Prior Convictions: Testing the limits

What a meeting to be in.

"Now, you see, what I'd like to do, gaffer, is build a miniature replica of the Nurburgring, a 3.3 mile long test track that'll be one of 11 different circuits inside a 650 hectare site. I'm afraid, it'll cost about £2bn."

"Oh, well, sure, go for it. Here's a cheque."

Presumably it doesn't happen quite like that - sadly - but according to Nikkei Asian Review, that's what Toyota is planning.

Toyota isn't alone in having a facility like this on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido. Nissan has one too, also with a mini-Nurburgring among its many test tracks, which also encompass a stretch of replica German autobahn, with various surface treatments showing up road noise levels, and so on.

Weird old place, mind: you roll into a car park at the entrance to the test facilities, driving on the left as normal, but when you come out of the car park, the arrangement leaves you driving on the right, without you really noticing it happening, while all of the roadsigns mimic German ones - with German place names - not Japanese ones. There must be a bit of wry humour involved in that. In a place so Japanese that they have separate slippers to walk to the loo in at the offices, the roads really don't strictly need to look German, but they do, for the fun of it.

I went there to drive an early 370Z, when Nissan claimed that, partly because of its test tracks, no other Japanese carmaker could make sports cars quite like it does.

I imagine that Mazda, Toyota and Honda all would have something to say about that. Japanese carmakers tend to have occasional hiatuses between their sports cars, but the MX-5 has never been away, the NSX is back, the GT86 exists and a Supra is coming, so rarely has Japan ever been in quite such strong form when it comes to making sports cars.

Besides, you don't always need a Nordschleife-aping test facility to test sensational performance cars. Just ask the studious-looking engineers from Aspark, who figured the prototype electric Owl supercar in a 0-100kph run in what appears to be a loading bay round the back of its industrial unit. Just as well it stops quickly, but the looks of it.

And all told, given that what we mostly hear about new test facilities these days is that they're being developed to support autonomy, or electrification, it's nice to know that there's the enthusiasm - and the money - for engineers to keep making cars that are pleasant to drive.


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (2) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Jimbo. 23 Feb 2018

    No mention of Honda’s Twin Ring Motegi, the construction of which involved the levelling of a mountain or two to build?

  • unsprung 23 Feb 2018

    On this sort of thing, the Chinese go whole hog. They create replicas of entire cities. Some photos here.

    Below: a photo of Thames Town, a newly-constructed slice of England (in China)

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