Monthly Archives: July 2015

Porsche’s 200mph test track


Testing a supreme driving machine like a Porsche requires a test track to match.

Porsche’s Nardo Technical Center, now celebrating its 40th anniversary, is exactly that. Located at Apulia, on the the Ionian coast in southeast Italy, and constructed by Fiat and purchased by Porsche in 2012, it’s open to any vehicle manufacturer willing to pay to test out their cars via a rigorous gauntlet of conditions. Sprawling across more than 1700 acres, the center is so massive that it can reportedly be seen from space.

Nardo allows manufacturers to recreate almost any imaginable situation in order to evaluate their cars to incredible detail. High transportation costs can be avoided, since Nardo’s variety of test tracks mimic every road surface and climate necessary.

There’s a 3.9-mile handling track with 16 curves, great for testing performance, reliability, and tire quality. The special pavements track has rails, cobblestone, pot holes, long waves, and washboarded sections for testing noise, vibrations, harshness, and durability. The tire laceration road simulates “extreme conditions” like driving on a low friction surface–like ice–with parallel rows of steel rolls. There’s a workshop and office areas, and systems to test car’s corrosion resistance.

The real star at Nardo, however, is the high-speed circular track. 7.8 miles around. 2.5 miles in diameter. The monstrous circular track, with 12 degrees of banking on its outer lane, cancels out centrifugal force even at 150 miles per hour. In 1979, Mercedes-Benz used their C111-IV to hit almost 250mph. A few years later, Porsche set a 24 hour record for average speed with the 928 S, but this has been broken since then, most notably by Volkswagen’s W12 Nardo concept car in 2002. It covered 4800 miles  in 24 hours with an impressive average — yes, average — speed of just over 200mph.

Most of the testing that goes on at Nardo is more mundane, of course — taking care of the everyday stuff cars need to do to keep their owners happy: hit a pothole without falling apart, driving in the sun without overheating. That’s a good thing. But before the official roll ut of any new Porsche, each model is put through grueling tests on this track.

“The Nardo Technical Center ideally supplements our testing and research facilities at the Weissach Development Center with the big advantage that we can test our sports cars 365 days a year in Nardo thanks to the mild climate,” says Wolfgang Hatz, Member of the Executive Board, Research and Development at Porsche AG. “These unique conditions are a valuable resource for efficient vehicle testing for the whole automotive industry.”

“On the testing ground the whole range of testing services is already available to our customers,” says Malte Radmann, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche Engineering Group. “But that’s not all: in the next few years we have extensive expansion and modernisation plans to meet the development requirements of the future.”