Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon took part Tuesday morning in the next step of the development of the Aeroscreen driver safety innovation with a simulator test of a prototype at the U.S.-based Dallara Research Center.
The simulator test of a prototype manufactured by Roush Creative Services comes less than six weeks after INDYCAR announced its ongoing partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies to fully design the Aeroscreen concept for enhanced driver cockpit protection. The Aeroscreen is scheduled to be implemented for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season.
The RBAT design, which will encompass the cockpit, consists of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework, but Dixon’s simulator test only utilized the framework produced by Roush in this collaborative safety effort. The 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 test included having the Chip Ganassi Racing driver conduct simulated laps around five NTT IndyCar Series tracks, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The others were Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park and the Long Beach (Calif.) street circuit.
“I think the technology game moves very quickly in our sport, and I think INDYCAR has always been at the forefront of moving safety additions along,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. “I’m very happy to try and help push this forward and be one of the drivers that can help define areas that may be tricky.”
The simulation included 20 laps on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval and a half-dozen laps on each of the other tracks.
While the polycarbonate laminated screen was not in place for this test, Dixon said he experienced no visibility issues with the framework of the prototype. He said he only noticed the chassis centerline piece, but it was no more of a distraction than the Advanced Frontal Protection device used on Indy cars the past six races (two ovals, two street circuits and two permanent road courses).
“It was very similar to (the AFP),” Dixon said. “So, everything was pretty smooth.”
In addition to visibility, INDYCAR officials wanted Dixon’s opinion on the change in center of gravity the Aeroscreen creates and the varying loads associated with it. Dixon also got to experience entry and exit from the cockpit, although he couldn’t put weight on the 3D-printed mock-up produced by Roush.
“I think every step of the process has been done very well,” Dixon said. “It’s not throwing things (at the wall) and seeing what sticks; most of it has been proven previously and getting to this portion on the simulator covers a lot of the bases we’ll see when we get to the real world maybe in 30 or 60 days with the first generation (of the Aeroscreen).”
INDYCAR President Jay Frye attended the test along with engineers from the Indianapolis-based sanctioning body, Chip Ganassi Racing and Dallara as well as representatives of Red Bull Advanced Technologies joining remotely.
“It was a successful step in the process of this collaborative safety initiative,” Frye said. “We had no issues today, so we can check the box on this test and continue to progress toward the ultimate goal.”
The Red Bull Advanced Technologies design will consist 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. Another feature for the drivers will be a cockpit cooling option that will be designed by Dallara in conjunction with Red Bull Advanced Technologies.
The completed Aeroscreen is projected to be track tested for the first time in September at IMS. Dixon said it has been exciting to be part of INDYCAR’s development process.
“Honestly, it’s been very well done from the get-go and the full process has been well covered in many different areas,” Dixon said. “So, it’s been pretty easy.”
The NTT IndyCar Series returns to action July 12-14 with the Honda Indy Toronto. The 85-lap race on Sunday, July 14, will air at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts Radio Network.
Seven races remain in the 2019 season, culminating with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.