Verizon IndyCar Series Safety Improvements

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Three months ago, the racing world suffered an unexpected and tragic loss when Verizon IndyCar Series driver, Justin Wilson, succumbed to injuries suffered during the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. The loss within our IndyCar family opened up conversations all over social media – discussions about safety led to ideas for improvement to the racecars and tracks, and the emotion behind the tweets, updates and comments were obvious. How could it not be? This is an inherently dangerous sport and it occurs within a tight-knit group of individuals who range from those operating the vehicles and those who create and continually work on the vehicle, to those who write about the series as a whole, and those who cheer every on-track moment and tirelessly focus on all the off-track situations. The underlying commonality for all these individuals, is passion. Passion for racing and in this particular example, passion for IndyCar.

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Passion for the sport itself is what drove me, to start this site. Heck, it’s in our tagline. Twice!

That passion is the hearbeat of this sport. It pushes all of us to be involved, take part in the process, and in the lowest moments… we are personally and genuinely affected and want to help. The deep roots that racing puts down, which sometimes span generations within families, run through administrative offices and pit boxes to grandstands and living rooms.

Passion turns thoughts and ideas into action. The next steps of said action have been taken today, towards the continued safety advancements of IndyCar racing. The following is a press release from the Verizon IndyCar Series in regards to these changes:

Tethering aerodynamic components of the Dallara IR-12 chassis is among safety enhancements announced by INDYCAR that will be implemented for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The high-tensile Zylon tethers minimize the possibility of components becoming detached from the race cars during accidents.

The rear beam wing and rear wheel guards will be tethered for all Verizon IndyCar Series events and the car’s nose will be tethered on superspeedway ovals (1.5 miles or longer). Dallara also has designed a tethering system for the front wing main plane for the three superspeedways on the 2016 schedule – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.

Since 1999, Verizon IndyCar Series cars have employed wheel restraints attached to the chassis and suspension. The Suspension Wheel/Wing Energy Management System (SWEMS) also includes one or two restraints attached from the rear wing main plane to a secure location on the transmission.

“It is a continual goal to improve safety for all the participants, fans and drivers alike,” said Will Phillips, INDYCAR Vice President of Technology. “We also need to do this in a fashion that does not create more yellow-flag racing and try to prevent as much debris as possible. We have great support from our partners to improve safety and wish to thank Chevrolet, Honda and Dallara for their participation and efforts in working together to implement change.”

Other changes for the 2016 season as part of INDYCAR’s ongoing research and development to improve the on-track product and safety include:

  • A domed skid plate on the underside of the chassis, which improves its yaw/spin characteristics, will complement rear wing flaps that deploy at 90 degrees if a car spins and travels backward on a superspeedway. The package will minimize the incidence of the car becoming airborne. The rear wing flaps have been tested in wind tunnels at General Motors and Texas A&M University. Components are scheduled to be available for the April 6 test on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
  • An update to the Engine Control Unit (ECU) prevents a car from moving forward during a pit stop if the gearbox is not in neutral while the fuel hose is attached. Through the ECU, the fuel probe activation sensor can stop the car from moving forward by returning the engine to idle and engaging the clutch if the car is not in neutral when the fuel probe is plugged in.
  • Another ECU update puts the engine in idle faster if too much pressure is applied to the throttle or brake pedal. The throttle pedal failsafe will engage and idle the engine when pressure applied to either the throttle or brake pedal exceeds a calibrated threshold.

The 2016 season of the Verizon IndyCar Series is bound to be an unforgettable one. We are extending the length of the season, returning to fan-favorite tracks and hitting a huge milestone with the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Safety is an ongoing process and the hope is for all the racing memories we make to be positive and happy. These enhancements are a big part of that goal reaching fruition.

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