Cockpit protection needs to be the focus of future open-wheel racecar designs, according to team-owner Chip Ganassi.
Echoing the comments made by his IndyCar ace Scott Dixon, Ganassi said: “Everyone wants to maintain the integrity of the sport and the history and tradition, but at the same time we don’t want to be hurting guys.
“So the next area of development in any open-wheel car has to be around the cockpit area – driver protection – and finding what we can do there. Let’s face it, ultimately we will need a global open-wheel solution that works everywhere.”
In terms of timescale, Ganassi added: “We need a short-term solution and also a long-term one. The long-term one is obviously a new car. You’re talking about a redesign of the tub which is probably two, three, four years out for us. But it’s something we have to be doing.
“It’s not an overnight thing. But a lot of smart people are thinking about it and there are a lot of good solutions out there.”
Ganassi said his thoughts weren’t confined to driver head protection, commenting: “[The designs] will have to involve a whole new pod, if you will, to protect the drivers.”
Asked if he was thinking along the lines of Don Schumacher Racing’s Top Fuel dragsters, Ganassi replied: “Yeah… but drag racers are in there a lot shorter time than IndyCar drivers – three minutes is a little different than three hours!”
Halo as short-term solution
Regarding the Halo concept recently seen tested on the Ferrari’s latest Formula 1 challenger, the SF16-H, Ganassi said he would “absolutely” be willing to step up and pay for it as a short-term solution, provided it was a version that worked on an IndyCar, and did not obstruct a driver’s line of vision on banked ovals.
“I’d want to see it first, but if we could solve the issue of where the hoop is placed, then yes. Maybe we could run something different on the ovals than we run other places, I don’t know.”
However, Ganassi added he didn’t think the Halo was the full long-term answer, and suggested one alternative might be a high-sided, high-fronted carbon tub that looked like the bodywork on the pre-ground effect IndyCars of the late ’70s, but with the driver sunk further down.
“It could be something as simple as a modern version of those early Penske cars and with a high windscreen,” he said. “I like the Halo but it doesn’t stop bullets coming at you, like heads of bolts, which can be just as dangerous as large pieces of debris.
“So do we go for the 75 percent solution or go for the 100 percent solution? I don’t know. But we need to be having the discussions now.”