs and where they seam in the middle will be sort of fixed down the road to make it better.” Dixon and Power both said they could have raced with the aeroscreen this weekend, if necessary. “I’m so happy that we have it,” Power said. “It’s really a huge step in safety, and I think it’s the best of both worlds. You’ve got the halo and you’ve got a screen, so I think that you’ll see other open-wheel categories follow suit.
There are three more tests already scheduled for the aeroscreen. The next test will take place at Barber Motorsports Park on October 7 with Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Next will be a visit to Richmond Raceway on October 15 with Dixon and Josef Newgarden. Sebring will host a test on November 5, where they will also be testing future braking packages with James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais.
IndyCar President Jay Frye said that they learned a lot on Wednesday. One of the biggest things they gained was the feedback from the drivers, which was a crucial step in going forward. “This is a total industry-changing driver safety solution, so we couldn’t be more proud of it,” Frye said. “This is, to me, a game-changer – this is big. This is something that will really change the complexion of the sport for a long time to come.”