Daniel Ricciardo has given a thumbs-up to the Red Bull-designed ‘aeroscreen’ cockpit protection device after giving it its first public trial in Russia on Friday.
Cockpit safety has been high on the FIA’s agenda following the deaths of Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi and IndyCar’s Justin Wilson in 2015 from head injuries sustained while racing.
There are two leading solutions to improving cockpit safety: the ‘Halo’, which made its public debut in F1 pre-season testing, and the ‘aeroscreen’ that broke cover on Friday.
Ricciardo completed an installation run with the aeroscreen attached to his car, leading to a mixed response from the paddock, but the Australian reported that visibility was still good in the cockpit.
“I think in terms of visibility it was pretty good,” Ricciardo said.
“The peripheral vision was fine. The structure is by the mirrors, so you’re not really hindered.
“It’s just a bit weird having a structure there. I had a Ferrari driving in front of me and the points on track seemed pretty much unaltered. For sure, it’s different, but the crux of it was pretty good.”
Ricciardo does not think that the height of the aeroscreen would change a driver’s view of the starting lights from the front row of the grid.
“I tried to have a look around and see. It seemed pretty high up,” Ricciardo said.
“If I was to stop on starting grid, I don’t think it would hinder vision.”
The aeroscreen and the Halo are both under consideration for possible implementation in 2017, with a decision set to be made in the near future regarding next season’s technical regulations.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.