Porsche buys Nardo Ring for high-speed tests

  • Porsche
  • Nardo Ring
  • High-speed tests

Porsche has announced it is to take ownership of the famous Nardo Ring in southern Italy.

Porsche is apparently taking on a management role here, as they say they are going to optimize the track and the facilities around it, to offer a better service to its clients from the automotive industry and other sectors worldwide.

The company’s engineering consultancy wing, the Porsche Engineering Group, will assume ownership as of May 2012. Nardo is currently owned by Italian firm Prototipo SpA.

Nardo Ring does need some optimizing, as the high speed track is not what you call smooth and clear. And who better to do this job than the Germans. The Lecce-based compound comprises a 6.2 kilometre long handling circuit, a 12.5 kilometre long oval circuit and facilities for simulating different road surfaces and changeable weather conditions.

“The Nardo Ring proving ground with its high-speed and vehicle handling circuit ideally complements our facilities in Weissach. With the systematic development of the company in Nardò as part of Strategy 2018, Porsche is proving to be a reliable employer and business partner in Apulia as well,” said Matthias Müller, President and CEO of Porsche AG.

Why has Porsche shelled out for Nardo?

Most well-known for its 12.5km banked oval circuit used for very high-speed testing of well over 200mph, the Nardo complex also comprises a 6.2 km handling circuit.

This offers car manufacturers the chance to simulate a range of weather conditions and road surfaces before vehicles are signed off for general sale. It’s also handily hidden from prying eyes and considered one of the safer proving grounds for top-secret prototypes.

And because of the clement Italian climate, testing is possible year-round in three shifts around the clock, seven days a week.


So what’s Porsche’s plan for Nardo?

All these features should be perfect for testing Porsche’s diverse range to its limits, from the rough-and-tumble Porsche Cayenne to the upcoming Porsche 918 hybrid supercar. The company recently ran a series of passenger rides for the world’s media in the 918 at the 700-hectare Nardo site.

The Nardo Ring, is a high speed test track located at more than 20 kilometres (12 mi) north-west of the town of Nardo, Italy, in the southern region of Apulia, in the province of Lecce.

The Nardo Ring is 12.5 kilometres (7.8 mi) long and is round, has four lanes for cars and motorcycles totaling 16 metres (52 ft) in width and has a separate inner ring for trucks at a width of 9 metres (30 ft). In the cars/motorcycle ring the lanes are banked at such a degree that a driver in the outer most lane need not turn the wheel while driving at speeds of up to 240 km/h (149 mph). In essence, at the so called neutral speed which is different for the four lanes, one can drive as if in a straight lane. However extremely fast cars still require the steering wheel to be turned when going faster than the maximum neutral speed. For example the Koenigsegg CCR which set a speed record for a production car at the Nardo Ring did so with the steering wheel at a 30° angle. This speed record has since been beaten by the Bugatti Veyron at Volkswagen Group’s private Ehra-Lessien straight line test track in Germany, and hence the CCR only holds the speed record for the Nardo Ring. In the process of fighting a turn as needed when going faster than the neutral speed quite a bit of potential top speed is lost and hence a fast car will go faster in a straight line than what is possible on the Nardo Ring. Even at the neutral speed in a banked turn a car runs a bit heavier than it would in a straight line, since the downforce created by the banking increases the rolling resistance on the tires. There has only been one fatality at the ring.

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