Chris Davison, director of Total Performance Testing, considers what makes a good test facility and why.
I have been involved in the automotive testing industry for 22 years, so my knowledge of test facilities is very broad. I have used facilities across the globe; there are strong points for each and they tend to have their own specialities.
Most tire testing facilities have wet handling, dry handling and braking tracks but some are better than others. Some facilities find it challenging to control the water depth on a wet track but to have credible results it should be consistent across the whole course.
Also the testing surface is not the same from track to track and this affects the coefficient of friction (or grip level). The same tire on a different track can throw up very different results, so sometimes a tire can pass all the regulatory and EU labeling tests, come through as ‘good’ subjectively, but when its reviewed independently in the marketplace on a different surface, the results could be very different.
All test engineers enjoy testing at the Nürburgring. It has a lot to offer to when testing the durability of tires, for conducting precision chassis tuning and analyzing other important attributes such as brake durability; but it has its limitations as a one-stop test facility. The Nürburgring is great for high speed durability tire testing and automotive component analysis, but for any purely objective measurement, it is limited.
I’ve spent a lot of time in China in recent years as they continue their entry into the global tire market. There are many new test tracks in the country, but they don’t all meet the standard of the more established European facilities. Rules and regulations are tight, and sometimes it’s hard to perform the same critical maneuvers to the level those regulations require without some reprimand from the track managers.
All that said, in my opinion, my favorite facility for testing that gives the best overall subjective and objective evaluation is the Idiada proving ground near Barcelona in Spain. Most major tire companies and car manufacturers have a presence there. The tracks are designed to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of the tires, and being close to Barcelona, the climate lends itself to year-round testing. The key for me is that tires can be tested in the most dynamic situations and to the extremes – safely.
My focus is to give clients the full picture of their vehicle and chosen tires at the peak of grip and beyond.
Chris Davison is director of Total Performance Testing and has 22 years of experience in the automotive testing industry including stints as a test driver at Dunlop and Goodyear, and as tire test manager and chief test driver at Cooper Tire. Total Performance Testing provides tire and vehicle test services and works predominantly with Chinese manufacturers breaking into the European market. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)