The winter test programmes have come to an end at Pirelli’s Sottozero Centre in Lapland, Sweden, but for once the site is not going to be mothballed over the warmer months. This year, for the first time, Pirelli’s winter testing facility will also host tests in summer, a move driven by the growing rate of new vehicle models entering the market, which in turn increases the need for product development – particularly for all-season and winter tyres – on both dry and wet roads.
The Sottozero proving ground is situated in Flurheden, around 900km north of Stockholm, and covers an area of 120 hectares, containing 250,000 square metres dedicated to circuits and 1,300 square metres of buildings. The centre was opened in 2017 and expanded just a year later. The current layout includes handling circuits, an open test area, and tracks with inclines of up to 20%. A dry handling circuit and a wet-handling circuit have been built for summer use, each 1,200 metres long, and there is also a 400m straight to test both dry and wet braking. The buildings include dedicated spaces for workshops and test personnel, and a sauna (naturally).
The variety of testing facilities available at the Sottozero Centre allows tyres to be developed for every type of car – and now every type of season. With a particular boom in plug-in hybrids and full-electric cars, the charging structure at the site is invaluable, and the tracks can be used to conduct a variety of tests when developing tyres for the latest generation of vehicles. For example, among the manufacturers that have recently used the Swedish facilities to test Pirelli’s winter tyres is Rimac, which tried out new winter tyres for its Nevera electric hypercar.
While many companies are increasingly their use of simulation and virtual reality in product development, physical testing remains a key part of Pirelli’s development philosophy in order to validate performance, which is why it is increasing the use of its proving grounds. As well as the Sottozero Centre in Sweden, Pirelli uses its Vizzola Ticino facility near Milan, a site which has specialised in wet handling for more than half a century, as well as its new Circuito Panamericano in Brazil, which is currently the biggest circuit complex in all of Latin America.