IndyCar drivers searching for ways to beat the heat with new aeroscreen

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IndyCar drivers will be getting some needed relief from aeroscreen-induced heat this weekend at Road America with a cooler forecast and a smarter approach to the cockpit layout after a grueling race last Saturday.

Conor Daly tweeted that he lost 12 pounds during the oppressive heat on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Though temperatures were in the 90s, the new aeroscreen that essentially encloses the cockpit also severely reduced airflow.

The weather was as hot in the June 6 opener at Texas Motor Speedway, but the stifling conditions inside the car become magnified on a road course with several low-speed corners vs. constantly whipping around an oval at 200-plus mph.

NTT IndyCar Series officials have been working with drivers and teams to improve cooling, adding another air duct and repositioning their drink bottles away from radiators to keep liquids cooler.

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“I think it’s going to be huge,” Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward said during a team media availability Friday. “I think more than anything when you’ve got guys who have been in the series for a while saying that’s the hottest ever race they’ve done in an Indy car, there’s nothing but to believe them.

“As much as we work out as we can get fit and be prepared, we need oxygen to get into the muscles to feel good at the end of the race. I think it’s going to be huge having nice cold water for once. Because before then, it was hotter than tea. Steaming hot. The only reason you’d do it was to get some fluid in you because you lose so much during the race.”

The forecast for Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, should help: When the green flag falls on the first race of a weekend doubleheader Saturday, temperatures are expected to be in the low 80s.

Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Rinus VeeKay said Road America, which is 1.5 miles longer than the IMS road course but with the same number of turns, also should provide more airflow because of its longer straightaways, but he also would like another hose to provide venting through his helmet.

“We have been able to give the water bottle a different location so it gets a little bit more airflow and stays colder,” VeeKay said. “I think that will help. Of course, you need to hydrate as good as possible. It’s going to be hot in the car anyway. I think it’s never going to be perfect.”

Simon Pagenaud said he lost 8 and a half pounds during the GMR Grand Prix. With back to back doubleheader race weekends at Road America and Iowa Speedway, the Team Penske driver believes fitness will be a priority for the field.

“I’m on my way to recovery, but it is definitely the life of an athlete,”  Pagenaud said. “I just want to make sure going into Road America I want to present fully hydrated and full strength.  I’m excited because I’ve worked really hard for this and its paying off.

“We are in the early stages of the aeroscreen. I have been one of the ones preaching this and in favor of the aeroscreen because it adds safety. We are pioneers in safety. We are the first to go forward with this type of device. Unfortunately it was too hot in the last race. But IndyCar is already looking at adjustments to try and help the drivers with cooling, venting and drink bottles placement and size. They know what to do.  We knew there would be some kinks along the way in the early stages certainly. I think we will be OK.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta said Daly’s loss in water weight was “insane but it’s just your water weight.” Herta expected many drivers would be taking IVs after the first race at Road America and Iowa and perhaps after the second race, too.

“The only way you can really recover is just by getting fluids,” said Herta, who added teams are “constantly working on it. I would say nothing major has happened in the last week. They obviously know what the problem is now. They’re looking for solutions to fix it. I don’t think it’s something that you’re going to fix in a week. Hopefully throughout the season we can find some stuff to make it better.”

Arrow McLaren SP rookie Oliver Askew said IndyCar had been very receptive to drivers’ opinions.

“Honestly, I think this issue has gone on far too long, especially now with the aeroscreen, it’s become more of an issue because our bodies are much hotter inside the car,” Askew said. “We’re not sure if the new (bottle) placement is going to work, but we hope so. Luckily this weekend, it won’t be as hot, but I think we can expect Iowa next weekend to be just as bad as the IMS GP.

“It’s been a big test for us. You can also take into account that none of us have been in a car. We’re not race fit at the moment. Hopefully as the season goes on, we’ll have less and less issues.”