IndyCar’s final track test for its new aeroscreen was completed Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway. Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, and Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio O’Ward lapped the Florida road course with the 60-pound Red Bull Advanced Technologies cockpit safety devices fitted to their cars. Between the two, the bespectacled four-time Champ Car champion was especially relieved with the results.
Concerns regarding visibility inspired the Frenchman’s test. Despite racing and winning numerous sports car races positioned behind a windshield, the highly curved aeroscreen presented an unknown for the 40-year-old, and other IndyCar drivers who prefer glasses over contact lenses, until he turned laps in anger.
“It went about as well as it could,” Bourdais told RACER. “I was honestly impressed with the quality of the screen. Even in the GT cars I’ve driven, you can get lightweight screens where the vision isn’t great. The IndyCar screen itself is clear as day. Especially with the curvature they have, it’s pretty impressive. There was a tiny distortion on the side, but you won’t notice it when you’re racing, really.”
The IndyCar Series also worked with Bourdais’ team to try different cockpit cooling devices throughout the test. With air being fed to the cockpit through a channel at the base of the screen, the series and RBAT are finding concentrated solutions – using hose extensions atop the tip that can be pointed in preferred directions, and incorporating a sports car-style helmet-cooling hose – as the most effective directions to pursue.
For new AMSP signing O’Ward, the addition of the PPG-made screen in front of the Pankl-produced halo was a new experience. After sampling the halo alone in competition earlier this year in Formula 2 and the Super Formula series, the combination of the aeroscreen and high ambient temperatures presented the same cockpit cooling challenges experienced at previous tests.
— Arrow McLaren SP (@ArrowMcLarenSP) November 6, 2019
“The aeroscreen was fine for vision, but the biggest issue for me was to get air channeling right to my visor area to cool my head,” he said. “We found a solution to cool my legs, but we’re still working on the cockpit airflow with the visor open. It was a hot day, so it was close to what we might have with heat and humidity like we’d have at St. Pete.”
After making his on-track debut for AMSP, the 20-year-old Mexican was delighted with the progress made during the one-day outing. Will Anderson, who served as race engineer for James Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow SPM entry, looked after O’Ward as the team logged its first miles with Chevrolet power.
“It was great. We worked through everything quite efficiently,” O’Ward said. “Everything I needed to do to alter driving styles went well, and we threw down some really fast lap times. It was a great start for Arrow McLaren SP. Every change we did, from the sim to the real track, seemed to work. Everything I asked for from the car was made and we progressed from run to run. Will and I understand each other pretty well, already, so that’s really encouraging.”
Oliver Askew, O’Ward’s rookie teammate, spent the test listening to the interactions between driver and engineer in preparation for his upcoming debut with the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson-owned outfit.
“I’ve been giving Oliver feedback every way I can, and to the team,” O’Ward said. “The more we have, the more we can analyze. I want the strongest teammate I can have to push me, and to push him. That’s what I had with Colton Herta at Andretti Autosport. It was really good for the team. We made each other better. And Oliver and I get along great, and I know he believes the better we are together, the better we’ll be for the team, so it’s an open book between us.”
This story was updated after publication to include an expanded Sebastien Bourdais quote.