Indy 500: New Yellow Light System to Enhance 500 Safety

22 May 1998

INDIANAPOLIS, May 22, 1998 - Drivers in this year's Indianapolis 500 will be seeing yellow - sooner.

Added to the dashboard of all cars will be a pair of alternately blinking yellow lights that will signal a caution condition on the track. They will be activated in the car at the same time the yellow flag is waved and the yellow lights around the track are turned on when an incident occurs.

The warning lights in the car are expected to alert drivers, especially those not in total contact with the track lights, more quickly that there is a problem somewhere in front of them. The system will be used for the first time in the 82nd Indianapolis 500 this Sunday.

The warning device is called the Track Condition Radio (TCR) and was developed by Delphi Delco Electronics Systems in Kokomo, Ind.

"It will be valuable because the driver will know immediately in case the track is blocked," said Phil Casey, Pep Boys Indy Racing League technical director. "It will be especially good on the banked tracks where the drivers have a hard time seeing the track lights. Also, it will help because we'll turn them off when the pits are opened."

A small receiving box with an antenna has been installed, mostly in the front section of the left sidepod, of every car entered in this year's "500." This box is connected by a cable to a small, two-light unit installed on the dashboard.

"The lights flash like a railroad crossing signal," said Glen Gray, head of the Delphi Delco Electronics Systems engineering team that developed the system.

A control console will be manned in the starter's stand. When a yellow condition takes place on the track, the console attendant lifts up the red locking apparatus and flips a switch. Immediately, the yellow lights begin blinking in the cockpits of the racecars regardless of their position on the track.

When Pep Boys IRL Director of Racing Operations Brian Barnhart indicates the pits can be opened for racecar service, the lights will be switched off. This should eliminate the occasional confusion that occurs when a car darts into the pits during a yellow before such a move has been cleared for participants.

Gray and his small Delphi team first discussed such a lighting system among themselves last fall and approached Leo Mehl, executive director of the Pep Boys IRL, about their idea near Thanksgiving.

"He pushed real hard to get it done," Casey said.

Said Gray: "We really kind of started from scratch. We tried to apply the technology we already had available. It was an extremely aggressive time frame to pull off something like this."

The company has built 75 units so far. They were required to be on every car that went through tech at Indy.

Testing quietly began at Orlando, Fla., in the Pep Boys IRL season opener in January and a follow-up test was conducted at Phoenix. Gray said everything worked fine on the 1-mile tracks.

But at Indianapolis, due to its 2-mile size, the Delphi Delco Electronics Systems team had to spend four days finding the proper installation spot on the car for the antenna so it would receive the signal regardless of the car's position on the track. Another small problem was where the antenna box could be attached since the three chassis (Dallara, G Force and Riley & Scott) had slightly different configurations in the front sidepod area.

The lights are very bright, so they will be noticed despite any sunlight that may beam into the cockpit. The brightness will be reduced for night races like at Texas and Charlotte Motor Speedways.

"Eventually, we'll provide blinking rear (warning) lights," Gray said. "The capability is built in."

The Track Condition Radio is the latest development by Delphi Delco Electronics Systems.

Delphi Delco Electronics Systems produces an Engine Control Module that monitors each Aurora engine used in Pep Boys IRL cars. It checks more than 30 engine parameters 100 times per second to control fuel injection and ignition timing. It also has a command that allows the driver to limit fuel flow, maintaining a slower speed in the pits.

Pep Boys IRL cars also use a Capacitive Discharge Module that supplies electrical volts and eliminates the need for a mechanical distributor. The Radio Telemetry Module transmits engine and chassis information from speeding cars to trackside computers.

Delphi Delco Electronics Systems also has developed an Accident Data Recorder for use in Formula One. It records everything from wheel speed to roll, pitch and yaw rate of racecars during an accident.

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