Indy Car Technology – The Driver’s Seat

Bead-seat-side-crop

If you’re sitting down reading this right now, how comfortable is the seat you’re on? How much did it cost? Was it designed exclusively for you? Would it protect you in the event of a sudden deceleration? Chances are, unless you’re sitting in a race car right now with a seat that has been formed around your body, the answers to all of the questions above are “so-so, less than $1,000, No and No.” Most mere mortals get along fine every day in any seat they sit in, however when it comes time to answer the demands of racing an Indy car, only the best will do. Here’s how seats are made and why it’s so important.

The process is time consuming, expensive and extremely critical for driver comfort, performance and safety. When the word comfort is mentioned, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can fall asleep in it. It’s more to the fact that there aren’t any protrusions that can cause discomfort or injury. Performance has to do with the fact that it places as large a surface area of the driver’s body in contact with the seat. It needs to be as form-fitting and as light as possible so that the driver can just focus on going fast. The old saying of feeling what the car is doing “by the seat of your pants” is quite relevant for a driver as they need to feel the yaw rate of the car to be able to apply proper steering, throttle and brake  inputs. The more surface area the driver has with the seat, the more he (or she) can feel what’s going on underneath them. George Klotz is the team director at AJ Foyt Racing and he described the seat making process this way. “We fly a guy in who’s a specialist in making seats. We get the driver in the car and make sure that all his pedals, steering wheel and cockpit are where he wants it.” Most NTT IndyCar Series teams use a seat kit from a company located near Indianapolis. The kit itself is only about $300.

“It’s a bag that’s about three feet by six feet long filled with little Styrofoam pellets. You take that and put it in the car, make sure that he’s kind of comfortable and they’ve got the beads where they want them. Then they lay it out on the floor, spread it out all evenly again. Then they fill it with epoxy and then they knead it like bread to make sure that all of the beads are covered. Put it back in the car and get the driver in there and then start moving around and moving the beads around to get everything right. It’s critical that we get the helmet within the legal limit. We try to get them as high as we can You can only get them within seven inches between the top of their helmet and the top of the roll hoop.” They like to get the drivers as high as possible so it’s easier for them to see. Aerodynamically, there’s not a lot of difference between a driver sitting lower or higher. Furthermore, they can sometimes use ballast to lower the center of gravity. “Make sure he’s dead centered with the centerline of the car. Once that’s all done and everyone’s happy the driver will sit there for about a half hour to an hour to let everything cure for a little bit.” There’s also a vacuum pump that’s been connected to the bag to remove excessive air and to make sure that the beads hold their shape with the bag. “Then we lift him straight out of the car and make sure he doesn’t disturb anything with the seat.  Let it sit overnight - you come in the next morning and everything’s hard. You get him back in the car and make sure everything’s okay and out he comes. Then it’s trimmed inside the car so we can actually get it out of the car.”

“Once it’s trimmed then we put gaffer’s tape over the top of it. The driver will typically run it for a couple of races to make sure he’s comfortable with it. Then we’ll send the seat out to a company that will digitize the seat.” At this point they’ll get one made out of lighter foam and they’ll save about three pounds doing that. “That’s a much more expensive process, probably double the cost, but to save three pounds it’s worth it. The driver ends up with two seats - a spare and a primary. The digitized seat ends up getting covered with Nomex® cloth.” 

There are two different companies involved with making the two seats.  “The original seat is just over $2000 and the digitized seat is just over $5000. It has better quality foam which is better for impact resistance and so on. It’s not only lighter, it’s safer. When drivers switch teams we all help each other out.” The teams will send their driver’s seats to the new team and that goes for steering wheels as well. “We’re just trying to help each other out and reduce costs.”

So there you have it. Don’t feel bad that your seat didn’t cost $5,000 and was custom made for you in a process that ended up taking days on end to produce, is fire resistant, and can help reduce the likelihood of an injury in case you smack the SAFER barrier at over 200mph. Just relax and know that the drivers who need it, have it!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason

Bead seat George Klotz crop

AJ Foyt Racing Team Director George Klotz holds up an almost finished Indy car seat.

Bead seat top front cropBead seat side crop

The top and side of  the seat show holes for lap belts and will soon receive its Nomex fabric covering.

