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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Racing lines: cockpit safety will always count for more than good looks in racing

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Now, modern Indycars haven’t been a thing of automotive beauty for a long time, and the new screens, which wrap around the cockpits but fall short of a full aircraft-style canopy by remaining open at the top, certainly don’t make them look any better. But when it comes to safety in motorsport, there’s never any going back once something is introduced that might well save lives. Just ask the families of British Indycar heroes Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson, both killed on US ovals, how important improved safety is over racing car aesthetics.

Like the halo in F1, Indycar fans will just have to get used to it – because there can only ever be one answer to that question. Forgive me, it’s the most used cliché of 2020, but aero screens on Indycars are the ‘new normal’.


The Texas race also marked the opening salvo of McLaren’s first campaign in a full Indycar season since 1979, as rookie Oliver Askew finish ninth and Mexican Patricio O’Ward 12th for the team known as Arrow McLaren SP. The removal of McLaren’s F1 blinkers under Zak Brown’s watch has been refreshing as the company has looked to expand its racing enterprise.

Mass redundancies and the crippling pressures of Covid-19 must clearly be the priority right now, but hopes remain high that McLaren will one day soon also return to the Le Mans 24 Hours, a race that it conquered back in 1995 with its F1 GTR.

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But the British company isn’t the only one looking beyond F1 for the first time in years. Ferrari, too, is openly considering an Indycar entry and might also be tempted back to Le Mans for its first bid for an overall win since the early 1970s. As far as Indycars are concerned, Ferrari has a limited back story. In the 1950s, when the Indianapolis 500 oddly counted as a points-scoring round for the new F1 World Championship, Alberto Ascari made an unsuccessful trip to the Brickyard in 1952.

Since then, a switch to Indy only ever raised its head when Enzo Ferrari wanted to rattle F1’s cage by threatening to quit over whatever political row was raging at the time, most famously in 1986 when Ferrari even built and tested a car it named the 637. It eventually pulled the plug on a campaign that was earmarked for Bobby Rahal and the US Truesports team.

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