Sunday 23rd August 2020 – The 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will be remembered as the first ‘500’ to be run behind closed doors, without any spectators. With the race moving from its traditional end of May timing to late August due to Covid19 restrictions, it was initially hoped to have a reduced spectator capacity of 25% but in the end the decision was made to only allow essential personnel into the Speedway.
To help maintain social distancing, Xtrac were provided a maximum of four staff members to support all 33 entries at the event, with Xtrac operating from their support trailer parked behind the paddock rather than the customary ‘Gasoline Alley’ track-side office. Teams were able to request spares or assistance from the Xtrac crew, via phone or email, with parts being delivered directly to the team’s garages to ensure the highest level of customer service possible.
Despite the lack of spectators, the racing was no less exciting with Takuma Sato securing his second Indy 500 victory, followed by Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal, with the final laps being run under yellow flag conditions. Eighteen cars finished on the lead lap, with twenty-five cars running at the finish. Sato’s victory was the 27th for a car equipped with an Xtrac gearbox, amazingly over a quarter of the winners since the first race in 1911!
This was the first Indy 500 in which the cars used the newly developed Aero-Screen, which provides protection for the drivers from projectiles and debris during accidents.
Xtrac have introduced many safety and cost reducing updates into IndyCar racing since 2000, such as the pneumatic Assisted Gearchange System (AGS) in 2008 which removed the gearchange linkage and handset from the cockpit, thus reducing risk to the driver in the event of an accident, and more recently the E-Clutch system which has now been adopted by the majority of the teams offering them improved reliability, effective anti-stall and increased service intervals.
Teams typically run three top gears (4-5-6) to account for traffic, wind conditions, and fuel saving mode during the race. Xtrac support crew’s race day was spent ensuring the teams had the correct ratios for the expected weather conditions and assisting the teams and engine manufactures with their shift strategies for the race.