Bead seat gaff tape crop

The original seat is covered with gaffer’s tape and is installed in the Indy car. This is the seat that gets digitized to create the lighter seat that will then be covered with Nomex.

Photos by Larry Mason

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Oriol Servia Interview

Servia pace car Oriol Servia kept busy after leading the pack of 28 cars down Shoreline Drive in the pace car for the start of the race by leading four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves during one of the multiple full-course cautions during the Grand Prix.

Oriol Servia was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame just prior to the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. His resume of work includes being an Indy Lights Champion and race winner in the Champ Car World Series. He’s raced for some of the best Indy car teams in the sport including Newman/Haas and Team Penske. Servia has also raced in Formula E and prototype sports cars. Besides being inducted into the LBMWoF, he was also in Long Beach to drive the Acura NSX pace car for the Grand Prix. Servia has a reputation as a driver who is quick and can also be counted on to bring the car home in one piece. He’s been called in at the last minute to substitute for injured drivers multiple times and has delivered strong results. He’s also been very competitive at the Indianapolis 500 and feels that he can still win it. Servia talks about this and his preparation including simulators. He also shares his prediction for who would win the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series Championship. Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Oriol Servia LBMWoF crop Oriol Servia gives a thumbs up to his LBMWoF plaque on Pine Avenue just in front of the Long Beach Convention Center while friend and former car owner Jimmy Vasser looks on from behind.

Oriol Servia gives a thumbs up to his LBMWoF plaque on Pine Avenue just in front of the Long Beach Convention Center while friend and former car owner Jimmy Vasser looks on from behind.

Servia pace car crop Oriol Servia kept busy after leading the pack of 28 cars down Shoreline Drive in the pace car for the start of the race by leading four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves during one of the multiple full-course cautions during the Grand Prix.

Oriol Servia kept busy after leading the pack of 28 cars down Shoreline Drive in the pace car for the start of the race by leading four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves during one of the multiple full-course cautions during the Grand Prix.

Interview and photos by Larry Mason

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Katherine Legge Interview

photo by Brad Bernstein Katherine Legge enjoys a light moment with Larry Mason during their podcast for raceschool.com.

Katherine Legge (of England) is one of the fastest race car drivers around. She is also female (which is not the novelty that it used to be in the world of auto racing). We caught up with her in the morning before her IMSA WeatherTech GTD race at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach – a place where she earned her first North American win in her Toyota Atlantic Championship debut! She has competed worldwide in an extremely diverse range of racing cars including Indy cars, Formula E, NASCAR, DTM, the Delta Wing and many, many more. She has an extremely pleasant and humble personality outside the car which by no means diminishes her fierce determination to wring every last bit of performance out of any race car she steps into. Enjoy!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Interview and photos by Larry Mason except as noted below:

photo by Brad Bernstein

photo by Brad Bernstein

Katherine Legge enjoys a light moment with Larry Mason during their podcast for raceschool.com.

Katherine Legge shares the driving duties with Hardpoint Team owner/driver Rob Ferriol in their Porsche GT3R IMSA GTD car.

Katherine Legge shares the driving duties with Hardpoint Team owner/driver Rob Ferriol in their Porsche GT3R IMSA GTD car.

Katherine Legge not only has to fight for position within the GTD class, but has to watch her mirrors for DPi prototypes. She’s shown here as the meat in a multi-class sandwich!

Katherine Legge not only has to fight for position within the GTD class, but has to watch her mirrors for DPi prototypes. She’s shown here as the meat in a multi-class sandwich!

This carbon fiber rear diffuser and tail section show off the hi-tech nature of the current IMSA GTD class.

This carbon fiber rear diffuser and tail section show off the hi-tech nature of the current IMSA GTD class.

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Oliver Askew Interview

Oliver-Askew Oliver Askew walks down Shoreline Drive just minutes before the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Oliver Askew was one of the most successful drivers on the Road To Indy where he won multiple championships (USF2000 and Indy Lights) and earned his way into the NTT IndyCar Series. Unfortunately a shunt at Indy caused a concussion and ultimately a job loss at his previous race team. In 2021, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing picked him up for the final three races and Askew produced with a superb Firestone Fast Six qualifying spot (5th) the weekend before the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. We caught up with him in Long Beach and had a nice chat. In this interview Askew talks about how he prepares to go racing at the drop of a hat and the importance of team building from a driver’s perspective.

