Indianapolis-based company Aerodine Composites says it is open to working with IndyCar to find out whether or not putting canopies over its racecars would improve driver safety. The subject, which has been talked about at length in regards to open wheel race cars before, has recently re-entered the spotlight following the death of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson at Pocono.
Aerodine Composites currently manufactures canopies used on NHRA Top Fuel dragsters and also has more than 25-years of involvement in IndyCar racing. The team is also very familiar with the current Dallara DW12 IndyCar chassis, serving as a licensed Dallara repair shop, however Aerodine president Craig McCarthy told RACER the canopies would likely be used on a forthcoming chassis rather than retrofitted to the DW12.
“When you try and retro-fit existing cars, it’s a little dicey; you’d always rather incorporate a new design like a canopy into a new chassis from the outset, but it’s not impossible to come up with something that could be tried on the DW12,” McCarthy said.
Before any canopies are fitted to racecars, though, Aerodine and IndyCar would have to do extensive testing to see if its even the proper step forward. McCarthy knows this, and says he’s willing to work with the race series in order to “do some simulations and some live testing.” One of the main concerns about adding canopies to the car is it may slow the driver’s exit in the event of a fire.
“The number one comment we get is, ‘What happens if there’s a fire?'” McCarthy noted. “And that’s a legitimate concern in an Indy car where you’re sitting on the fuel tank. In a Top Fuel car, the fuel tank is 15 feet away, although the main fuel line does run through the cockpit. On the drag racing side, we designed a system with all kinds of ways to remove the canopy from inside the car, from outside the car, and we’ve added features for fire extinguisher access holes and have tried think of every type of situation. And there’s situations where having a canopy could be worse, or it could be better. Until it’s tested and tried, it’s hard to say one way or the other.”