INDYCAR staged its second on-track test of the new Aeroscreen on Monday, this one at Barber Motorsports Park with one-time NTT IndyCar Series champions and Indianapolis 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske.
The innovative safety piece, developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, is designed to reduce the risk of driver injury from debris or other objects striking the cockpit area. The Aeroscreen encompasses the cockpit and is comprised of a ballistic material anchored by titanium framework. All cars will have one during the 2020 season, beginning with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 13-15.
As was the case with last week's oval test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there were several items on the checklist at Barber Motorsports Park, including the process of a driver getting in and out of the car efficiently with the Aeroscreen. The drivers who have tested don’t see it being a problem.
"A guy like me, who's 6-foot-2,. I’ve got that down pat -- easy," Hunter-Reay said.
“It’s something you’ll practice a lot,” said Team Penske’s Will Power, who like Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud has won an Indianapolis 500 and a season championship. “You think about how many times you get in an out (of the race car), you’ll get good at it.
“I’d rather have it around my head than worry about if it’s a struggle to get out.”
Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon, a five-time series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, agreed with Power.
"I think you’re going to have to get in the car a little earlier,” he said. “It does take a little longer, but getting out was fine, actually.”
Power suggested some form of a handle to assist with egress.
Hunter-Reay also got to experiment using the Aeroscreen in wet conditions as there was varying degrees of moisture during Monday's Barber test.
"Tear-offs were good," he said. "Just like on your helmet, the more tear-offs you (use) the more warping effect there is; same on the Aeroscreen."
Pagenaud was pleased with what he experienced at Barber.
“INDYCAR and Red Bull did a fantastic job, really,” he said. “We’re just fine-tuning (it). Mostly, air into the cockpit. The visibility is great. I think the car looks pretty futuristic, which I’m sure the kids will enjoy that.
“It’s an evolution. It’s a great evolution into safety. It’s a new step for INDYCAR going forward. As a driver I can’t thank them enough for the effort to try to provide us better safety. We’re all going to have to get used to it, for sure, but all positive today.”
Pagenaud also thought the rain wasn't a problem.
"Honestly felt great in the wet!" he said in a tweet. "Visibility might even be better than it would with the helmet alone as water seemed to disperse better on the aero screen!"
Future tests are scheduled at Richmond Raceway on Oct. 15 (drivers will be Dixon and reigning series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske) and at Sebring International Raceway on Nov. 5 (with James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan).
Aeroscreens are to be delivered to all NTT IndyCar Series teams prior to Christmas.
INDYCAR President Jay Frye said members of the AMR IndyCar Safety Team have discussed and started practicing how better to assist drivers with egress, when necessary.
“They’ve had the frame, the piece that they’re already practicing on,” he said of the group which travels to all INDYCAR events. “They’re also practicing on if you had to take the (Aeroscreen) completely off (to see) how quickly that could be done. It’s very quick at this point. We have some great tools to do it.”
Frye said he expects everyone involved to work better with the Aeroscreen as they work with it more. Frye noted there is additional space for someone on the outside of the cockpit to lean on, which provides leverage to work.
“At the end of the day, we’re really hoping that this creates (a situation) where you don’t have to extract anybody, right? It’s there to protect people,” he said.
Frye has called the Aeroscreen “a total industry-changing driver safety solution.”
“This is, to me, a game changer,” he said. “This is big. This is something that will really change the complexion of the sport for a long time to come.”
Singin’ in the rain 🏎🎶💦@BarberMotorPark // 🎥: @simonpagenaudpic.twitter.com/LEikjBQaSy