Photos: IndyCar unveils next phase of ‘Aeroscreen’ project

0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – The next phase of IndyCar’s cockpit protection initiative will have a Formula One influence as Christian Horner, Red Bull Advanced Technologies CEO and Red Bull Racing team principal, is now part of the “Aeroscreen” project.

IndyCar President Jay Frye made the announcement Friday morning at the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

Artist renderings obtained from IndyCar show a higher “Aeroscreen” with an opening on top to help extricate the driver after a crash. The previous design was a few inches lower, ending just in front of the top of the helmet.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

A target date of the “outset of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season” was also announced.

“We’ll have a prototype in probably 30 days, and we’ll have real pieces in another 60 days,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said at Friday’s announcement. “We want to get them on cars this summer to test, and then at some point, we’re going into the off-season around November so we’ll have one for each entry. The plan is to put this on all the cars in 2020 is our goal.”

Frye’s connections with Red Bull Formula One helped create this relationship. At one time, Frye was the team principal of Team Red Bull’s NASCAR Cup effort.

“Since the first prototypes were developed and demonstrated in 2016, the potential of Aeroscreen to improve the safety for drivers in the event of frontal impacts in the cockpit area of cars has been clear,” said Christian Horner, Red Bull Advanced Technologies CEO and Red Bull Racing team principal. “This new partnership with INDYCAR gives us at Red Bull Advanced Technologies the go-ahead to fully explore that potential, and to deliver a protection system that will help prevent serious injuries and potentially save lives in the U.S.’ premier single-seater series.

“Over the coming months, we’ll be working closely with IndyCar and its drivers to refine and perfect Aeroscreen, and we’re looking forward to seeing the results race in 2020.”

The Red Bull Advanced Technologies Aeroscreen is the second phase of IndyCar’s objective to further enhance driver safety in the open-cockpit race cars. IndyCar debuted the Advanced Frontal Protection (AFP) device for the IndyCar Grand Prix that was held May 10-11 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The AFP is designed to help deflect debris away from the cockpit area and the driver.

“This collaborative effort on the Aeroscreen between Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Dallara and IndyCar truly exhibits an unrelenting commitment and passion for enhancing driver safety,” Frye said. “We would like to thank everyone at Red Bull Advanced Technologies for creating a design that will be significant in the evolution of motorsports safety, not only for the NTT IndyCar Series but from a global perspective.”

According to IndyCar, the Aeroscreen is being developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies to reduce the risk of driver injury from debris or other objects striking the cockpit area. The driver safety innovation that will encompass the cockpit consists of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework.

The Red Bull Advanced Technologies design will consist of a polycarbonate laminated screen that includes an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, an anti-fogging device through an integral heating element and possibly tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party companies.

Another feature for the drivers will be a cockpit cooling option that will be designed by Dallara, an IndyCar official supplier, in conjunction with Red Bull Advanced Technologies.

“FI didn’t use the system in the end, but it chose to use the halo system, and I think that was later on that year we got contacted by INDYCAR to see if there was an interest and see if we could share our IP with them,” said Andy Damerum, Red Bull Racing business Development Engineer.

The titanium framework will mount in three areas around the cockpit – the chassis centerline, two-rear side mounts and roll hoop integration – to provide enhanced load-bearing capabilities. The load bearing is expected to be 150 kilonewtons (kN), which would equal the FIA load for the Halo design currently used in Formula One. A kilonewton is equal to approximately 225 pounds, which is a force of gravity rating, not static weight or mass. Force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration.

“We’ve created a system that protects the driver from a very large range of threats, perhaps more so than any other driver protection system in other series,” said Ed Collings, Head of Composites and Structures, Red Bull Advanced Technologies. “INDYCAR is a unique series with limited runoff on the edge of the track, and it was important that we could protect the drivers from smaller debris as well as very large items. So we have a system with the screen that can protect from smaller debris and then a very strong structure around the top of that screen and with a strut in the center that can deflect large wheel upright assembly at a very high speed.

“That’s a key attribute of the design, but then we’ve had to manage lots of other things to make sure we don’t introduce other compromises. So we’ve had to design around just the simple things, towing and lifting the vehicles, but also a lot of more scientific work in terms of preventing reflections that could distract the driver. We have to make sure that we don’t have any fogging occurring in any damper, more humid environments, and many other attributes. That’s a small set of examples really of the very detailed study that we’ve undertaken, my team in Milton Keynes in the UK.

