Aesthetics vs Safety – A Common Debate

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There is a topic pertaining to the NTT IndyCar Series that I have not given a whole lot of attention to, and that is the new aeroscreen that was unveiled on Carb Day at IMS back in May. I think I may have mentioned something about it when it was first unveiled, but I’m not sure It ever went beyond a mention or not.

However, I got into a social media discussion about it a few weeks ago, which completely got out of hand. That’s very unusual, because most conversations of social media are so civil.

First of all, I think the new aero screen is ugly. It is so big it looks like a bubble canopy with a moon roof. There is one aspect that many people didn’t notice at first, but this has a halo just like in Formula One. The only difference is that the IndyCar version is also wrapped in a clear Plexiglas-type windscreen.

aeroscreen-1

aeroscreen-2

I actually didn’t mind the wind screen that was tested at Phoenix and IMS last year. It was not near as tall and resembled windscreens of the eighties and early nineties. Looks-wise, I would have preferred it to what was introduced in May.

But when we are talking aesthetics, which I consider very important when we are talking about race cars – I think that what we are supposed to be getting in 2020 is hideous.

It was that line of thinking that got me in trouble on Facebook a few weeks ago. I belong to many IndyCar related groups on Facebook. Someone posted one of these pictures and asked for opinions on the looks of the car. With looks being the only criteria asked to comment on, I ripped into it – using the moon roof analogy among others. Keep in mind, many had already trashed the looks of the car – so it’s not like I was blazing a new trail.

Perhaps it was when I said “Just when they got this car to really looking good in the last couple of years, they are ruining it by putting a halo on it and wrapping it in plastic”; but whatever it was – the Legions of the Miserable seemed to take issue with my comments. I was accused of being stuck in the sixties and that I would obviously prefer to see more drivers die than to have a not-as-pretty car on track.

Here we go again!

The question I responded to was about the looks of the car, and I don’t care for the looks of it. I’m entitled to that opinion. But because I don’t like the looks, does that mean I’m going to lead a campaign against it? Absolutely not

I don’t know for a fact that the last two IndyCar fatalities, Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson, could have been prevented had they carried these devices on their cars – but I think their chances of survival would have been increased significantly if they had. And just increasing the chances dramatically, is enough to put these on all cars.

When I was a kid going to the Indianapolis 500, I remember the first two drivers I saw with full frontal helmets were Dan Gurney and Al Unser. I thought they were the ugliest things I had ever seen. They almost looked comical compared to the standard bandana and goggles that most drivers wore. But it didn’t take long for that look to become the norm. And you know what? I quickly got used to it. When I saw Robert Wickens wearing an open-face helmet a couple of weeks ago in Toronto – I thought that looked comical.

I think today’s sprint cars are hideous with their giant roll-cages enclosing the driver. Sprint cars from the sixties and seventies were things of beauty. The problem was…it was easy to die in those beauties. The caged sprint car of today may be nothing to look at, but I could never imagine a driver crawling into a sprint car without one.

I don’t even know who these people were that were attacking me, presuming I was against the aeroscreen. Being in large Facebook groups, it is not common to know many people. Perhaps it was someone who used to read this site and then gave up because they thought I was too much of a traditionalist. There is a former IndyCar blogger that lives in Arizona (not Jeff Iannucci) that always came after me in the early days of this site, because he assumed he knew where I stood on things. He’s the same person that was stumping for closed canopies on cars on social media before Justin Wilson had even been removed from his car that fateful day in Pocono. That was the day I quit following him.

I didn’t like the closed-faced helmet when I first saw it, but I was only eleven years old. I would like to think I’m a little more reasonable today than I was in 1969 or 1970. It’s true, I don’t like the looks of the aeroscreen. I think it ruins the looks of this unified aero kit. But let the record show that I certainly understand it is needed and I applaud IndyCar for their efforts to develop it.

Things died down after I foolishly shared my opinion on the matter. But about two weeks ago, I saw where someone else that I didn’t even know was getting attacked in another group on the same subject. His crime? He used sarcasm to make a point.

Granted, I probably wouldn’t have used the same line he did, but simply because the reactions by some were very predictable. When the debate was raging regarding aesthetics versus safety, he sarcastically commented “I’d much rather watch more people die than see them put four square feet of plastic on the cars”. When I read it, I immediately knew it was sarcasm, but I also knew many people would be offended and outraged. They were.

This guy was immediately crucified! After a couple of people vilified him, he had to jump on and explain it was sarcasm and how ridiculous it was that people would think he was serious. He then went on to explain how he was a supporter of the device. It didn’t matter. It’s much more fun to pile on than it is to listen to an explanation. He then held hat in hand and apologized for his poor attempt at sarcasm. That seemed to make things worse as the self-righteous continued to show everyone that they were more compassionate than he was.

When did we lose our sense of humor? I’ve always thought that sarcasm was an excellent way to make a point. It’s pointing out absurdity by being absurd. Unfortunately sarcasm, satire and humor are all lost in today’s outraged society. It upset me that he felt the need to apologize. There was no need to. Many of us got it as soon as we read it. End of rant.

So without sarcasm or using any double meaning, my point is this – yes I think the new aeroscreen makes the car ugly. In fact, it redefines ugly. But it also makes it much safer, and that is something I am in favor of.

George Phillips

15 Responses to “Aesthetics vs Safety – A Common Debate”

  1. I think it looks better than the F1 version but still prefer the windscreen type. That said, it ain’t my head in the firing line so if those that know way more than me about safety deem it necessary then so be it….

