INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi are testing a new racing helmet concept from Delco Electronics Corp. incorporating a head-up display of critical race-car data.

Delco, Penske Racing and helmet manufacturer Bell Sports announce the joint development project amid the festive atmosphere at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the days leading up to the 1995 Indianapolis 500.

Called Racing EyeCue, the single-eye optical head-up display allows the driver to see a reconfigurable color graphic presentation of mph, rpm, track conditions such as yellow flag situations and messages from the pit crew. The image appears just below the driver's line of sight.

"A single glance at the in-dash instrument panel on the race car takes about 9/10ths of at second of the driver's attention, which is a critical amount for safety and competitive reasons," says Mr. Unser, a two-time champion at the Brickyard. "At 220 mph (350 km/h) at the Indianapolis 500, 1 travel the length of a football field in that amount of time."

Kendall Merrill, general manager of Bell Sports' racing division, says the challenge of the project was to accommodate the new technology while making the helmet both aerodynamically stable and safe. He expects several drivers on the IndyCar circuit to be using the helmets in the next two to three years.

Delco President and CEO Gary W. Dickinson says the final design is still being refined and adds that it isn't quite ready for testing in race conditions. "I can't say yet when it will be in a race," he says.

Prior to the helmet unveiling Mr. Dickinson took the wraps off of some other fascinating Delco concepts, these for future passenger car applications. One is an advanced driver information and sound system concept called Maestro, and another is the Eyes Forward integrated dash display.

The Maestro concept, conceived and installed on a Mercedes-Benz S 420 in less than six months, is a clear statement that the General Motors Corp. subsidiary can work with short cycle times and covets non-GM business.

With 101 buttons, more than many small airplanes, Maestro "is not a styling concept, it's just to show what we have on the car," says Matt Oess, a Delco electrical engineer. What Delco has put on the car is a must-be-heard-to-be-believed sound system. It also includes voice-activated controls, GPS-based location and navigation, emergency messaging, road information and paging, remote keyless entry and driver security systems.

"We think there will be this much electronic content in a car some day, but we've got to keep drivers' eyes on the road and hands on the wheel," says Mr. Oess.

One way to do that is with Delco's Eyes Forward, an active-matrix liquid crystal instrument panel display that has the capability to incorporate all of Maestro's functions while replacing all except a few buttons and knobs on the dash with four steering-wheel mounted rocker switches.