“We have a combination of composite materials, very high-strength carbon fiber epoxy and also titanium is being used, so really the state-of-the-art technology.”

Upon completion of the Aeroscreen design by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, IndyCar is tentatively planning on-track testing by selected NTT IndyCar Series drivers this summer and the approved Aeroscreens delivered to all teams by the fall.

The latest phase of the Aeroscreen project is supported by five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing.

“IndyCar has always been on the forefront of driver safety,” Dixon said. “They are constantly looking and evaluating what needs to be done. It’s something they have done throughout history if you look back through the different eras since auto racing started over 100 years ago. The Aeroscreen is just the latest effort in continuing IndyCar’s efforts to enhance driver safety.”

The AFP device, a 3-inch-tall titanium component manufactured by Dallara that is positioned in front of the cockpit along the chassis centerline, will be utilized by all teams for the remainder of the NTT IndyCar Series season, including Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Previously, IndyCar had conducted extensive testing with a windscreen concept developed in conjunction with PPG Aerospace, including on-track sessions in 2018 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The drivers who tested the windscreen did not report any issues, but additional comprehensive testing at PPG’s facility in Huntsville, Alabama, revealed additional work was needed before any implementation.

INDYCAR Photo

IndyCar was able to utilize the research and on-track testing from this project to provide additional data and information to Red Bull Advanced Technologies for the development of the current design.

“I think it’s always been very important for the NTT IndyCar Series to be at the forefront of safety initiatives, and it’s been a work in progress for a long time,” Dixon said. “Having run the initial aero screen, we felt that for the driver it worked well. There was no issues with it. I think cooling was maybe the only thing that was really something that was a problem to start with, but something that could be fixed easily.

“As it went through testing and things, I think we, as I said, the drivers in INDYCAR always wanted to make sure that if we did run something that it was going to be something great, not something rushed, not something that hadn’t been tested well, and it’s exciting to have Red Bull Advanced Technologies partner. We know the powerhouse that you guys are and what you can provide, at the forefront of the motor racing industry. It’s exciting for all of us drivers and I think something that will be extremely exciting for many categories. We’ve seen other versions of this, but I think this one covers a lot more bases.”

 

 

‘Baby Borgs’ bring special Indy 500 bonds, memories for Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi

Ganassi Ericsson Indy
Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner
0 Comments

THERMAL, Calif. – Winning the Indy 500 is a crowning achievement for driver and car owner, but for Chip Ganassi, last May’s victory by Marcus Ericsson had meaning even beyond just capturing one of the world’s greatest sporting events.

When Ganassi was 5 years old and growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his father, Floyd, attended a convention in Indianapolis in 1963. Floyd went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to tour the track and visit the former museum that used to stand next to the main gate on 16th and Georgetown.

Ganassi’s father brought young Chip a souvenir from the gift shop. It was an 8-millimeter film of the 1963 Indy 500, a race won by the legendary Parnelli Jones.

“I must have watched it about 1,000 times,” Ganassi recalled. “More importantly than that, something you did when you were 5 years old is still with you today.

“I was 50 years old when I celebrated my Thanksgiving with Parnelli. It dawned on me that something I did when I was 5 years old took me to when I was 50 years old. That’s pretty special.”

Ericsson and Ganassi were presented with their “Baby Borgs,” the mini-replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy, in a ceremony Feb. 2 at The Thermal Club (which played host to NTT IndyCar Series preseason testing). The win in the 106th Indy 500 marked the sixth time a Ganassi driver won the biggest race in the world.

Ganassi will turn 65 on May 24, just four days before the 107th Indianapolis 500 on May 28. The 2023 race will mark the 60th anniversary of the victory by Jones, who is now the oldest living winner of the Indianapolis 500 at 89.

Jones wanted to do something special for Ericsson and Ganassi, so each was given framed photos personally inscribed by Jones.

Parnelli Jones (Steve Shunck Photo For BorgWarner)

“Congratulations Marcus Ericsson and my good friend Chip Ganassi on winning the 2022 Indianapolis 500,” Jones said in remarks conveyed by BorgWarner publicist Steve Shunck. “There is no greater race in the whole world and winning it in 1963 was by far the biggest thrill in my life.”

Ganassi’s relationship with his racing hero began 60 years ago, but the two have shared some important moments since then.

