By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Chip Ganassi’s lead driver Scott Dixon has completed the first test of IndyCar’s new windscreen driver protection concept at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.
This was the first time the windscreen has been used on track after two years in development which included lots of work in the wind tunnel, CFD and simulators. The main aim of the test was to be see how the screen worked in different lighting conditions and how that would effect the driver. To that end the four time series champ went out for three runs; late afternoon, dusk, and at night under the lights. The last run featured the use on IndyCar’s excellent visor cam. We’ve posted the video at the bottom of this article, it is definitely worth viewing to see a bit of what Dixon experienced last night.
Speaking to Racer’s Marshall Pruett, Dixon described the sensations of how driving with the windscreen was different from what he has become used to after 18 years of piloting open wheel race cars.
“For me it’s definitely a big change. Having driven open-wheel cars the whole time with nothing in front of you, for me the biggest sensation to start with, outside of the visual, was how quiet it was. It felt like I was in a luxury car cruising around with no wind, your head wasn’t moving around,” Dixon said in regards to the experience for the driver.
“It’s a very good start and no showstoppers, which is the biggest part. What everyone was worried about is if we drive out and can’t see properly, glare was going to be an issue. We ran it at probably one of the worst times in Phoenix, too. Going into turn one it was complete sun and then going into the darkness.”
Glare turned out to be a non issue for the windscreen, but Dixon did find at least one way it could be improved and opined about how the changes for the drivers could be more mental than anything.
“I started hearing a lot of thing that you don’t normally hear. That was quite interesting. And then the heat, obviously there’s no airflow right now. It’s something that’s a very easy fix down the road with maybe a NACA duct or something in front. But I think to start it’s pretty good. It is a little different to look through, you’ve got to imagine it’s quite a thick piece of material you’re transitioning and looking through. It’s more the sensation of having to get used to it, it’s like when you have a new pair of glasses or contacts or something like that, it visually takes you a little bit to get used to.”
IndyCar’s President of Competition and Operations, Jay Frye who has been at the forefront of the windscreens development was happy with the outcome, but made sure to emphasize that further revisions will be made to the screen and did not announce any sort of timeline for its implementation. Speaking with INDYCAR’s Mark Robinson, he shared his thoughts on the day’s work.
“We came here, we had a plan to run in light, at dusk and at dark. If any one of those had not gone well, we probably would not have been able to continue. They all went as well or better than we expected. Again, this is part of the process,” said Frye.
“Today was all about optics. It’s been in simulators, it’s been in wind tunnels, but until you actually put it on a real car with a real driver, there’s still that element that’s an unknown. Having Scott, which we sure appreciate what he did today and the Ganassi guys did a phenomenal job, it did what we thought it would do. Now we have to take it to that next step.”