The NTT IndyCar Series will test and race with a new cockpit cooling device during the Friday-Saturday doubleheader on the 0.875-mile Iowa oval.
After trying an overhead scoop that channeled air toward the crown of the helmet during opening practice last week in Road America, the series has switched to a new scoop designed to take oncoming air and use it to accelerate hot, stagnant air in the cockpit.
One scoop will be provided to each team for back-to-back comparison at Iowa, where ambient temperatures expected to peak in the high 80s and low 90s across the two-day event, and humidity is predicated to range between 73-89 percent, which could lead to high cockpit temperatures behind the new aeroscreen safety device. With the exceptional amount of physical exertion required at Iowa, and a pair of 250-lap races set to start within a 24-hour window, the new hot-air extraction scoop could prove to be a crucial tool for driver preservation.
“It has a radius around the inside of the aeroscreen; the one we tested at Road America put more air right on the driver, and with this, what we’re doing here is to try and get the air moving in the cockpit,” IndyCar president Jay Frye told RACER. “We have every intention of running it in practice and qualifying on Friday, and the race, and based on the feedback we get, and if it works to everyone’s satisfaction, it would be used as they deemed it necessary.”
The new scoops, made through rapid prototyping, aren’t intended to be the final design. With more time and development, Frye says the inlet scoop bolted atop the aeroscreen could be replaced by a new upper carbon-fiber frame that has inlets built into the aeroscreen.
“The finished version of the product won’t look like what we’re trying at Iowa,” he said. “We’re looking at what we might be able to do, given the time we have, to incorporate it into the carbon frame above the halo, so you really wouldn’t see it. It’s meant to create an air curtain that brings in fast air and moves the stagnant air out. So, we’ll start first practice with them on, stop, take them off, run without them, and then go back to using them and hear what they have to say after the session and look at the data.”
The series is also seeking more input from its paddock to look at other, long-term options to improve cockpit cooling. Seat cooling technology, small aerodynamic turning vanes designed to channel more air out of the cockpit, and thermal insulation barriers between the side-mounted radiators positioned to the left and right of the cockpit, are among the items on the exploratory menu.
“We’re getting lots of input from lots of teams, suppliers, and from their experience over the years in different series where they used various applications to cool cockpits,” Frye said. “We’re looking at ways to insulate the cockpit better so there’s less heat soak, and a bunch of stuff like that.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our partners Red Bull, Pankl, PPG, and Dallara for their work and development help with the aeroscreen, and our teams and drivers, who’ve been right there with us developing it from the start. A lot of this testing would have happened in private testing if this was a normal year, but instead, our fans get to see the process as it plays out at the races, which will be an ongoing project throughout the rest of the season.”