Notes: More Cockpit Safety En Route To IndyCar Cars

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 24 2019
More cockpit protection in pipeline to IndyCar. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – An Aeroscreen designed to enhance driver cockpit protection will be implemented for the outset of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, the result of a partnership between sanctioning body INDYCAR and Red Bull Advanced Technologies.

Specifically designed to reduce the risk of driver injury from debris and/or other objects striking the cockpit area, the device will consist of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework.

The project was outlined during a Carb Day news conference Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500.

“We’ve created a system that protects the driver from a very large range of threats, perhaps moreso than any other driver protection system in other series,” said Ed Collins, Red Bull Racing business development engineer. “INDYCAR is a unique series with limited runoff on the edge of the track, and it was important that we could protect the drivers from smaller debris as well as very large items. So we have a system with the screen that can protect from smaller debris and then a very strong structure around the top of that screen and with a strut in the center that can deflect large wheel upright assembly at a very high speed.

“So that’s a key attribute of the design, but then we’ve had to manage lots of other things to make sure we don’t introduce compromises. We’ve had to design around just the simple things _ towing and lifting the vehicles _ but also a lot of more scientific work in terms of preventing reflections that could distract the driver. We have to make sure that we don’t have any fogging occurring in any damper, more humid environments, and many other attributes.

“That’s a small set of examples really of the very detailed study that we’ve undertaken, my team in Milton Keynes in the UK.”

The RBAT Aeroscreen is the second phase of INDYCAR’s objective to further enhance driver safety in its open-cockpit cars. INDYCAR debuted the Advanced Frontal Protection (AFP) device for the INDYCAR Grand Prix held May 10-11 on the IMS road-course. The AFP also is designed to deflect debris away from the cockpit area and the driver.

“This collaborative effort on the Aeroscreen between Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Dallara and INDYCAR truly exhibits an unrelenting commitment and passion for enhancing driver safety,” said INDYCAR President Jay Frye. “We would like to thank everyone at Red Bull Advanced Technologies for creating a design that will be significant in the evolution of motorsports safety, not only for the NTT IndyCar Series but from a global perspective.”

The RBAT design will consist of a polycarbonate laminated screen that includes an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, an anti-fogging device through an integral heating element and possibly tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party companies. Another feature for drivers will be a cockpit cooling option to be designed by Dallara, an INDYCAR official supplier, in conjunction with RBAT.

The titanium framework will mount in three areas around the cockpit _ the chassis centerline, two-rear side mounts and roll hoop integration _ to provide enhanced load-bearing capabilities. The load bearing is expected to be 150 kilonewtons (kN), which would equal the FIA load for the Halo design currently used in Formula One. A kilonewton is equal to approximately 225 pounds, which is a force of gravity rating, not static weight or mass. Force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration.

Upon completion of the Aeroscreen design by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, INDYCAR tentatively is planning on-track testing by selected NTT IndyCar Series drivers this summer. Approved Aeroscreens will be delivered to all teams by the fall.

The initiative was given a thumbs-up by Scott Dixon, the five-time/reigning series champion.

“Yeah, I think it’s always been very important for the NTT IndyCar Series to be at the forefront of safety initiatives, and it’s been a work in progress for a long time,” said Dixon, of Chip Ganassi Racing. “Having run the initial aero screen, we felt that for the driver it worked well. There was no issues with it. I think cooling was maybe the only thing that was really something that was a problem to start with, but something that could be fixed easily.

“As it went through testing and things, I think we, as I said, the drivers in INDYCAR always wanted to make sure that if we did run something that it was going to be something great, not something rushed, not something that hadn’t been tested well, and it’s exciting to have Red Bull Advanced Technologies partner. We know the powerhouse that you guys are and what you can provide at the forefront of the motor racing industry. It’s exciting for all of us drivers and I think something that will be extremely exciting for many categories. We’ve seen other versions of this, but I think this one covers a lot more bases.”

The AFP device, a 3-inch-tall titanium component manufactured by Dallara that is positioned in front of the cockpit along the chassis centerline, will be utilized by all teams for the remainder of the season. 