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Oliver Askew walks down Shoreline Drive just minutes before the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Oliver Askew walks down Shoreline Drive just minutes before the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Oliver Askew definitely knows how to hustle a race car around a track as shown here attacking the curbing in Turn 1.

Oliver Askew definitely knows how to hustle a race car around a track as shown here attacking the curbing in Turn 1.

With the advent of wraps for race cars these days, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team gives Oliver Askew one of the most intricate and colorful sponsor liveries of any car on the grid. Here Askew prepares to muscle his way through the Turn 11 hairpin.

With the advent of wraps for race cars these days, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team gives Oliver Askew one of the most intricate and colorful sponsor liveries of any car on the grid. Here Askew prepares to muscle his way through the Turn 11 hairpin.

The beautiful natural colors of nature surrounding the aquarium fountain are mimicked on Askew’s color scheme.

The beautiful natural colors of nature surrounding the aquarium fountain are mimicked on Askew’s color scheme.

Here Askew is shown leading eventual winner Colton Herta through the fountain area (T3) during the race. In his short NTT IndyCar Series career, Askew has already earned a podium finish.

Here Askew is shown leading eventual winner Colton Herta through the fountain area (T3) during the race. In his short NTT IndyCar Series career, Askew has already earned a podium finish.

Interview and photos by Larry Mason

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Willy T. Ribbs Interview

Ribbs The wide-open eyes of Willy T Ribbs show the look of intense focus – the precise thing needed to be successful at Indianapolis. photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs  

Willy T. Ribbs has forged his way to success in professional auto racing like no other man in his chosen sport. From being the first African American to race at Indianapolis to testing Formula One cars and winning multiple IMSA GTO races, he’s also driven for or been sponsored/supported by some of the biggest names in and out of the sport - Dan Gurney, Jack Roush (via Ford Motor Company), Bill Cosby and many others. They all believed in Willy enough to help him forge his path of success. He was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame just prior to the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and spent some time talking with us after he had popped in a quick “Hello” during fellow LBMWoF inductee Will Power’s interview.  I would’ve liked to have spent more time interviewing him, however he was interrupted during our chat and told that he had to get to another commitment. Enjoy! 

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Willy T. Ribbs and Jim Michaelian (president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach) remove the checkered flag to uncover the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame plaque for Ribbs.

Willy T. Ribbs and Jim Michaelian (president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach) remove the checkered flag to uncover the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame plaque for Ribbs.

Willy T holds up a number one sign right before he kisses the plaque as if he were kissing the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Willy T holds up a number one sign right before he kisses the plaque as if he were kissing the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Anytime you get to be on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s a reason to celebrate.

Anytime you get to be on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s a reason to celebrate.

photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs

The wide-open eyes of Willy T Ribbs show the look of intense focus – the precise thing needed to be successful at Indianapolis.

The wide-open eyes of Willy T Ribbs show the look of intense focus – the precise thing needed to be successful at Indianapolis.

photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs

Ribbs receives great service work from his pit crew during at pit stop at the Indy 500.

Ribbs receives great service work from his pit crew during a pit stop at the Indy 500.

photo courtesy of Willy Ribbs

Interview and photos by Larry Mason except as noted

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Callum Ilott Interview

Callum Ilott Callum Ilott waves to the crowd just minutes before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Ferrari F1 test driver Callum Ilott was picked by Juncos Hollinger Racing to finish out the last three races of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series. He will also be driving for them full time in 2022. Ilott talked with us about how Indy cars compare to the Formula One and GT cars he’s been driving. He also compares the nuances of the Long Beach track to the streets of the Monaco Grand Prix. With essentially a new team and a new (to the series) driver, Ilott qualified P18 (out of 28) for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach which is quite good considering he’s never been here before and how tight the grid is here (he ran as high as sixth before retiring with a mechanical). He certainly has the potential to make a big name for himself here in the states with his skills. Sit back and enjoy this interview!

