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DATE News (chronologically)
02/05/08
irl
Side intrusion panels to be added to all IndyCar chassis
In an effort to further enhance the safety features of its cars, the Indy Racing League will mandate new side intrusion panels on every IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series chassis in 2008.

The new panels are similar to those being installed by Formula One, however the panels used by the Indy Racing League will provide almost twice the surface area coverage by extending the panels from the dash bulkhead all the way to the pedal bulkhead.

The panels, which are 7 mm thick, are comprised of 15 layers of Zylon and extend from the pedal bulkhead to the back of the seat on the inside of the cockpit. Zylon is the same high-tensile material used on the Suspension Wheel/Wing Energy Management System introduced by the Indy Racing League in 1999.

IndyCar Series teams received the first shipment of side intrusion panels in mid-December. The two-day installation process requires the panels to be bonded to the chassis using a league-specified adhesive.

"Safety continues to be our highest priority," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League. "We continually look for the latest innovations to improve what is already a very safe racing environment. The side intrusion panels are another level of protection for our drivers."

Past safety innovations introduced by the Indy Racing League over the years include:

1996 - Delphi Safety Team works first race.
The Delphi Safety team, which has been present for every IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series race, manages the on-track rescue and response for all accidents. The team consists of approximately 45 safety personnel with a minimum of 15 attending each race including two trauma doctors, three paramedics, nine firefighters/EMTs and a safety coordinator, all equipped with state-of-the-art rescue tools and clean-up equipment.

1998 - Warning light installed in all cars.
In conjunction with Delphi Automotive Systems engineers, the Indy Racing League develops a yellow-light warning system that blinks in the cockpit immediately upon a yellow-flag, notifying drivers of the change in track condition.

- Track condition radio mounted to dash.
In an effort to alert drivers of critical information from race control, a dash-mounted display is installed into all cars to communicate safety warnings, track condition and pits opened/closed.

- Attenuator mounted to rear of all cars.
Attenuators are added to the back of the transmission of cars to lessen g-forces in rear impact crashes.

1999 - SWEMS added to chassis and suspension.
The league mandates that Suspension Wheel/Wing Energy Management System  (SWEMS) restraints are attached at multiple points to a car's chassis and suspension to minimize the possibility of wheel assemblies becoming detached during high-speed accidents. The restraints are made of zylon, a material with high-tensile properties and wound construction (opposed to woven), that has a breaking strength of 5 tons. Each SWEM restraint has a break load of 100 kilonewtons (kN), which equals 22,480 pound-force.

- Headrest development enhanced.
The headrest is enhanced with various foams, and covers are improved with smoother internal surfaces.

2000 - Collapsible steering column introduced.
All cars now contain a collapsible (energy absorbing) steering column that gives way in the event of a heavy impact and helps the driver avoid injuries by keeping the steering wheel away from the driver's head and chest.

2001 - SWEMS added to rear wing.
The SWEMS restraints were added to the rear wing of IndyCar Series cars.

2002 - SAFER Barrier introduced at Indianapolis 500 practice.
Indy Racing League CEO Tony George announces that the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier would be installed in all four turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in time for practice for that year's Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
Under development by the league and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility since 1998, the SAFER Barrier was designed to reduce the severity of impacts by IndyCar Series cars, one of the most effective safety measures taken in the racing industry in recent years. The SAFER Barrier is constructed in 20-foot modules, with each module consisting of four rectangular steel tubes, welded together, to form a unified element. The modules are connected with four internal steel splices. Bundles of 2-inch-thick sheets of extruded, closed-cell polystyrene are placed between the concrete wall and the steel tubing modules.

2003 - Accelerometers integrated into earpieces.
These sensor systems are incorporated into earpieces to measures dynamic forces to a driver's head during an accident. It uses small sensors integrated into the left and right radio earpieces worn by the driver. The six accelerometers - one for each of the three axes on each side - measure acceleration in the X, Y and Z axes during an accident. The combined data from the earpiece sensor system and onboard accident data recorder provide accident researchers valuable data for a clearer picture of what happens during a crash.

- Hats Off mandated into helmets.
Indy Racing League mandates all helmets be fitted with an "emergency Helmet Removal System" that uses an internal air bladder to allow the helmet to be lifted from the driver without neck strain.

- Chassis introduced, emphasizing improved driver safety.
The updated chassis was introduced with numerous changes to the chassis to enhance driver safety, including energy absorbent materials for leg protection, rigorous impact and load testing, reduced car weight and minimum core density among other requirements.

- Data recorder installed in all cars.
All cars are required to carry an Accident Data Recorder (ADR2) that senses and records key vehicle parameters at 1,000 samples per second just prior to, during, and after an accident-triggering event. It is a crash-hardened system that can record data from both the vehicle's internal sensors as well as information from the car's on-board data acquisition system. 

2004 - Video cameras installed in Delphi Safety Team vehicles
The  Delphi Safety Team's safety trucks are equipped with video cameras in the front and rear so that medical personnel may observe the rescue and prepare for the driver's mandatory visit to the care center.

2005 - THOR-FT integrated into safety tests.
The Indy Racing League acquired THOR-FT (Test Device for Human Occupant Restraint - Frontal Technology), which is able to replicate human body movements and can record 136 items of data in a single test. Delphi engineers working with the Indy Racing League's technology and safety departments use the data to evaluate safety systems such as seat belt function and feet protection in addition to helping develop the next-generation driver safety systems such as seat belts, head and neck restraints, seat and helmet designs and cockpit surround systems.

2007 - Next Generation SAFER Barrier installed at Iowa Speedway.
Newly-constructed Iowa Speedway installs the Alternative Backup Structure for the SAFER Barrier into its track design. Up until now, the system has been "retro-fitted" to the existing concrete walls (mainly in the turns) of race tracks. Iowa Speedway is not only the first track to ever have the SAFER Barrier System around the entire perimeter of the track, but is also the first to install the new system, which does not have a concrete wall behind it.

- Rear safety light/rain light mounted on attenuator.
The sanctioning body adds high-intensity flashing LEDs to the rear of the cars (between the rear wing and attenuator) The safety light serves as the drivers' fifth indicator of caution, complementing yellow caution lights on racetracks, an in-car yellow light, yellow flag waved by the starter and audio from Race Control. The flashing light also is used on road/street courses when it's raining.

2008 - Paddleshifters & Variable assist steering rack installed in cars.
Paddleshifting and a variable assist steering rack are introduced for the 2008 season. Both will increase driver safety, by allowing drivers to keep both hands on the wheel while shifting and maintaining better car control while going through turns.

- Side Intrusion Panels bonded to chassis.

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