Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden has gotten behind the wheel of an IndyCar fitted with a windscreen prototype for the first time. The American driver took to the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday with the prototype installed on his #1 Team Penske Chevrolet.
Newgarden made several runs with the windscreen, but he returned to the pit-lane pretty soon after getting underway as he had issues with glare from the sun. His team elected to stick some matte black tape down in the cockpit to help with this, with Newgarden following that up by changing his helmet visor from a reflective visor to a clear visor. This seemed to help greatly, with Josef going on to complete more running soon after before calling it a day.
Newgarden still had a few minor issues with the windscreen. He likened the experience to racing whilst wearing glasses and that it took some getting used to. However, overall, Josef was impressed with his first test with the windscreen.
“It was fascinating,” Newgarden said after the test. “It was totally different for an open-wheel car. You’re not used to having a windscreen that big in front of you, but it was interesting to try it out.
“The most interesting thing to me was the visor changes [on his helmet]. Going from a fully smoke visor to a clear visor was better. It helped with the visibility and the clarity.
“There are small improvements to be made, especially with the clarity with the visors and the perception to see through it. It was easy to make it work, I didn’t have any major issues with it, and I think INDYCAR did a nice job.”
The windscreen – produced by PPG and with similar qualities to that of a jet fighter canopy – made its on-track testing debut in February at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona. Scott Dixon was at the wheel that day in what was considered a very positive debut. Back then, one of the only major concerns for Dixon had been the issue of cockpit ventilation. To that end, a small air duct was present on Newgarden’s car yesterday to help with ventilation.
Both Dixon and Newgarden’s tests have taken place under the supervision of IndyCar officials; including the director of engineering and safety, Jeff Horton. Jeff went on to say after the test that he believed that Josef’s lack of closed cockpit racing compared to Dixon was part of the reason why he struggled to get used to looking through a windscreen.
“Josef pointed out that it might take some things to get used to,” said Horton, “But he also said he felt like if it was mandatory, he’d get used to it, no problem.
“One thing we realized is that Josef doesn’t have much sports car experience, while Scott Dixon at the last test had just raced the Rolex 24 [the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship endurance race at Daytona]. We think [Dixon] being behind a windscreen for a week, then driving a car with another windscreen made a difference.
“Josef ran all day without a windscreen and we stuck one in front of him [after the open test ended]. There’s a lot of things that factor into it. Still, a positive test and [Newgarden] said nothing was a deal breaker. We’ll just keep working on it.”
IndyCar testing continues today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today, the rookies and returning veterans are on track, including Danica Patrick; who will make her return to the series for a one-off appearance in the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.