Indy Lights will run its first official sessions with a halo-shod car this week, but teams have already tested the upgraded Dallara IL-15 privately and are reporting not many differences.
The inclusion of the halo is new for 2021, after the Cockpit Frontal Protection fin was introduced but ultimately never raced last year as a safety device to deflect debris from the cockpit area.
Dallara worked on incorporating the halo into the existing chassis through 2020, with teams receiving their race-ready cars over winter and recently testing them on road courses to see how handling and set-up requirements have changed from the increased weight.
“With our first test at Laguna Seca with the halo seemed to be flawless,” Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights team manager Don Lambert told Formula Scout.
“All of the drivers had good things to say about the new halo and not effecting their vision at all. A few even said if they did not have to climb over it to get in the car, they would not know it was on the car.”
The halo raises the centre of gravity of the car in addition to its weight, and that could pose different challenges in Indy Lights’ varied calendar of high-speed road courses, tight street circuits and the two-kilometre Gateway oval.
“The halo added 21.5 lbs (9.75kg) to the top of the car but did not seem to make a huge difference to the set-up so far,” Lambert added.
“We might notice a difference in the summer when the track temperatures are high and at tracks where tyre wear can come into play.
“We would expect to trim downforce [if the increased weight increases tyre wear]. If anything, the halo probably reduces our downforce a bit since the halo could add more turbulence to the rear wing.”
Kyle Kirkwood, one of Andretti’s drivers, has already expressed his enjoyment from driving with the halo on the car and said “handling-wise, I didn’t notice a difference” to driving the halo-less version of the IL-15.
His team-mate Robert Megennis also spoke to Formula Scout about what its inclusion is like from a driver’s perspective.
“I love the halo. Anything to make the drivers safer in the race car is a positive for me,” said Megennis.
“The only downside is you have to perform some acrobatics to get in and out of the car. You don’t really notice the halo while driving on track. As a driver, you’re looking into the corners and at the other cars around you so you forget it is there.”
Following up on Kirkwood’s comment on the handling comparison to the version of the car he raced to victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2019, Megennis added:
“Dallara did an awesome job with the halo on the Indy Lights car. The halo is super light and our car felt pretty much the same at our test.”