Q: While I do not especially care for the new windscreen aesthetically, using it is the smart thing. Why not go the way and just enclose the cockpit as virtually every other series has done? Back in the day all sports car racing was open cockpit, as was Top Fuel – not anymore. We are way past elbows-out and open-face helmets. Finally, why was it so difficult to find the proper material for the windscreen? The dynamics cannot be much different that what is experienced on the Mulsanne straight at 200+, and I have never seen any comments about searching for the right windscreen material for those cars.
RM: I think IndyCar wants to hang on to some of its identity so let’s save canopies for Bonneville. As for the material, there were a lot of things to take into consideration from the driver’s perspective, and IndyCar seemed pretty diligent about getting it right.
Q: I’m just not a fan of this aeroscreen. No doubt I’ll be labeled as some out of touch old fart for my views (though I’m only 47), but I just believe that living is risky and causes death every time. I grew up when the cars were beasts and the game had serious consequences for some. I was 10 years old and sitting in the stands at Indy right where Gordon Smiley died. I saw it happen right in front of me. On that day, modern gladiators tried to conquer the Speedway, and one lost the fight. I remember it was sad, but I also remember my dad telling me that Gordon died doing what he loved and we should all be that lucky. He lived (and died) doing what he wanted to do and was not in fear.
I guess my biggest concern is societal, and things like IndyCar are just a demonstration of it. Specifically, so many members of today’s society seems afraid to take risks and live their lives. Too often we live in fear. This mentality of “I want to try this dangerous thing but I don’t want it to be dangerous” just doesn’t make sense to me. At some point when you remove all the risk and excitement from something, it’s no longer appealing. It’s not worth doing or watching. I fear the death of the sport I grew up loving because the danger (and thus largely the thrill and excitement) will be washed away. And before anyone asks, no, I’m not advocating that people die in racing. But I know it’s risky and it will happen from time to time, and if you completely sanitize the sport it won’t be real racing anymore.
Dan, Peoria, AZ
RM: Well stated Dan, you sound like the old drivers from the ’60s and ‘70s I have lunch with every Friday. The attraction of IndyCar racing has always been speed and danger, and the fact it can be a ruthless and cruel sport that’s only for a chosen few. Nobody makes anyone do it, and they all understand the consequences. But what’s happened in the past 20 years is that the SAFER Barrier and HANS device expedited safety and made racing sanctioning bodies push for stouter cars and cockpits – while making tracks address runoffs and fences. Today’s drivers are plenty brave going into Turn 1 at Indy at 225 mph, but they’ve been conditioned to think more about safety than their predecessors. I don’t think they would have boycotted if IndyCar hadn’t come up with an aeroscreen and I’m not convinced IndyCar needed to make it a priority but it was the right thing to do for today’s sensitivities. A.J., Parnelli, Mario, J.R. and the Unsers never thought about safety because nobody would have listened anyway. But they were too busy trying to beat each other to give it much thought. It’s just a different generation and a different mindset, but it doesn’t mean the racing isn’t good and fierce – it’s just not as lethal. And that’s great for the drivers, but probably not as good for the box office.
Q: With the new aeroscreen, what, if anything, will happen to helmet design? The helmets are made to be out in the breeze. Any changes coming? Can hardly wait for 2020!
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN
RM: Chris Wheeler, the director of motorsports for Bell Racing, kindly agreed to answer this one, Wally.
“We have been working with IndyCar very closely on the aeroscreen testing. For 2020 our IndyCar drivers will use the new HP77, which is being used in F1 in 2019. The HP77 removes the need for the Zylon panel that has been used for the past several years. Some changes are welcomed as we will no longer be dealing with tear-offs or aero wickers. However some challenges are cooling the driver, as well as making sure the driver’s vision is as clear as possible. We will be on site at all aeroscreen tests with Bell Helmet users this off-season and will continue to work with IndyCar and Dallara closely to ensure all Bell Helmet athletes including defending champion Josef Newgarden [are ready] when we get to St. Pete!”
Q: I’ll assume you have no shortage of aeroscreen comments. While many will no doubt go nuclear and pan everything about it, I hope there are voices with a more measured approach. Personally I think it looks pretty good from all but a head-on angle. My question/comment is, why the hell is the thing so wide? The width requires the sides to be just about vertical and absolutely destroys the aesthetics from the front. Most of these drivers are built like jockeys, and even the taller drivers are all slim and it looks like you could get a giant through the opening. (It also looks to be taller than it absolutely needs to be). Is the design set in stone at this point, or is in more of a proof of concept stage that would allow for improvements?
Thankfully, it seems to be working well. Here’s hoping they can tweak it for a better look, because when race cars don’t look cool anymore (F1) you can forget about catching any new young fans.
RM: Once teams get units and can blend into their livery’s much of the look should change aesthetically.