It took 35 races to get there, but IndyCar’s new-for-2020 aeroscreen was finally put through a proper wet-weather test. Few complaints were heard in light and medium downpours, but when the skies opened wide in the closing stages of the two-hour Indy GP, serious visibility concerns arose.
“I couldn’t see,” second-place finisher Simon Pagenaud said after chasing Colton Herta home on Saturday. “I didn’t even know where he was, quite frankly. I picked a few points on the fence to know where I had to brake, but it was very difficult to see without a wiper. I mean, if we had a wiper, it would probably help, but that was the first real race with the aeroscreen, so you’ve got to give credit to IndyCar.
“The safety is amazing, but in these conditions you would need a wiper like they do in the sports cars. It’s very similar to a windscreen you have on a sports car. I’m not being negative at all — I’m being quite positive about it and what we could do forward to make it even better. So we’ll find solutions and improve it and make sure that when we have rain races, hopefully we have more, then we don’t have these issues.”
Where Pagenaud used the fences to pick his braking markers, sixth-place driver Felix Rosenqvist closed the race by using the bright rain lights affixed to the back of the cars as indicators of when to brake or turn..
“It’s like when it gets a certain amount of water on it, it doesn’t go anywhere,” he told RACER. “It just stays and the only thing that makes you know where you’re going is the lights blinking on the back of the cars. Like, if you didn’t have a car ahead of you, you didn’t know where you go.”
“I braked when I thought OK, but I went into Turn 1, and I’m like, ‘I’ll just brake here,’ and I passed like five guys! It’s been a while since I had a proper rain race. It’s always fun.”
Conor Daly’s run to fifth featured similar experiences.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “It was like the water just stayed in the center of the screen, and I don’t know why, but even as you went faster, which you would hope it would clear, it didn’t. Obviously, this is very much a scientific test run. We have a lot of data to go through with the series, and I’m sure [IndyCar president] Jay Frye will look at it as well. And he hates when I talk about the aeroscreen, but I’m just describing what I saw, that’s all. It was challenging.
“Thankfully, we had a great spotter in Packy Wheeler, who was literally guiding me into Turn 1. I couldn’t see the brake zone or the cars in front of me or the end of the pit wall, but I could look out the side of the aeroscreen, so I was looking right and left to go straight, which was neat.”
Adding windshield wiper motors and wiper blades might be a challenge to add before the end of the season — if IndyCar has an interest in following Pagenaud’s suggestion. Whatever the determination might be, the series’ drivers want all of the protection the aeroscreen offers, but after encountering significant issues with being able to see in a hard rain, more development is required to prevent the same outcome from happening again.
“It was definitely hard to race like that because you don’t want to, obviously, end up on the wrong side,” Daly said, acknowledging the good fortune that prevented big crashes from happening due to driving blind. “Even under yellow. I couldn’t see the cars in front of me under yellow. I had to be guided into pit lane, and that’s concerning. Hopefully we can figure that out, but hopefully we also have very shiny weather for the rest of the year.”