Sunday, June 4, 2023

IndyCar’s aeroscreen gets mixed reviews in first rain test

Indianapolis ( Associated Press) – IndyCar officials will spend the next few days gathering information and advice about improving aeroscreen visibility for races held in the rain.

Several drivers in the series complained on Saturday that they struggled to see other cars late at the IndyCar Grand Prix – even though each had flashing red lights. It was the most intense rain in the series since 2018 at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama two years before shields designed to protect drivers’ heads from debris were installed.

IndyCar president Jay Fry acknowledged Sunday that previous testing indicated water retention on the screen would be more severe when running at slow speeds. But those tests weren’t conducted with 27 cars on the track as it did at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s roadblock this weekend.

“When you accelerate it, the water will just fly away, it will just go away. Now with a bunch of cars, there are different things involved,” Fry told the Associated Press. “We need to figure that out. It’s about where we are, who had the biggest issue and should come up with best practices.”

One possible solution – better use a teardrop covering clear screen.

Race winner Colton Herta said he, too, struggled with visibility – until his team pulled up a used tear screen. Fry said he spoke to an unidentified driver whose team never pulled it off.

Whether it made a difference on Saturday is not clear.

But it did not change the result.

After finishing a season-best fifth, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Connor Daly told reporters that he finished the race by pecking around the edge of the cockpit as water was collecting in the center of the shield. He wasn’t the only competitor to struggle.

Changing weather conditions and a track that was dry in some parts and wet in others created other obstacles. And while heavy rain covered the front with less than five laps to go, Daly said he relies on his spotter, instinct and muscle memory to navigate braking zones and traffic.

“Running like this was definitely tough,” he said. “Even under yellow, I couldn’t see the cars, so it’s very worrying. Hopefully, we can figure it out. Hopefully, we can keep it shining for the rest of the year.”

Complaints about the AeroScreen are hardly new. When initially introduced, drivers complained about a range of issues including line of sight, cockpit temperature and hot drinking bottles. Chain executives found solutions, with some relatively simple adjustments such as shifting the location of drinking bottles.

Indy GP runner-up Simon Pagenaud offered an idea – adding a windshield wiper like in sports cars.

“It was very difficult to watch without the wipers. It was the first wet race with an aeroscreen, but in these conditions you really need wipers,” said the three-time race winner from France. “It is possible and possibly even necessary to have a viper under these circumstances.”

Fry said the series would consider Pagenod’s suggestion, but the aeroscreen’s curve could present a challenge.

Regardless, the historic speedway is now returning to its traditional roots as a test track, offering everything from seat belts to rearview mirrors to SAFER barriers.

Rain is common in May and has led to delays or cancellations of several practice and qualifying rounds of the Indianapolis 500. In 1915, 1986 and 1997, bad weather forced the marquee race to be postponed. In 1967 and 1973, it took several days to complete and rain caused seven 500s to end prematurely, most recently in 2007 when Dario Franchitti won for the first time.

But since IndyCars doesn’t compete on wet ovals, the rooster tail created by the cars’ spray was a surprise sight for an estimated 65,000 fans and caused real trouble for some of the series’ harshest drivers.

“The biggest problem for me was the spray from the other cars,” said pole-winner and third-place Will Power. “There’s really nothing you can do with the wheels of the cars. We were really right on edge about whether we should run there at the end.”

Series officials monitored radio calls and team messages about visibility throughout the race, especially when it started to rain heavily, Fry said, but no one thought the conditions were “unbearable.”

The series is also trying to find out whether visibility may have played a role in the late crash between Christian Lundgaard and Callum Ilot.

It was not easy for anyone anyway.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmy Johnson said on Twitter, “I am happy to say that I have now run in the rain, although it was a horrifying experience, especially the last time though for several laps.” “I hope I don’t need to do this again anytime soon.”


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