Ringside Seat: Ring testing shifts up a gear


You've no doubt noticed that amid a global 'lack of growth', sales of premium sports cars and luxury vehicles are still booming. And that's great news for the Nurburgring. Because alongside public driving and racing, industry testing is one of the staples that keeps this place going.


Manufacturers from all over the world join forces to hire the whole 21km Nordschleife for extended periods. By forming this 'Industry Pool' or i-pool, they can secure massive slots of the calendar at very reasonable prices. This year they've booked a whopping 16 weeks of solid Nurburgring Nordschleife testing. Two to four weeks more than previous years, and rumours are that more dates could be added soon.

All the big names are sat around the table of i-pool. Companies such as BMW, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, VW and Audi are all obvious. But there are plenty more than that; GM, Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Chrysler are present alongside many or all of their sub-brands. Fiat, Hyundai, Alfa, Ferrari and Lamborghini have all been increasing their Nordschleife test time in recent years, as well as British firms like McLaren and Lotus. I've still not even come close to naming all the car manufacturers here, and there are dozens more specialist parts and tyres manufacturers, and tuners too, that I haven't mentioned.


But what I found so interesting this year, despite a massive increase in track hire cost, and that prevailing financial climate, is that 2012 will be one of the biggest years ever for industry testing. Last week the first i-pool session got underway, and despite it being early in the year and only attended by local firms, there were often dozens of cars going past in a minute or less. Leaning against the fence, trying to recognise heavily disguised cars by brake disc size or exhaust configuration, I was expecting a couple to trundle past per 10 minute 'lap'. Instead I was watching up to a dozen camouflaged prototypes howl past every minute. Click the video below to see what I mean.

Whether this method of testing makes your car better or worse for the purposes you buy it, I have no idea. That's a massive question for another day. But you've got to admit, that the sight of the latest 911s and M-cars being pushed around the Nordschleife for hundreds or thousands of laps is at least slightly impressive. And the manufacturers show no signs of slowing down on that approach...



 

 

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  • ArosaMike 26 Mar 2012

    Ipelm said:
    How wonderfully ironic, manufacturers developing faster more technologically advanced cars whose performance cant be used on modern roads (unless you are prepared to spend a great deal of money on fines and have many licences) booking all the available time at the principle venue where their unfortunate customers could actually have used the performance envelope of their machinery.

    Hey ho, here we go on the road to nowhere.
    As Turbo Sam said, despite what Top Gear would have you believe, it's not really chassis setup which is tuned at the 'Ring. There is some done I believe, but the majority of work is durability and fault finding. I read an article a good few years back questioning one of BMWs engineers about their presance there, and I seem to remember him saying that the 'Ring is the only place in the world where they can reach maximum transmission temperatures.

    So despite all the media frenzy about the place, just because your next hot hatch or sports saloon has a 'Ring laptime quoted against it, it doesn't actually mean it's going to have had all it's chassis setup done there.

  • Ipelm 26 Mar 2012

    How wonderfully ironic, manufacturers developing faster more technologically advanced cars whose performance cant be used on modern roads (unless you are prepared to spend a great deal of money on fines and have many licences) booking all the available time at the principle venue where their unfortunate customers could actually have used the performance envelope of their machinery.

    Hey ho, here we go on the road to nowhere.

  • steve_n 26 Mar 2012

    Does anyone else think that's the new 911 Turbo?

    Looks about right styling wise and it's following a 997, presumably for benchmarking.

  • Caractacus 25 Mar 2012

    EDLT said:
    Excellent, more cars unable to cope with bumps without snapping the driver in half.
    Are you James May? biggrin

  • BelfastBoy 24 Mar 2012

    Liking the styling of what I'm assuming is the next generation 911 Turbo?

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