During last May’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis, James Hinchcliffe was seen taken away on a stretcher and holding his head after bodywork from another car broke off and struck him.
Hinchcliffe suffered a concussion in the incident, which was a situation that IndyCar would, of course, like to avoid in the future.
To that end, they’ve been working on ways to protect drivers from flying debris, including evaluation of a carbon fiber fin that would go forward of the cockpit of the cars.
IndyCar reports that drivers have provided feedback from both track testing and simulator sessions on line of sight with both one fin and side-by-side fins.
As for safety advances coming more sooner – as in, for the upcoming season that begins in two months – IndyCar is rolling out new versions of side protection panels and oval-track driver headrests, as well as a modified undertray for the Dallar DW12 chassis. These are being implemented as IndyCar introduces much-anticipated aero kits.
IndyCar director of engineering Jeff Horton told the series’ website that for the oval headrests, they’ll be replacing the Kevlar covering with a “rubberized material” that will be more flexible and support Velcro.
As for the new panels in the cockpit, they’ll be placed near the drivers’ thighs and pelvis areas. “The design allows more support at low lateral Gs, but in an accident situation allows it to collapse to give the drivers some compliance side to side,” Horton said of them.
The undertray has also been changed thanks to triangle-shaped cutouts on either side of the cockpit. They’re designed to work with the new aero kits in reducing the chances that a car becomes airborne in a crash.