IRL: Driver safety improvements

IRL CONTINUES TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS IN DRIVER SAFETY LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 20, 1998 - As part of its continuing effort to enhance driver safety, the Pep Boys Indy Racing League has implemented many design improvements for its...

IRL CONTINUES TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS IN DRIVER SAFETY

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 20, 1998 - As part of its continuing effort to enhance driver safety, the Pep Boys Indy Racing League has implemented many design improvements for its teams' cars this season.

The main areas of improvement are in the transmission, bellhousing and driver cockpit. Design changes will help components in those areas absorb more impact and dissipate more force during an accident, providing more protection for the driver.

"Our Safety Committee has worked hard all winter, and I am pleased with their progress," IRL Executive Director Leo Mehl said. "We are learning more about our race cars at each race, and I am sure we can improve them more in the future."

Extensive laboratory testing on the design changes started last year. Every entrant in the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway Presented by Aurora on Jan. 24 - the season opener for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League - will carry the redesigned parts on their car.

The IRL and EMCO Gears of Chicago worked to improve the transmission and bellhousing designs. The IRL and Technofab, E.G. Composites and Mark I collaborated to improve safety in the driver cockpit. A look at the changes:

Transmission (Rear end of car):

The transmission case will be more crushable during a rear-end impact. Redesign also has lightened the case by nearly 40 pounds, allowing it to break easier and absorb more impact.

The transfer shaft that holds the gears was lightened and now has a telescopic mechanism that will allow it to collapse 1¼ inches upon impact.

The diameter of various transmission bolts was reduced, allowing the bolts to snap more easily during impact and absorb force. A fixed main transmission nut also was replaced by a snap-ring that pops off during impact, allowing the shaft to dissipate force.

An aluminum spacer was added between the third, fourth, fifth and sixth gears, providing 1 inch of crushable area between those gears during a rear-end impact.

Bellhousing (Rear end of car):

Redesign has lightened the bellhousing by nearly 10 pounds, allowing it to break easier and absorb more impact.

Driver Cockpit:

Special headrests were designed for all three types of chassis used by Pep Boys IRL drivers: G Force, Dallara and Riley & Scott. The headrests, made of special, energy-absorbing foam, wraps around the cockpit near the driver's head. The inserts are 3 inches thick behind the driver's head and 2 inches thick on both sides of the head. The top of the headrest can be no lower than 4 inches from the top of the driver's helmet, providing more protection during impact.

Energy-absorbing foam padding was added to the driver's seat.

More safety improvements will be implemented and announced throughout the 198 Pep Boys IRL season.

"This is a continuing process," IRL Technical Director Phil Casey said. "We're constantly in a state of development. As soon as this race is over, we'll go back and work harder on improvements.

"You never finish the attempt to find ways to protect a driver in a car. Even though we've made things better, you're always looking for better ways to do things."

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Series IndyCar