By Larry Maso

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Callum Ilott waves to the crowd just minutes before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Callum Ilott waves to the crowd just minutes before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Callum Ilott pushed hard in Saturday qualifying and ended up in P18. It was a good result for the small team that’s just getting re-started and with Ilott never having been to Long Beach before.

Callum Ilott pushed hard in Saturday qualifying and ended up in P18. It was a good result for the small team that’s just getting re-started and with Ilott never having been to Long Beach before.

Callum Ilott maneuvers his way around the tight Turn 11 hairpin before rocketing down Shoreline Drive. This hairpin is to the right as opposed to the hairpin in Monaco.

Callum Ilott maneuvers his way around the tight Turn 11 hairpin before rocketing down Shoreline Drive. This hairpin is to the right as opposed to the hairpin in Monaco.

Callum Ilott leads Charlie Kimball and Conor Daly heading into the fountain area of the aquarium. Starting P18 and avoiding the first lap melee, Ilott worked his way up to 6th place at one point in the race.

Callum Ilott leads Charlie Kimball and Conor Daly heading into the fountain area of the aquarium. Starting P18 and avoiding the first lap melee, Ilott worked his way up to 6th place at one point in the race.

Looking down from the Aquarium of the Pacific parking structure through the palm tree leaves, Ilott already has his vision up for the upcoming tricky off-camber Turn 5.

Looking down from the Aquarium of the Pacific parking structure through the palm tree leaves, Ilott already has his vision up for the upcoming tricky off-camber Turn 5.

 Interview and photos by Larry Mason

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Judy Kouba Dominic Interview

Judy Kouba Domenick Photo courtesy of Judy Kouba Domenick

Judy Kouba Dominic is Chevrolet Racing’s trackside communications representative. For over a decade Judy has been the go-to person for members of the media to get information about Chevy racing teams and drivers. She brings a fascinating background to her position and is one of the most professional, passionate, hard-working, and caring individuals you’d ever want to meet. We sat down and had a nice chat just outside the media center at the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Judy Kouba Domenick

Interview by Larry Mason 

Photo courtesy of Judy Kouba Domenick

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger – Juncos Hollinger Racing Interview

Ricardo Juncos came to the United States years ago as a go-kart mechanic. Living the American dream, he’s made it all the way to the NTT IndyCar Series as a team owner. This year Brad Hollinger came over from being a part-owner of the Williams Formula One team to join Juncos creating Juncos Hollinger Racing. Running the last three races of the 2021 season, the team will compete full time in 2022. They both spent some time talking about their partnership and plans for the future and why now is the right time to be in the NTT IndyCar Series. Incidentally, Ferrari F1 test driver Callum Ilott (who finished out the last three races of the 2021 season for JHR) was just announced as their driver for the 2022 season and he will be featured with his own interview in our next installment!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Interview by Larry Mason

Photo credits below

Ricardo Juncos (L) and Brad Hollinger (R) have teamed up to form Juncos Hollinger Racing and will be contesting the entire NTT IndyCar Series season in 2022 with driver Callum Ilott.

PHOTO by Jose Mario Dias

Ricardo Juncos (L) and Brad Hollinger (R) have teamed up to form Juncos Hollinger Racing and will be contesting the entire NTT IndyCar Series season in 2022 with driver Callum Ilott.

It may be cold and snowy outside in Indianapolis in the winter time but the work is heating up inside to prepare for a full season in 2022. It also looks like they’ll have to change their external signage to add in “Hollinger.”

PHOTO courtesy Juncos Hollinger Racing

It may be cold and snowy outside in Indianapolis in the winter time but the work is heating up inside to prepare for a full season in 2022. It also looks like they’ll have to change their external signage to add in “Hollinger.”

A beautiful clean shop space with room for two transporters and plenty of bays to work on Indy Pro 2000, Indy Lights and IndyCar racing cars, Juncos Hollinger Racing has also prepped IMSA DPi cars here too.

PHOTO courtesy Juncos Hollinger Racing

A beautiful clean shop space with room for two transporters and plenty of bays to work on Indy Pro 2000, Indy Lights and IndyCar racing cars, Juncos Hollinger Racing has also prepped IMSA DPi cars here too.

