The NHRA Technical Department on Wednesday granted conceptual approval of a prototype cockpit canopy submitted by Aerodine Composites Group (Aerodine), which was originally designed by Don Schumacher Racing (DSR).
“Once we see the production piece and we approve it, it will be allowed in competition,” said Glen Gray, NHRA’s Vice President, Technical Operations to Competition Plus Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not sure on that (when NHRA will see the production piece). We are working with DSR and Aerodine on that.”
DSR tested an innovative fully-enclosed canopy on Tony Schumacher’s U.S. Army dragster at Palm Beach (Fla.) International Raceway Jan. 15-21.
“There are some changes that had to be made to that (canopy),” Gray said. “The one from Palm Beach had to be modified to incorporate those design changes.”
The initial prototype component has been reviewed by the NHRA Technical Department and the NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA. In addition, NHRA contracted Purdue University Center for Systems Integrity (PCSI) to perform an aerodynamic competitive analysis assessment. Based on the assessment from all three entities, several issues and modifications will need to be resolved prior to Aerodine Composites Group submitting the final production component package.
The final aerodynamic competitive analysis assessment utilizing CAD and CFD modeling was completed last week by PCSI. A preliminary analysis revealed that the prototype canopy did create an aerodynamic advantage. Working together, NHRA, DSR, Aerodine and PCSI were able to eliminate the aerodynamic advantage by designing a 0.75-inch wicker bill into the top trailing edge of the canopy.
In addition, among the issues noted during the prototype review was a need for fire hose access. The NHRA Technical Department and NHRA Safety Safari were recently provided samples of four different types of newly designed kick-out panels for fire hose access. The samples were tested at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals this past weekend and one was approved for inclusion in the component package. Additional items, including a reflective canopy fastener, fresh air system and fire bottle are undergoing final approval.
“We had a study done on the possible aerodynamic advantage,” Gray said. “During the preliminary portions of that study it was determined that there was an aerodynamic advantage so some changes had to be made to the design. Then the aerodynamic study had to be redone with the changes. We just got that study back last week. All of the things from a design standpoint (of the canopy) have been resolved. We just need to see the final piece as it is going to be run on the race track before we can give final approval.”
Gray said NHRA officials can go to DSR headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind., and see the final production piece.
“We can see the actual production piece as it is going to be on the chassis on the race car,” Gray said. “We will examine what position the fire bottles are in, the fresh air system and make sure everything works properly. There will only be one approved canopy and the one approved canopy will be the one Aerodine produces and it will be available to everyone who wants to use it.”
Gray said the earliest the prototype cockpit canopy submitted by Aerodine Composites Group (Aerodine), which was originally designed by DSR, would be approved for use would be at the Lucas Oil Nationals Aug. 16-19 at Brainerd, Minn.
“We would not be able to approve anything (for use) on the Western Swing because the team (DSR) is not even going to be coming back during races,” Gray said.
According to Gray, once the canopy does get NHRA’s final approval, the sanctioning body isn’t going to make the canopy mandatory for teams to use.
“Our intent at this time is not to make it mandatory,” Gray said.
Although 13 of the 23 races on NHRA’s 2012 schedule have been completed, Gray doesn’t believe the canopy approval process has become drawn out.
“This is a drastically different piece of equipment for a race car at this time,” Gray said. “Obviously 20 years ago there were some canopies out there. But this is a completely different animal and things are different now and things like this have to go through an approval process. We really need to do our due diligence and make sure that we are not creating a competitive advantage or that we are creating any kind of unnecessary safety problems that do not exist with the open cockpit now. Sometimes there are unintended consequences with things you design. You are doing it for one reason and you create four other problems that you didn’t think about. We want to make sure everything is right and it doesn’t create any competitive advantage or additional safety issues.”
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