Making IndyCars Safer

Although the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season is over (Scott Dixon won the championship in a Chevy), work is underway on preparing cars for the 2016 season.

Although the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season is over (Scott Dixon won the championship in a Chevy), work is underway on preparing cars for the 2016 season.

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IndyCar champion Scott Dixon   (Photo:  Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

INDYCAR vice president Will Phillips said last week, “It is a continual goal to improve safety for all of the participants, fans and drivers alike. We also need to do this in a fashion that does not create more yellow-flag racing”—for those of you who are not racing fans, that’s simply having the cars drive around in order at comparatively low speeds, no passing possible—“and try to prevent as much debris as possible.”

To that end, they’ve been using wheel restraints attached to the chassis and suspension since 1999.

Next year they’re going to be tethering aerodynamic components of the Dallara chassis using high-tensile Zylon tethers.

Zylon? It’s a thermoset liquid-crystalline polyoxazole material that’s described by its manufacturer, Toyobo, as “the next generation super fiber with strength and modulus almost doubles that of p-Aramid fiber” and which “shows 100°C higher decomposition temperature than p-Aramid fiber.”

Just think of it as probably the strongest cords you’d ever encounter—and then some.

The rear beam wing and rear wheel guards will be tethered during all races, and the noses will be tethered, too, on superspeedways.

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In addition to which, INDYCAR has announced that a domed skid plate will be fitted to the underside of the chassis in order to improve the yaw/spin characteristics. This plate will complement the rear wing flaps that deploy at 90 deg. if a car spins and goes backward on a superspeedway, thereby minimizing the possibility that the car will go airborne.

And they’ve also made some software modifications for the engine control unit (ECU). One keeps a car from moving forward in the pits if the fuel hose is attached, even if the car is not in neutral (a fuel probe activation sensor provides the status to the ECU and it returns the engine to idle and engages the clutch).

There is also a “throttle pedal failsafe,” which engages if there is too much pressure applied to the throttle or brake pedal: it idles the engine should either go beyond a calibrated threshold.

In case you’re wondering, the IndyCar season kicks off March 13, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida.