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IndyCar Mid-Ohio

Arrow McLaren kickstarts IndyCar hybrid innovation with cockpit lighting system

The race weekend debut of the new hybrid engine has already seen innovation on display by McLaren’s IndyCar team

Arrow McLaren hybrid dash lights

Arrow McLaren hybrid dash lights

Photo by: Uncredited

Arrow McLaren has started the trend of innovation with the mid-season debut of IndyCar’s hybrid unit, implementing a lighting system in the cockpit to assist driver awareness of its state of charge.

The IndyCar Series ushered in a new era at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the race weekend initiation of its hybrid engine.

The current 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 internal combustion engine is paired with an electrical low voltage (48V) Motor Generator Unit (MGU) and a supercapacitor Energy Storage System (ESS). Over 800 horsepower is possible as the 4.5s boost in combination with push-to-pass is readily available for drivers.

With the combination of regeneration and deployment, Arrow McLaren decided to get creative by designing and implementing a lighting system in the cockpit that helps provide SOC information to the driver, mounted on both sides of the cockpit so they can see it when cornering.

Gavin Ward, team principal for Arrow McLaren, shared with Motorsport.com that Alexander Rossi, who is set to leave at the end of the season as part of a mutual decision, sparked the concept and the engineers went to work.

“I think the original idea might have been put out there by Rossi,” Ward said. “Then from there, we got a few bright engineers that ran with it and figured out how to implement it and how it was going to work.

“Did some work in the simulator and collaborated with Chevy to practice it and make sure we were prepared for when we rolled out here and put the system in place.

“It’s been fun to do. It’s fun that people have kind of noticed it. I know the guys that worked on it should feel proud of themselves. It’s fun when you get those opportunities to show some innovation and some clever thinking.”

Arrow McLaren hybrid dash lights

Arrow McLaren hybrid dash lights

Photo by: Uncredited

Ward shared that each of the three cars is equipped with the lighting system, but wasn’t ready to share details over specifics.

“It’s there to give the drivers information about the hybrid system, obviously,” Ward said. “Yeah, some level of it is you’ll see it go up and down with use around the lap.”

Pato O’Ward, who will start second in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet after narrowly missing pole by 0.0024s, was enthusiastic over how the lights aid him over the course of a lap.

“It's great,” O’Ward said. “It's just an extra kind of something to fall back on if you're going through something – especially in a race scenario when you've got a lot more things going on.

“You can quickly kind of go to that and really see where you're at in terms of levels, did you get out of sequence, can you get back into it.

“Ultimately it's kind of like a spotter, in a way. Like you're obviously using your initial kind of judgment, but if you for some reason forget or whatever, it's kind of there to bring you back.”

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

And O’Ward also believes it won’t take long before rival teams catch on.

“I think every team is going to see… maybe some decide to do it, maybe some don't, but each team will probably have their own kind of light system or whatever,” O’Ward said.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who comes in as the defending race winner and bested O’Ward to pole, responded with his own stance.

“Yeah, I don't have those fancy lights,” said Palou, the reigning and two-time IndyCar Series champion. “I don't know.

“I think maybe it's too much. But it looks really cool; I would agree.”

But would Palou like a lighting system similar on his dash?

“Yeah, it depends,” Palou said. “It's all free for us. We can do whatever we want.

“We can do bars. We can do numbers. We can do lights. On your dash you can do whatever you want. It's easy to see.

“But as well, you can do the small dash LED lights we have, but obviously those are more visible. It's similar to what they use in IMSA, right? Like it's visible. You don't need to look at the screen. I don't know if it's something we will have or not. Maybe.”

Ward is also prepared for his next innovation with the lights: having them operate like ‘KITT’, the iconic Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the popular 1980’s television show Knight Rider.

“We’re thinking about doing a Knight Rider thing maybe when the car is off,” he said. “So, we’ll work on that.”

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