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Top Moments of 2019 - #9: IMS Paves Path for Safer Future with Aeroscreen Test

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2019 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Some of the greatest safety innovations in motorsports history have debuted or been developed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The list is beyond impressive, starting with the world’s first rear-view mirror affixed to the winning No. 32 Marmon “Wasp” driven to victory by Ray Harroun in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

Other “firsts” include the first use of a Pace Car, in 1911; the first use of four-wheel hydraulic brakes, in 1921; the first installation of colored warning lights, in 1935; the first mandatory use of helmets, in 1935; mandatory use of fire-resistant uniforms and roll bars on cars, in 1959; mandatory use of methanol fuel, which is much less volatile than gasoline, in 1965; mandatory use of a rupture-resistant fuel cell, in 1965; the first use of crash-data recorders, in 1993; the introduction of the revolutionary SAFER Barrier energy-absorbing system, in 2002; and so many more.

The latest safety innovation to be unveiled and test was the revolutionary Aeroscreen, which had its first on-track test Oct. 2 at IMS.

Series champions and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Will Power of Team Penske tested the safety device, which will be fitted around the cockpits of all NTT IndyCar Series cars starting in the 2020 season.

The Aeroscreen has been developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies to reduce the risk of driver injury from debris or other objects striking the cockpit area. The driver safety innovation encompassing the cockpit is comprised of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework.

“This is a total industry-changing driver safety solution,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “I think this is something that will really change the complexion of the sport for a long time to come, so this is big.”

Dixon had the unique perspective of being a witness to the two most-recent safety breakthroughs at IMS. He made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2003, just one year after the revolutionary SAFER Barrier was unveiled and first installed. The system now is standard equipment at every major oval racing facility on Earth and many road circuits.

“I remember hitting the old concrete walls (before 2003), and they weren't too fun,” Dixon said. “It's been a huge advancement, not just for INDYCAR and what they did for the sport, but it went everywhere. It helped a lot of formulas.

“This (Aeroscreen) is just another version of it, I think one that we've been wanting to implement. This is huge for drivers and for safety of the sport and something that will definitely push that safety boundary, I think, throughout.”

The successful test also the latest chapter of IMS’ legacy as an incubator and laboratory for racing and automotive safety for 110 years. Since 1909, fostering innovation and development in motorsports safety has been a priority for IMS leadership, and the teams and manufacturers that compete at the Racing Capital of the World. Over time, many exciting breakthroughs have occurred, and many lives have been saved.

It was yet another example of how the quest for increased safety never rests at IMS and INDYCAR.

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