IndyCar competition boss Jay Frye said that the series achieved all of its objectives with the first track test of its prototype windscreen at Phoenix on Thursday.
Scott Dixon completed three runs at different light levels to offer the first real-world evaluation of the device, which had previously only been tested in windtunnels and simulators. While acknowledging that the screen still needs further development, the Ganassi driver was broadly encouraged by what he found, and Frye said that the outing represented a significant stride towards implementation.
“There were three steps to the process, and if one of the steps hadn’t worked them we probably would have stopped [running],” he told RACER. “We were able to complete all three steps – daylight, dusk and dark – so it was a really good day. There were some things that can be learned that can be very helpful going forward – not so much with the optics, but with the way it fixes to the car and that type of thing.
“There is still long way to go in the process, but today was huge, because it was all about the optics. We’ve had it in the simulator, we’ve had it in the windtunnel, but to have it on the race car with an actual driver saying ‘here’s my feedback’… and obviously Scott is one of the best, so it was great to get his input. It was a good day.”
Dixon’s feedback included observations about increased heat in the cockpit due to the removal of airflow, and among the next development steps will be the creation of a ventilation system. Also high on the list of priorities is a road/street course test.
“From what we’ve seen in the simulator the street courses will be more of an issue because you’re so close to things, whereas on road courses it’s more open,” Frye said. “But again, that was a simulator. So the answer is… soon. That’s probably the next step; to get it onto a road course or street course.”
Dixon was most enthusiastic about the windscreen after his final run, which took place in the dark, meaning that the track had consistent light levels across a full lap.
“I changed visors and stuff [after the earlier runs] so I don’t know if that had anything to do with it,” he said. “When we did the earlier running, it was in the worst transition between extreme sunlight to dark transition behind the grandstands, but just then, when everything was the same light, it just felt easier to see in general. I don’t know if we thought there were going to be any glare issues at night with the lights, or when you’re flickering past them, but I didn’t notice any of that.”