Scott Dixon’s first laps with the prototype of INDYCAR’s driver head safety solution granted the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and the sanctioning body valuable insights into the windscreen’s effects.
Dixon turned several laps around the renamed ISM Raceway on Thursday afternoon in Phoenix with the windscreen fitted to his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared Honda.
“I think it’s definitely a milestone as far as moving forward and moving in the right direction for some more safety initiatives which we all know the reasons why,” Dixon said after first testing the windscreen.
Dixon’s main question entering the test was the question INDYCAR intended to answer: How much does the windscreen negatively alter the drivers’ visibility? At the 1-mile Phoenix oval, where speeds eclipse 190 mph and a lap lasts less than 20 seconds, confidence offered to the drivers by unobstructed vision is at a premium.
“I think it’s a little bit different looking through something that’s so thick,” Dixon continued. “But I thought it would have messed with distortion a lot more but there was nothing like that — there was no problem with reflection.”
Though this initial reaction from Dixon came before he completed nighttime testing with the windscreen, the late afternoon timeframe is notoriously challenging at ISM Raceway.
Dixon came away impressed with the windscreen’s performance against the glare of the setting Phoenix sun.
“Reflection was actually really good — and right now is probably one of the worst times to run here at Phoenix because you’re going from complete blinding sunlight going into (Turn) 1 and then you get a big black transformation going into and through the corner,” explained Dixon. “It may have actually even helped a little bit with glare that you typically get through the visor with the tear-offs.”
With the visual aspects of the windscreen seeming to meet Dixon’s expectations, it was the sound and turbulence effects that caught the New Zealand native’s attention.
“The weirdest thing was just how quiet it is,” he said. “You have no buffeting. The car feels very smooth … like you’ve gone to a really luxury, dampened car.”
Looking to the future, Dixon and INDYCAR realized the need for a new method of flowing air to the driver for cooling purposes given that the windscreen blocks the air that typically meets the driver of an open-cockpit car.
A timetable for the continued evolution and eventual implementation of the windscreen remains unclear following its on-track debut.