INDIANAPOLIS — An underrated topic of the day on Saturday was the Aeroscreen’s debut in the rain. The safety device that first debuted in 2020 has went undeterred in wet races. Coming into Saturday, we’ve had 34 races with the Aeroscreen and none were affected by wet weather.
We thought that would have ended the last time out at the Barber Motorsports Park but the rain subsided and the 2.3-mile track became dry under bright blue Alabama skies. However, it was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway of all places that earned the honors of debuting the screen in the wet.
The birthplace of speed and innovation was on the forefront again. How would the screen hold up in wet conditions with 27 cars running around the same pieces of real estate around the 2.439-mile track for Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said 5th place finisher Conor Daly. “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. Again, I can’t say anything.
“Obviously, this is very much a scientific test run. Obviously, we have a lot of data to go through with the series, and I’m sure 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 one. 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.
“I used to race in the rain all the time, so we had a visor that you can work with, but this is a new era, so obviously there are things that we can figure out. We go from here.
“I do think it was tough. It was definitely hard to race like that because you don’t want to, obviously, end up on the wrong side. 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.”
2nd place finisher Simon Pagenaud echoed Daly’s sentiment on the visuals. He too couldn’t tell where he was at times and made a suggestion of how to quickly fix it.
“I couldn’t see,” Pagenaud said of Colton Herta on the restart. “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 the wiper.”
Pagenaud did say that he wasn’t complaining either. I mean you have to have the 1st time under your belt to make adjustments and that he has faith INDYCAR will. They’ve gotten this far with it and there’s no reason not to continue the development.
“I mean, if we had a wiper, it would probably help, but that was the first real race with the Aeroscreen, so you got to give credit to INDYCAR,” he continued. “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 wind screen you have on a sports car. There’s a (inaudible) wiper. It’s possible, and it would probably help in these conditions.
“I had visibility issues for sure. Wiper would have helped. Obviously I’m not an engineer. I don’t know what we should do.
“It’s certainly, like you said, the first real test for the Aeroscreen. It’s only been positive. 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.
“As we saw in Texas, it saved I think it was Callum. Was it Callum that had the issue with the wishbone? The wind screen saved him. That’s good, and we want to go forward from here. 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.”
3rd place finisher also said the visuals for him weren’t good at the end either.
“At the end there, man, you could not see a thing. There was a spray in front of me. I don’t know how it was behind the one car, but just the two car, I couldn’t imagine being back in tenth, man.
“You don’t know if someone is braking early or you are kind of looking to the fence to get a reference, you kind of lift early. You don’t want to lift too early because no one can see from behind.”
Power said though that he didn’t have a lot of problems in the rain. It was when it was damp on his end.
“Actually, I didn’t have much problem with the rain,” Power continued. “The worst part for me was when it was half wet. We’re on drys, and you have kind of that gritty just dirt on top of water. That was when I struggled to see a little bit, but in the full wet, I mean, the biggest problem for me was the spray from the cars.
“There’s really nothing can you do about that with open-wheel cars. It’s just going to be a lot of spray. Honestly, it was on the edge of whether we should have been running right at the end there. It was starting to get a bit of aquaplane.”