IndyCar has given teams the ability to make adjustments to their driver cooling systems going forward, following uncomfortably hot conditions in the first two races of the season.
To say the first two NTT IndyCar series races of the season have been a test of the drivers’ endurance would be an understatement. The season kicked off with a race at Texas Motor Speedway with temperatures approaching 100°F (37.5°C), and was followed by a hot and humid race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The heat exacerbated the airflow issue brought about by the introduction of the Aeroscreen this year, and the hot, stagnant air trapped with the driver quickly became a factor in driver safety.
Teams are already looking for more robust solutions to keep their drivers cool in the summer heat and have been given assistance in the form of amended regulations concerning the location of the driver’s drink bottle.
IndyCar gave the green light this week to allow the driver’s water bottle to be stored within the driver cockpit, as opposed to other areas of the car near the engine components.
“[What] I experienced in Indy, that it was one of the toughest conditions I’ve ever driven in, being in the car with it being so hot,” recounted rookie Rinus VeeKay, who was able to put in an impressive top-five drive last weekend.
“I think it will be a little bit better with the longer straights this weekend. But also an issue last weekend was the water bottle being extremely hot. We have been able to give the water bottle a different location so it gets a little bit more airflow and stays colder. I think that will help, yeah, just cool water to cool us down. We’ll see how that goes.”
VeeKay echoed most of the drivers’ experiences from the opening rounds, with most emerging from their cars with their firesuits drenched in sweat. The change in bottle location should help keep the water a drinkable temperature for the duration of the race, and provide much needed relief.
In an interview with RACER, IndyCar president Jay Frye outlined his thoughts on the change, saying, “Anytime drivers talk we certainly listen, and we had two really extreme tests to start the year — with Texas launching the season where it was very, very hot and then this past weekend at IMS, where it was very hot.
“We’ve always tried to come up with a consensus of opinion, or a trend, and one of the trends was the water bags were really hot and that was causing some of the problems that they didn’t have enough fluid in the car, or it wasn’t cold enough. So, we’ve worked this week to give them an option to move the water bags into the cockpit, on the right side by their knee, and make the hoses shorter, which we think will help in that regard.
“We’re also going to let the pit crew member that was doing the tear-offs on the Aeroscreen, service the driver so when they pit, they’ll be able to hand the driver a water bottle. That’ll give the driver more volume to consume, meaning they won’t have to drink the water in their cockpit. Hopefully those two changes help with the fluid situation.”
Teams are also researching innovative ways to get more airflow into the cockpit and inside the driver’s helmet, but for this weekend the drink systems will be the biggest improvement to driver comfort.
The double-header races from Road America will be run on Saturday and Sunday, and will see more reasonable ambient conditions, with temperatures topping out around 85°F (29°C).
Race one from the 4.104-mile track will be Saturday at 17:00 EDT (22:00 BST), and race two will take place on Sunday at 12:00 EDT (17:00 BST).