NTT IndyCar Series drivers are preparing for a second consecutive race where sweltering heat will play a significant role in the event.
Following the opening race in Texas where extreme temperatures pushed a number of drivers and pit crews to their limits, Saturday’s 80-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is expected to offer more of the same with a forecast high of 93 degrees.
IndyCar’s new aeroscreen driver protection device will face its first test in road course competition at IMS where, in a change from the big oval in Texas, the 26 drivers will not receive a constant supply of high-speed airflow into the cockpit. With the circuit’s mix of corners and braking zones, the flow of air through the front aeroscreen vent, and the side scoop that forces air into the top of each driver’s helmet, will vary throughout each lap. And with high humidity to contend with, the GMR Grand Prix is poised to tax each IndyCar driver in strenuous ways.
“It’s gonna be hot!” Graham Rahal told RACER. “I don’t know what else to say, but it’s going to be a major test for all of us. IndyCar drivers are in great shape, but this could be a major test of your mettle. With the humidity… no inhalation of air feels good right now. Then you get into a car with no moving air at times… I hope we’re up for the challenge.”
IndyCar has made one key change to its aeroscreen rules following the Texas event in an effort to manage driver cooling. From the GMR GP onward, drivers are required to run with the helmet cooling hose attached at all times, which removes the previous option to drive without the hose in place. The series has also given teams permission to use the modified noses with twin nostrils, which directs air into the front of the chassis toward each driver’s legs.
Even with every cooling option enabled, Rahal expects to be worn out this weekend due to the combination of heat and lack of power steering inside the Dallara DW12s.
“We already get pushed pretty hard on the physical side in these cars, and you’re always trying to train harder to deal with it,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of endurance training, at altitude of late in Lake Tahoe… this could be as toasty of an event as we’ve seen. I’m out here in Indy, cycling in the heat and humidity right now, just to torture my body even more to get ready for what’s coming.”
With the aeroscreen in place and side-mounted radiators that flank every driver, Rahal says slowing to a crawl behind the pace car, or idling down pit lane and stopping for fuel and tires, has become a test of thresholds and tolerance.
“What I found in Texas is if you’re moving, and we’re doing 200mph the whole time, you’re OK, but it’s when you stopped moving, were rolling through pit lane or wherever, you don’t feel OK,” he said. “When we stopped at Texas after the practice session and had to wait for 15 minutes for pit stop practice to begin, being in the car the whole time, it was effing hot. Even with a fan blowing, sitting there, you’re in a greenhouse, baking. But man, in the yellow flags… it’s tough. This heat is no joke to deal with.”