New 2020 IndyCar Aeroscreen

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From the first Indianapolis 500, IndyCar has always been an open cockpit open-wheel racing series. Starting in 2020, the NTT IndyCar Series will debut their new aeroscreen and it will be the first time in series history to not have a fully open cockpit. The new aeroscreen will help make sure no huge pieces of debris will hit the drivers head and will just protect the drivers more from everything. Formula 1 is the first professional open-wheel racing series to use cockpit protection. The FIA started testing the halo and aeroscreen in 2016 and they settled for the halo since drivers complained about glare with the aeroscreen. IndyCar has followed suit with cockpit protection. IndyCar don’t want to use the halo, so they decided to go for the aeroscreen.

The first aeroscreen prototype was first tested in 2018 at the pre-season test at ISM Raceway. Scott Dixon tested it and had no issues at all. The current aeroscreen was first tested this past Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Scott Dixon and Will Power testing it. Dixon has been on the forefront of this latest attempt to make racing safer. The evolving racing machine added the AFP, advanced frontal protection, to the front of the chassis for the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 11th. Both drivers said they were impressed with the speed at which the prototype brought after the initial announcement last spring. Dixon and Power also said they would be willing to race with it how it is now if there was a race. 

Dixon is the driver that has been the most involved driver in the development of the aeroscreen and he also tested the prototype on the Dallara simulator in July. Dixon and Power drove over 600 miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway test last Wednesday before they discuss the progress of the aeroscreen. In the article “IndyCar aeroscreen declared ready to race by Dixon and Power for 2020 starting at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg” by Sports Talk Florida, Power said, “I am so happy that we have it, it really is a huge step in safety. It is the best of both worlds in that you have a halo and a screen.” 

IndyCar has always been in the works to make improved cockpit safety after the death of Dan Wheldon in 2011 after hitting his head on a pole of the catch fence at Las Vegas. Four years later, Justin Wilson was killed at Pocono in 2015 when a piece of flying debris bounced off his helmet during the race. IndyCar has tested many aeroscreens, like the PPG prototype, but that still needed some work even after the drivers didn’t have any issues with it. IndyCar took that information and gave it to Red Bull for development of the current design.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud tested the aeroscreen for the first time on a road course at Barber Motorsports Park. Hunter-Reay said that the screen didn’t have an issue visibility-wise at the wide variety of corners around the track. He also turned about three-quarters of a race distance during the test. Hunter-Reay has had many close calls to having debris threatening to hit his cockpit over the course of his career and he thinks the aeroscreen is the right way to go. He said IndyCar is always on the forefront of safety for years and the aeroscreen is another step in the right direction. In the article “Hunter-Reay backs aeroscreen after wet test on road course” by Motorsport.com, Hunter Reay said, “There’s a lot of work to do on that side of it but I think the starting point is good and I’m certainly a fan of having my head protected for the first time in my open-wheel career. I’ve had more than my fair share of near-misses in that regard so I’m definitely pleased that we’re taking a step – a giant step – in protecting our heads.”

The aeroscreen is a huge safety innovation to the NTT IndyCar Series with the protection of the driver’s head. The drivers that have tested the current aeroscreen prototype have had no problems with it and are happy with the change. I am always for the safety of the drivers and the aeroscreen is a perfect fit for IndyCar. Watch the debut of the aeroscreen on March 15th for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season opener on NBCSN.

 

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