  2. I liked the original windscreen much better too, but apparently it wasn’t strong enough. And–not trying to be negative–but with the seat belts and the neck brace and the tight fit and now the windscreen, I hope they get a lot of practice getting out in a hurry.

  3. I’m in the very small minority that has virtually no opinion on the halo or aeroscreen. I hate seeing my heroes die in their cars, if this saves even one of them it’s worth it whether people thinks it’s ugly or not (I don’t). Would it have saved Dan? I don’t think there’s much that would have saved Dan so I don’t figure that into these discussions. Would it have saved Justin? I don’t know, that nose cone appeared to come straight down and might have gotten through the opening but if it had even glanced the rim of the aeroscreen that might have been enough to lessen the impact and make it survivable. It certainly would have protected Hinch.

    I’m in a couple Facebook IndyCar groups. One has very low membership and is usually very civilized. The other has lots of members and more times than not the posts in that group make me want to leave the internet altogether. I usually avoid the comment sections like the plague, on all internet articles, more times than not they make me lose hope for humanity.

  4. Bruce Waine Says:

    Back To The Future……………. And they walked away from it………

    Imagine over 200 miles per hour……………

    No.

    Never.

    Imagine over 100 miles per hour……………….

    They will never go over 200 miles per hour.

    And they walk away from it ?

    Never……………….

  5. James T Suel Says:

    I will catch hell for my opinion on the windscreen. I have been going to IndyCar races and sprint car and midgets racing since the late 50s. We are getting close to enclosing the cockpit. Iam 100% against that. You were right about the sprint cars of today. Racing will always be dangerous ALWAYS. but if you enclose the cockpit don’t call it a Indycar!. Openwheel, open-cockpit is the highest from of racing. No one makes you strap yourself into a race car. As Dennis Jenkins said back in the 50s the great god safety will kill motor racing! I dont want to see anyone get hurt or die in a racecar, however if the risk is not there anyone could or would do it.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    The aeroscreen is much bulkier than I expected it to be and no, it is not especially attractive in the renderings. I will reserve full judgement on its appearance until I actually see it on track, of course, and I do look forward to seeing this new(ish) piece of safety technology be developed on cars into the future.

    I believe that a big part of the reason that the aeroscreen looks awkward is that it is being fitted onto a car that was not designed for it. Future cars will be designed with the aeroscreen in mind and will likely look much better.

    I think what I found most disappointing about this is not the device itself but the information that was released leading up to it, that fans were led to believe that the device would not include the F1-style halo that it now does because that device was obscured views on banked oval turns. That wasn’t the hopeful internet speculation of people who find the halo ugly, this info came from folks who should know better. I can pull quotes from both Mark Miles and Scott Dixon stating to media members that the halo would not work on banked ovals (not that it might no work, that it WILL not work), and now both are saying the exact opposite because simulator testing is showing otherwise. Foolish to be so declarative without any testing.

  7. I’d intended to reply to George’s poll question, not reply to “redcar.”
    On my little phone screen I inadvertently touched “reply” under redcar’s comment.

    Thanks for blogging.

  8. safety…MLB extended netting ruins the “looks”, too, but it will be required. the best “look” is increasingly HDTV instead of the stands.

  9. It’s fugly. It’s almost hideous. I agree with you George they finally got this car looking good and now this. I still can’t get past the halo in F1 and I’m afraid this is going to be the same experience .

  10. My bottom line is Will it be effective and serve its purpose?

  11. I really hate to see this. I thought the aeroscreen looked good and probably would be just as effective. But worse, I feel somewhat betrayed by Indycar. They continually reassured fans that we would not be going with the halo like F1. But I guess when you go full F1 Lite, we should have expected this.

    So will we now have to eliminate ovals because the drivers won’t be able to see effectively with the new halo? That would play right into their hands……

    Lets not stop here. Racing is safer at 150 mph than at 220. And would anybody really notice (borrowing from Robin Miller)? Lets slow these cars down in the name of safety. In fact, why not make the speed limit 100. After all, its still racing and we can test the ability of the drivers even if the car itself can’t exceed 100 mph. Then it would really measure the ability of the drivers. And it would be safer!

    And don’t get me started on those open wheels. How much safer those cars could be with fenders. They we could really trade a little paint on those mighty road course 20 mph turns.

    I guess we really need to ask ourselves, is it time to outlaw auto racing altogether. Heck, I know its excluded from my personal auto policy. It must be bad. The question now is should we eliminate Indycar racing altogether. Or maybe reduce the speed of the cars to a maximum of 55 mph. We need to do all we can. In the name of safety.

    It’s a new day!

    • If putting a little piece of plastic and a bit of titanium on the car is enough to make so-called loyal hardcore fans abandon the sport and make claims that the sky is falling, then yes perhaps it is time to just end all motorsports and call it a day. Geez.

  12. Ron Ford Says:

    Skip the aeroscreen, strap on a good helmet, and go racin’. A aeroscreen would not have helped Greg Moore, Bill Vukovich, or Robert Wickens. Time rides a fast horse. Sometimes your time is just up. I hope this site is not considered “social media”. Apparently George uses social media as his muse.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Consider those individuals who have given their lives unselfishly, and unafraid, without no damn halo, to make racing the world’s most spectacular spectator sport. Green, Green, Green!

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