Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bald Spot Sports improves 140G head impact protection by up to 40 percent for 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series

With a simple material switch to ARPRO from EPS Bald Spot Sports was able to offer nearly a 40 percent reduction in head G’s for high energy management motor sport applications.

The 2010 IZOD Indycar drivers will benefit from significantly improved head impact protection thanks Bald Spot Sports and the introduction of ARPRO®, an expanded polypropylene (EPP) from JSP.

With head Gs reaching over 140G during rearward accidents at circuits such as Indianapolis, the material, specified by the Indy Racing League (IRL), delivers controlled deceleration and repeatable energy absorption to protect the driver. The simple upgrade is a retrofit to the current Dallara chassis and can be carried out by the teams.

The 2010 introduction of ARPRO follows a lengthy testing program undertaken by the Indy Racing League and Bald Spot Sports to find a solution better than the expanded polystyrene (EPS) used up until now. “The EPS head restraint was inconsistent,” says Indy Racing League’s director of engineering Jeff Horton. “The goal was to tune the headrest system to allow the head Gs to be reduced in a rearward accident. Testing on both the linear impactor and full size sled showed nearly a 40 percent reduction in head G using 1.5lb/Cu-Ft EPP.”

A crucial advantage of switching to ARPRO is the repeatable impact performance available. “Our material can withstand multiple impacts and continue to retain excellent energy absorption after dynamic stress,” adds Paul Compton, JSP’s President and Chief Executive Officer - Europe. “This is a benefit for both multiple impacts and, if an accident happens early on in the race weekend, the team is able to continue to use the structure through the rest of the weekend.

Weight savings is also an advantage. "With the introduction of EPP into the process, we were able to eliminate the use of A and B resins, thus reducing weight by nearly 45 percent and mitigated the risk of human error" explains Cameron Cobb of Bald Spot Sports.

To ensure volume pricing the parts (ARPRO insert and new Kevlar skin) will only be available direct from the IRL supplied by BSS. "The skin is necessary to keep the helmet and HANS device from digging into the raw foam, which allows the driver to ramp because of the stretch of the seat belts in a rearward accident," Horton says.

Despite the major improvement in safety, the IRL is now investigating the next stage of head protection. “We are looking at a similar concept for the sides of the headrest,” adds Horton. Together with further testing and design changes such as material thickness, the IRL aims to offer a 60 percent reduction in head G.

The IndyCar Series is the latest motor sport category to recognise the safety improvements that ARPRO can deliver. Working with component developers such as Createc and Bald Spot Sports, ARPRO is approved for use in WRC, NASCAR and NHRA drag racing series in applications such as bumpers, seats and impact protection padding. Lightweight, heat resistant and fully recyclable, the material can be machined or molded to offer a solution that is easily retrofitted to existing race and rally cars.