It was Jones that signed off on Ganassi’s first Indianapolis 500 license in 1982. Jones was one of the veteran observers who worked with Ganassi and other rookie drivers that year to ensure they were capable of competing in the high-speed, high-risk Indianapolis 500.

When Ganassi turned 50, he got to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with Jones.

“We’ve been friends over the years,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “He wrote me a personal note and sent me some personal photographs. It really says what this race is all about and how important it is to win the biggest auto race in the world.”

Michelle Collins, the director of global communications and marketing for BorgWarner, presented the “Baby Borgs,” first to Ganassi and then to Ericsson.

“More special is winning the Indianapolis 500,” Ganassi said during the presentation. “It’s been a big part of my life. I want to call out my buddy, Roger Penske, and thank him for the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and what it means to us. It’s about the history, the tradition and, to me, it’s about the people that have meant so much in my life.

“Thanks for the trophy, Marcus.”

Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi hold their Baby Borgs while posing with the Borg-Warner Trophy (Bruce Martin).

The Baby Borg presentation also came on the birthday of sculptor William Behrends, who has crafted the Bas-relief sterling silver face of each winner on the Borg-Warner Trophy since 1990. The “Baby Borg” presents each winner with a miniature of one of the most famous trophies in sports.

“I have to thank BorgWarner for everything that has happened since winning the Indianapolis 500, including the trip to Sweden,” said Ericsson, who took a November victory lap in his native country. “I’m very thankful for that because it’s memories that are going to be with me for the rest of my life.

“To bring the Borg-Warner Trophy to my hometown, seeing all the people there on the city square on a dark day in the middle of November. It was filled with people and that was very special.

“I’m very proud and honored to be part of Chip Ganassi Racing. To win the Indianapolis 500 with that team is quite an honor. It’s a team effort and a lot of people worked very hard to make this happen.

“Our focus now is to go back-to-back at the Indy 500.”


If Ericsson is successful in becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Indy since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02, he can collect an additional $420,000 in the Borg-Warner Rollover Bonus. With Castroneves the last driver to collect, the bonus has grown to an astronomical amount over 21 years.

Ericsson is from Kumla, Sweden, so the $420,000 would have an exchange rate of $4,447,641.67 Swedish Kronor.

“It’s a nice thing to know I could get that if I do win it again,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “But the Indianapolis 500 with its history as the biggest and greatest race in the world, it doesn’t matter with the money, with the points, with anything. Everyone is going to go out there and do everything to win that race.

“It’s great to know that, but I will race just as hard.”

Marcus Ericsson points at the newest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

A popular slogan in racing is “Chip Likes Winners.” After winning the 106th Indy 500, Ganassi must really love Ericsson.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than that, does it? I’m very thankful to be driving for Chip,” Ericsson said. “He likes winners and winning the Indianapolis 500, it doesn’t get better than that.”

When Ericsson was presented with his Baby Borg, he stood off to the side and admired it the way a child looks at a special gift on Christmas morning. The wide-eyed amazement of his career-defining moment was easy to read and met with delight by executives of BorgWarner (an automotive and technology company that has sponsored the Borg-Warner Trophy since its 1935 debut).

“I noticed that immediately and I was watching him look at it wishing I had a camera to capture that,” Collins told NBC Sports. “But maybe not because we always have our phones in front of us and it’s nice to take in that moment as it is. That is what makes the moment well worth it.”

Marcus Ericsson (Bruce Martin)

Said BorgWarner executive vice president and chief strategic officer Paul Farrell: “It’s very special to have the big trophy that has been around since 1935 and to have a piece of that. Hopefully it’s something that (Ericsson) cherishes. We think it’s special, and clearly, Marcus Ericsson thinks it is very special.”

The trophy process begins shortly after the race as the winner has the famed Borg-Warner Wreath placed around his neck, and the Borg-Warner Trophy is put on the engine cover. The next morning, the winner meets with Behrends, who has been sculpting the faces on the trophy since Arie Luyendyk’s first victory in 1990. Later in the year, the winner visits Behrends’ studio in Tryon, North Carolina, for a “Live Study.”

The process takes several more steps before the face is reduced to the size of an egg and casted in sterling silver. It is attached to the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy and unveiled at a ceremony later in the year. Ericsson’s face was unveiled last October during a ceremony in Indianapolis.

That’s when it hit Ericsson, a three-time winner in IndyCar after going winless in Formula One over 97 starts from 2014-18.