Although there may not be a lot of people or work shown going on in this photo, this shop is about to get real busy for the coming season!

PHOTO courtesy Juncos Hollinger Racing

Although there may not be a lot of people or work shown going on in this photo, this shop is about to get real busy for the coming season!

 

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RaceSchool.com Podcast Jordan Taylor Interview

Jordan Taylor has represented Chevrolet Racing well for many years. PHOTO courtesy of Chevrolet Racing

Wayne Taylor was a very successful driver in his time in IMSA. He’s now one of the most successful team owners as well. Perhaps his greatest achievement is the fact that he’s raised two sons that race and win consistently. Jordan Taylor is the driver of the Chevrolet Racing Corvette IMSA GTLM car and he’s won just about everywhere he’s raced. He spent some time talking with us at the media luncheon for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach about the driving differences between last year’s front engine Corvette and this year’s mid-engine version, compromises with having a co-driver and data analysis.  He also had a little subtle ribbing of his teammate sprinkled in here too!

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry MasonAlthough two thirds of the GTLM field is comprised of the Corvette C8.R race cars, the fight between the two Corvettes is always close! Here Taylor’s #3 leads his sister C8.R of Milner/Tandy.

Although two thirds of the GTLM field is comprised of the Corvette C8.R race cars, the fight between the two Corvettes is always close! Here Taylor’s #3 leads his sister C8.R of Milner/Tandy.

At this point the Taylor/Garcia Corvette has been relegated to second place (as you can see on the LED number panel) by their teammates and would soldier on to finish there after starting from pole position in class.

At this point the Taylor/Garcia Corvette has been relegated to second place (as you can see on the LED number panel) by their teammates and would soldier on to finish there after starting from pole position in class.

The beautiful lines of the mid-engine C8.R and the sensational sound of the flat-plane crank, small block V8, keeps the fans glued to the fence to witness this all-American muscle. 2021 will be the swan song for the GTLM class in IMSA. Next year Corvette Racing will switch to the GTD category.

The beautiful lines of the mid-engine C8.R and the sensational sound of the flat-plane crank, small block V8, keeps the fans glued to the fence to witness this all-American muscle. 2021 will be the swan song for the GTLM class in IMSA. Next year Corvette Racing will switch to the GTD category.

Jordan Taylor head shot

Jordan Taylor has represented Chevrolet Racing well for many years.

 

Interview and photos by Larry Mason except as noted.

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RaceSchool.com PodcastMarcus Ericsson Interview

 Ex Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson has had a break-out season this year winning two races. His transition to the NTT IndyCar Series has taken longer than he would have liked but he’s certainly enjoying the journey this year. Marcus took time in the “media bullpen” at the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to discuss that transition, the physical differences between F1 and Indy cars along with his preparation away from the track. With Formula One drivers having a reputation of being aloof and cold, Marcus was the exact opposite with a warm and humble disposition.
 
 

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

Marcus Ericsson waves to the crowd before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Marcus Ericsson waves to the crowd before the start of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Marcus Ericsson rockets down Shoreline Drive just past the start/finish line on his way to a terminal velocity of nearly 180mph!

Marcus Ericsson rockets down Shoreline Drive just past the start/finish line on his way to a terminal velocity of nearly 180mph!

Marcus Ericsson is shown here holding off two Indy 500 champions – Alex Rossi and Ryan Hunter Reay. Unfortunately, a few laps later Rossi would dive to the inside of Ericsson in Turn 1. Ericsson tried to hold the outside line and skated in the marbles and into the tire barrier.

Marcus Ericsson is shown here holding off two Indy 500 champions – Alex Rossi and Ryan Hunter Reay. Unfortunately, a few laps later Rossi would dive to the inside of Ericsson in Turn 1. Ericsson tried to hold the outside line and skated in the marbles and into the tire barrier.

It wasn’t a super hard hit, but the foray into the tire barriers broke the front wing and ended Ericsson’s race.

 It wasn’t a super hard hit, but the foray into the tire barriers broke the front wing and ended Ericsson’s race.

Interview and photos by Larry Mason

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