After two years of development, crash testing, and design changes, Indycar’s new windscreen is finally hitting the track for some real-world tests. On the 9th of February, four-time series champion Scott Dixon will test the new piece, ostensibly intended to improve driver safety, at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway). This will be conducted as a four-hour test during part of the preseason open test.
The windscreen itself is crafted from a PPG-developed material called ‘Opticor’, which is said to be stronger, lighter, and more impact resistant than the traditional polycarbonate used in prior iterations. The newly developed pieces will be fitted to Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing Honda for testing. Because this is a relatively new material in a completely new application, Dixon will primarily be evaluating visibility on the track in bright daylight, dusk hours, and overnight with the track lighting illuminated.
INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye said of the windscreen project:
“This has been a long process, one that’s been very methodical and purposeful. We have been striving to create a safety piece that aesthetically looks good and works in all conditions, and this is a test of those things. Any piece we put on an Indy car must work for multiple types of venues and different lighting conditions. It has to be versatile.”
The design has been tested in chassis constructor Dallara’s simulator, but this test will mark the first time the windscreen has been on a car at speed. It isn’t likely to be incredibly disruptive aerodynamically, but it’s entirely possible that this change could make the car more difficult to drive. If anyone can provide good engineering feedback, it’d be Scott Dixon.
The idea here is to create a more enclosed cockpit to ensure driver safety, much in the same way Formula One and Formula E are adding the so-called ‘halo’ safety unit to their racers. Indycar is hoping the windscreen will be a more attractive and potentially safer option for their own drivers. It does beg the question, though; Why not just close the cockpit entirely?
No timetable for implementation has been given by Indycar yet, but the hope is to bring it to the cars as soon as possible.