Previously, INDYCAR had conducted extensive testing with a windscreen concept developed in conjunction with PPG Aerospace, including on-track sessions in 2018 with Dixon at the 1-mile ISM Raceway in Phoenix and with 2017 series champ Josef Newgarden of Team Penske at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While the drivers did not report any issues, additional comprehensive testing at PPG’s facility in Huntsville, Ala., revealed further work was needed before implementation.

INDYCAR utilized the research and on-track testing from this project to provide additional data and information to Red Bull Advanced Technologies for development of the current design.

A kinder, gentler Tony Kanaan posted the fastest lap of the annual Miller Lite Carb Day session Friday at 225.517 mph in his No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. While admitting the lap came with the aid of an aerodynamic tow from cars in front of him, Kanaan was pleased with the progress on his car since Monday’s post-qualifying practice.

“A good day for us,” said Kanaan, a 22-year Indy car veteran and winner of the 2013 Indy 500. “Obviously, conditions look like pretty similar to what we’re going to see on Sunday, hopefully. It was a pretty easy day for us. I wasn’t really happy with my car on Monday and I was extremely vocal about it, and I think my engineers heard me, so we made it better today.”

Kanaan will make his 18th Indy 500 start on Sunday from the inside of Row 6. “I was really working on my car, the level of downforce and grip that I wanted to have starting 16th,” said Kanaan, who is in his second season with the team owned by four-time Indy 500 champion Foyt. “So, really, we worked in traffic a lot and trying to find the grip and scan to some of the items that we had on the list to be able to _ once we put ourselves in the front during the race _ to know what to do.”

Rookie Santino Ferrucci was second-fastest in the practice, turning a lap of 225.486 mph in the No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Takuma Sato, the 2017 Indy 500 champion, was third in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“We were having fun,” said Ferrucci, a native of Connecticut. “The No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda is in really good shape. We could pass about everybody and we’re quick, so there isn’t much else to say really. We’re looking forward to the race.”

Pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud ranked 22nd on the chart at 222.856 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. Teammate Will Power, the reigning race-winner, was 10th at 224.240 mph in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.

Point-leader Josef Newgarden, the 2017 series champion, was 13th-fastest in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet. He holds a six-point lead heading into the race over five-time/reigning series champion Scott Dixon, who was puzzled by the handling of his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“I don’t know what happened there with the PNC Bank car, honestly,” said Dixon, who was 19th on the speed chart and will start the race 18th. “I hope we find something wrong with the car because it wasn’t great. It’s really bizarre, and nothing like we had all month, so we are unsure. 

“There is a fundamental issue on the car and we’ll work to find out what happened there.”

A total of 1,755 laps were completed on the 2.5-mile oval in the practice scheduled for 90 minutes but shortened 18 minutes to allow the track to dry following morning rain.

The 33 entries now are parked in their Gasoline Alley garages until Sunday’s 200-lap race. Live coverage begins at 11 a.m. (ET) on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The green flag is expected to drop at 12:45 p.m.

Oliver Askew charged past Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman to win the Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires by the fourth-narrowest margin in race history. Askew crossed the finish line 0.0067-seconds ahead of his teammate to claim first place in the centerpiece race of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season.

Norman led 29 of 40 laps around the IMS oval and was ahead exiting Turn 4 on the final lap. But Askew got a run and slid inside before crossing the Yard of Bricks to pull out what he called the “biggest race I’ve ever won in my life.”

The win allowed Askew to stretch his championship lead to 21 points over Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), who finished third.

The No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda crew of rookie driver Marcus Ericsson won the annual MotoGator Pit Stop Competition that capped Miller Lite Carb Day activities.

In the final round, Ericsson’s crew _ Bob Jansen (chief mechanic and inside right front tire changer), Ryan Marzec (outside rear tire), Keith Beck (air jack), Brendon Cleave (outside front tire), Timothy Lane (fueler) and Nic Kaminski (inside rear tire) _ defeated the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing crew of Scott Dixon in a best-of-three shootout. Ericsson won the decisive third heat in 11.794-seconds, the best time clocked by any crew during the entire competition.

Ericsson defeated a pair of Team Penske drivers _ Josef Newgarden and Will Power _ on his way to meeting Dixon in the championship round. The win provided a measure of revenge for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which had finished second in the competition the past three years.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 24 2019
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