The first race for IndyCar’s new aeroscreen provided the series with plenty of constructive feedback after searing heat at Texas Motor Speedway put the driver protection device through extreme conditions during the Genesys 300.
Drivers reported a number of observations that could lead to improvements with the spec units manufactured by Red Bull Advanced Technologies as racing in temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit, varying levels of light as the race progressed into darkness, and cockpit cooling put the aeroscreens through an invaluable test.
“Texas is one of the most intense venues we go to,” IndyCar president Jay Frye told RACER. “It was hot, and we’re taking in a lot of responses from our drivers and teams on how they felt the aeroscreens did Saturday night. We mandated all the teams run with the cooling devices connected in practice and qualifying and in the race; that all seemed to work well and we’ve learned a lot there.
“We had some on-track incidents, but there was no cracking; nothing happened negatively to the screen throughout the course of the weekend. Visually, we ran in the day, dusk, and dark as we went through the whole thing, so to me, that was a really big, single-day sign-off test for the aeroscreen.”
Drivers offered mixed reports on encountering problems with glare as the race transitioned from natural light to using the overhead lighting system at TMS. High cockpit temperatures, especially during the comparatively slow lapping under caution where the ram-air effect was lost, and small, granular debris raining down onto the faces of some drivers — which came from the side cooling scoop and hose connected to the top of each helmet –was also noted.
The main aeroscreen cockpit vent, which sits at the leading edge of the device and is channeled to the front of each helmet, was another item mentioned as worthy for ongoing development due to its height atop the cockpit and the sightline blockage it created.
With the aeroscreen’s first race held in the unique environment of a high-speed oval, the various observations from drivers were expected, and in most cases, finding solutions should not be a challenge. Adding a filter to the side scoop’s opening to stop sand and tire marbles from entering the helmets would be easy, and with cockpit temperatures spiking on slow laps, using an inline fan — the same style and concept found with manually-activated brake cooling fans — as part of the helmet hose system could be considered. Redesigning the front cockpit vent to have a narrower aspect ratio would be the most time-consuming development item to implement.
“Like we’ve always said, once the teams get ahold of these things, they’ll make them better,” Frye added. “Now that the teams have it there’ll be all kinds of things between now and the end of the year that we’ll evaluate that could make it even better. Obviously, driver comfort and cooling is big. Everything mentioned is all obviously very important.
“We’ll go through anything that we can find, and obviously if there’s something good for one, it’s good for all in this regard. That’s a normal standard operating procedure on something like this. We feel good about the cadence of how we’ve been doing things in the off-season and going into the season. And it really did play into the aeroscreen having a successful launch this past weekend.”