By Steve Keating
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – IndyCar will use an “Aeroscreen” to provide cockpit protection from next season, with the Red Bull Advanced Technologies-designed system giving cars a jet fighter appearance, the U.S. open wheel series announced on Friday.
Indycar believes the Aeroscreen concept is better suited for their series, considered the most dangerous form of open-wheel racing, than the halo system used in Formula One.
The Red Bull design will consist of a polycarbonate laminated screen with an anti-reflective coating, an anti-fogging device and possibly tear-offs.
The titanium framework will mount in three areas around the cockpit.
IndyCar races on street and road courses and ovals, like the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, where cars sometimes race wheel-to-wheel at speeds reaching close to 230 mph.
The full screen concept is designed to allow drivers to survive incidents like the one that killed Justin Wilson in 2015, when a piece of debris struck his helmet during a race.
“Since the first prototypes were developed and demonstrated in 2016, the potential of Aeroscreen to improve the safety for drivers in the event of frontal impacts in the cockpit area of cars has been clear,” said Christian Horner, Red Bull Advanced Technologies CEO and Red Bull Racing team principal, in a statement.
When Formula One made the halo mandatory in 2018, racing traditionalists were critical that it changed the look of cars.
IndyCar said it took aesthetics into consideration and believes it has hit on an eye-pleasing design that will be the new industry standard for driver protection.
“This car we kind of reversed engineered it where we did aesthetics first and performance second so…it has a fighter jet look to it,” said IndyCar president Jay Frye.
IndyCar has been working on a cockpit protection system and last year conducted testing with a windscreen concept, including on-track sessions where it was determined that additional work was needed before implementation.
Data from these tests was passed onto Red Bull Advanced Technologies for the development of the current design.
“We the drivers at IndyCar always wanted to make sure that if we did run something that it was going to be something great, not something rushed, something that hadn’t been tested well,” said IndyCar veteran Scott Dixon, winner of the 2008 Indy 500 and a five-time series champion.
“We’ve seen other versions of this but I think this covers all the bases.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)