Story By: CURT CAVIN / INDYCAR – RICHMOND, VA – Newly crowned NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden is ready to use INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen even though the cockpit-protecting safety device still has another test scheduled before it is fully implemented for all cars competing next season.
Newgarden got his first look at – and through – the Aeroscreen on Tuesday at Richmond Raceway, the site of the third of four tests of the device. The fourth test will be Nov. 5 at Sebring International Raceway with four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan and James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driving.
Sebring is a road course, but it simulates street circuit conditions as INDYCAR visits at St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Detroit (two races) and Toronto in the 2020 season.
“Perception-wise, it was a little different when I first got in (the car), but it took maybe 30 or 40 laps and after that you’re pretty used to it,” Newgarden said. “It’s pretty normal at this point.”
The Aeroscreen will make its race debut March 13-15, 2020 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and will be used in competition at all 17 races next season, including the June 26-27 event at Richmond Raceway. The sport held races on this 0.75-mile short oval from 2001-2009.
INDYCAR President Jay Frye continues to be pleased with the process of developing the Aeroscreen.
“We’ve learned something every time we’ve tested,” he said. “It’s about checking the boxes and once the teams get ahold of it they’ll make it even better. They’ll take it to a whole other level.”
The Aeroscreen was developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies to reduce the risk of driver injury from flying debris or other objects striking the cockpit area. Anchored by titanium framework, the Aeroscreen consists of a polycarbonate laminated screen that includes an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, an anti-fogging device through an integral heating element and tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party companies.
The titanium framework mounts in three areas around the cockpit: the chassis centerline, two rear side mounts and roll hoop integration to provide enhanced load-bearing capabilities. The load bearing is expected to be 150 kilonewtons (kN), which equals the FIA load for the Halo design currently used in Formula One. A kilonewton is equal to approximately 225 pounds.
INDYCAR has staged Aeroscreen tests at a superspeedway (Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Oct. 2) and a permanent road course (Barber Motorsports Park on Oct. 7).
The Richmond test included five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who participated in the Indianapolis test with Team Penske’s Will Power. In addition to testing Firestone tires Tuesday at Richmond, Dixon said the Aeroscreen works well on ovals and is nearly ready for action now.
“A little different look with the Aeroscreen,” said the winner of Richmond races in 2003 and ’09. “It seems like everything is going well with all the testing (INDYCAR has) done. For sure (here), the car’s fine.”
Newgarden and Dixon combined to turn 823 laps at Richmond. A focus of this test was to make driving the car a more enjoyable experience by redirecting the air flow with interior inlets. That was an improvement, Dixon said, “especially around the legs and body.”
While the Aeroscreen adds about 50 pounds to the car, Newgarden said he noticed little difference between driving here and at Iowa Speedway, a similar short oval track.
“When I first went out my perception of how much grip the car and how much control I had was slightly different, but I think that’s because it felt foreign,” he said. “You’re not used to having a screen over your head, but after 20 or 30 laps after you got used to it the car feels very similar in terms of how I drive the car or how the car feels compared to a place like Iowa or Gateway — it feels very similar.
“From a tuning standpoint, it didn’t take that much to get much to get it back into the correct window as far as the balance – the balance is very good even with the screen on. From that point I don’t think the cars are going to change that much going into next year.”
Frye said INDYCAR will stage an open test at this track in late March, bringing all full-time competitors.