Back in May, IndyCar debuted its aeroscreen concept as a sleek form of head protection in response to many other series’ adoption of the halo. That was pretty much the last update we’d heard of it—until now. And the best part is, we’ll get to see it in action on track next month.
IndyCar has been pretty adamant about using an aeroscreen as opposed to a halo, like most other open-wheel racing series. It even tested a preliminary version back in 2018, but it didn’t end up working out. The screen itself wasn’t super substantial, and it was prone to creating a warped visual effect for the driver due to the curved surface.
The first image of the new aeroscreen can be found at Racer, and it looks a lot different. The previous version was mainly just a windshield bolted to the car. This time around, there’s a whole hefty carbon fiber rig that permanently bonds the screen to the chassis itself. IndyCar president Jay Frye called it a “dedicated tub modification” in the Racer article.
With a new design comes more testing, which comes in the form of two track days on October 2 and 7 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park, respectively, with a short oval following that. But there’s already controversy.
IndyCar’s so-called “Big Three” will be the teams in charge of doing the testing: Penske Racing, Andretti Autosport, and Chip Ganassi Racing. And there’s already to the fear that this is going to give these already-successful teams a huge advantage:
Concerns have been expressed over Andretti, Ganassi, and Penske receiving an unfair advantage by getting a head start on working with the 50-pound aeroscreen next month. Due to the aeroscreen’s heft and high forward location, chassis setups from 2019 are expected to be largely unusable, meaning the October chassis data captured by the Big 3 in testing could leave their rivals well behind when the aeroscreens are mass-produced and distributed in December.
Due to testing blackout windows, teams are not expected to turn their first laps with the aeroscreen installed until January.
That’s kind of a huge downer for literally every other team. While the feedback from the three successful teams in question will surely be helpful, this decision gives those teams far more experience going into the season than any other team will have.
The solution here, according to Frye, is to invite all teams to the tests to observe. Unfortunately, that doesn’t give those teams hard data on their own cars or experience for their own drivers. And it doesn’t guarantee that the Big Three will be completely transparent in sharing their data.
The aeroscreen is undoubtedly a good thing for the sport, but it is pretty damn regrettable that its implementation could serve as a sore spot heading into the 2020 season.