IndyCars Aeroscreen gets first real test, saves lives at Iowa race

  • Colton Herta (L) flies over the top of Rinus VeeKay (R) after a potentially nasty crash at Iowa Speedway. Chris Jones/IndyCar
  • An uncharacteristic mistake from the Penske pit crew left Will Power with a loose wheel. When it parted company with the rest of his vehicle, the car slid down the track, then back up to the wall. In the process, the wheel ran over the top of Power's car but was deflected away from his head by the Aeroscreen. Joe Skibinksi/IndyCar
  • Pole position went to Conor Daly, seen here getting into his car through the top of the Aeroscreen. The cooling hose fitted to his helmet is a new thing for 2020, because one downside to the Aeroscreen has been soaring cockpit temperatures. Chris Jones/IndyCar

The biggest change to IndyCar in 2020, other than a coronavirus-altered schedule, has been the addition of the new driver-protecting Aeroscreen to each of the race cars. On Friday night at Iowa Speedway,the Aeroscreen got it first real tests in a pair of potentially horrible crashes; happily, the new safety feature passed with flying colors.

The Aeroscreen was developed last year for IndyCar by Red Bull Advanced Technologies. The engineering consultancy of the championship-winning Formula 1 team originally proposed something similar for F1 in 2016, but that was rejected in favor of the Halo device—the bit that looks like a flip-flop strap—that we've seen on other open-wheel, open-cockpit race cars over the past few years.

The Aeroscreen refines the two ideas. There's a titanium frame made by Pankl, bonded into the carbon-fiber monocoque around the car's cockpit, that weighs 28.7lbs (13kg) and can withstand a load of 34,000lbs (15,422kg). This is enveloped by a laminated polycarbonate ballistic windscreen made by PPG that weighs 17.3lbs (7.8kg), capable of withstanding the hit from a 2lb (0.9kg) object traveling at 220mph (354kmh).

From some angles—particularly head-on—the Aeroscreen can make an attractive race car look ungainly. And last night's winner, Simon Pagenaud, previously told me that cockpit temperatures have seriously increased inside the Dallara IR-12 car as the drivers are now no longer cooled by the airflow at speed. But I think after last night's demonstrations, drivers will take a little more heat stress as an acceptable payoff for a much safer car.

The first incident happened on lap 144 of the 250-lap event, when a botched pitstop left driver Will Power's car with a loose left front wheel.

.@12WillPower has been cleared after this incident.

"I can't thank @IndyCar enough for that Aeroscreen." #INDYCAR #IOWA250s pic.twitter.com/kSc4qnMh0z

— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) July 18, 2020

"Man, I can't thank IndyCar enough for everything they've done safety-wise with the Aeroscreen and halo inside the Aeroscreen. You just saw Colton Herta go over the top of someone, and they've just done a tremendous job. It's better than any other series that have invented something like it. Just a very good job," Power said after the race, refeRead More – Source

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