“Until then, it was strange because you are so busy with your season right after the Indy 500 you don’t really get much time to sit back and think about what you had accomplished,” Ericsson said. “It was the offseason before I really realized what I had done.”

The permanent trophy remains on display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but has been known to travel with the winning driver on special tours, such as the Nov. 3-7 trip to Sweden.

“It’s been incredible to see the amount of interest in me and the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500,” Ericsson said. “The trophy tour with the Borg-Warner Trophy we did in November really made a huge impact in Sweden. I was on every TV show, morning TV, magazines, newspapers, everywhere. People are talking about IndyCar racing. People are talking about Marcus Ericsson. It’s been huge.

“I was back in Sweden last month for the Swedish Sports Awards and I finished third in the Sports Performance of the Year. Motorsports is usually not even nominated there, and I finished third. That says a lot about the interest and support I’ve gotten back home in Sweden.”


Ericsson continued to reap the rewards of his Indianapolis 500 victory last week at the lavish Thermal Club, about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, California.

Earlier in the day before the Baby Borg presentation, Ericsson, and Chip Ganassi were among the 27 car-driver combinations that completed the first day of IndyCar’s “Spring Training” on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile road course. The next day, Ericsson turned the test’s fastest lap.

The 32-year-old still seems to be riding the wave, along with his girlfriend, Iris Tritsaris Jondahl, a Greece native who also lived in Sweden and now lives with Ericsson in Indianapolis.

“Today, receiving my Baby Borg, it was another thing of making it real,” Ericsson said. “It’s not a dream. It’s reality. To get the Baby Borg and bring it home. My girlfriend, Iris, and I are house hunting, looking for a house in Indianapolis. It will definitely have a very special place in our new home.”

Marcus Ericsson and girlfriend Iris Tritsaris Jondahlc share a kiss at the Baby Borg presentation (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

Ericsson told NBC Sports his most cherished trophy before getting his Baby Borg was for his first NTT IndyCar Series win in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in 2021.

“It was such a huge win for me and such a huge breakthrough for me and my career,” he said. “After that, it catapulted me into a top driver in IndyCar.”

The Brickyard win was another level for Ericsson, who moved to Ganassi in 2020.

“Marcus kept himself in the race all day,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports. “Anybody that ran a race like Marcus ran, maybe you deserve the race win, but you don’t always get it. Marcus did everything that it took, and we are really, really proud of him.”

Ericsson also proved last year to be one of the best oval drivers in the series, a much different form of racing than he experienced until he came to the United States.

“Racing in Europe and around the world, I always liked high-speed corners,” he explained. “It was always my favorite. I always had this idea if I go to IndyCar and race on the ovals, it is something that would suit me and my driving style. I was always excited to try that. When I came to IndyCar and started to drive on ovals, I liked it straight away. It worked for me and my style.

“The first few attempts at Indy, I had good speed, but it was always some small mistakes that got me out of contention. I learned from them. I’m very proud I was able to pull it off, but it was a lot of hard work behind that.”

Michelle Collins of BorgWarner presented Baby Borgs to Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi at a ceremony also attended by Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

The victory in the Indianapolis 500 is etched in history, as is Ericsson’s face on the trophy.

“It’s such a special thing,” the driver said. “The BorgWarner people and IndyCar and everyone at IMS, I get to experience so many cool things since winning the Indy 500. It’s a win that keeps on giving. It never ends. It still does.

“I can’t wait to get back to Indianapolis, the month of May, as the champion. I still have to pinch myself. It’s a dream, for sure.”

Ganassi doesn’t have to pinch himself — all he needs to do is look at his collection of Baby Borgs.

His first Indy 500 win — as a team co-owner with Pat Patrick — came in 1989 with Emerson Fittipaldi’s thrilling duel against Al Unser Jr.

In 1990, Ganassi formed Chip Ganassi Racing. Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, Scott Dixon in 2008, Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2012 and Ericsson in 2022.

“It’s a feather in the team’s cap for sure just to have our representation on the Borg-Warner Trophy with five other drivers,” Ganassi said. “It’s a testament to the team, a testament to Mike Hull that runs the team in Indianapolis. I just feel really lucky to be a part of it. It’s great to work with a great team of great people.

“Just to relive that moment again and again never gets old; never goes away. I’m really lucky to be in the position I’m in. It’s an honor to represent the team with the great people that it took to bring Marcus across the finish line. He and I get to celebrate events like this, but it’s really about the people at Chip Ganassi Racing in Indianapolis that pull this all together.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500