IndyCar’s new cockpit protection device will return for more on-track testing later this summer, but not before important design updates and impact testing have been carried out.
“We’ve started impact testing behind the scenes, and once that’s concluded in about 30 days, we’ll head to a road course first with it,” Jay Frye, IndyCar’s competition president, told RACER.
Designed by the series’ competition department and overseen by IndyCar engineering director Jeff Horton, the windscreen turned its first laps on February 8 at the one-mile ISM Raceway oval in Phoenix with Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It’s most recent run came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 30 while affixed to Josef Newgarden’s No. 1 Team Penske Chevy, and with two unique ovals checked off the list, a road course like Mid-Ohio, Portland, or Sonoma could host the next test with a second-generation version of the unit.
“Right now, it’s going through some development updates with the mounting flange that carries the windscreen itself,” Frye said. “The one we’ve used in testing so far was always intended to be a temporary piece, and our team has been incorporating some things to make it stronger and mount to the car easier now that we’ve taken some time to use the feedback we’ve gotten and design a new flange — possibly the final version.”
As a safety device created by IndyCar for dedicated use in its series, the windscreen’s impact protocols have been formulated to meet in-house standards rather than looking to satisfy something established by the FIA. Frye says that while IndyCar is aware of the impact standards established by the FIA and Formula 1 while evaluating ‘aeroscreen’ options prior to choosing the ‘halo’ device, the differences were too great to apply external standards to its windscreen.
“We know what their impact standards are, but our solution is different than theirs, so some of our standards — what’s in our testing matrix — might not be in theirs,” he added. “Even though we’re doing our testing independently, once we have all the testing data, we’ll share it with F1 and the FIA so they can see what we’ve achieved while going down a different route. And they’ve been very open and helpful with us in return.”
Using an aviation- and military-grade windscreen material named Opticor made by PPG, IndyCar is subjecting the units to traditional impact tests in a laboratory environment where items are fired at the screen from various angles to measure deflection. Another series of tests are also on the docket that are said to be more extreme — with a goal of finding any weaknesses or failure points — in the event of a severe impact. The location and methods for the secondary testing has been kept private.
“We’re doing a couple different versions of impact testing,” Frye said. “But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and get into specifics while the testing is still taking place.”