Bridgestone has opened its new Wet Handling Track, located at its European Proving Ground (EUPG) near Rome, Italy. The tyre manufacturer invested around €3M in the track, which will be used to test premium tyres in a variety of weather conditions.
The facility has been designed to meet the various requirements of Bridgestone’s OE customers or optimum wet handling, including both new EV players and traditional vehicle manufacturers. Bridgestone analysed feedback and data collected from OEMs and EUPG drivers, taking into account both design and development requirements, and decided to lay a new track surface, alter the track layout and instal more efficient water management systems.
Various specific materials and combinations at the EUPG provide a wide range of surfaces, representative of most road conditions in Europe. The surface of the wet-handling track was designed in association with Pisa University, with aggregates specified according to their resistance to wear. This durability is not just good for maintenance, it is also beneficial in terms of consistency over time, helping to deliver constant friction and grip levels.
Meanwhile the redesigned track layout is intended to deliver benefits including dynamic transient conditions with combined inputs and more on/off throttle operation; the possibility to perform slalom tests using the fast chicane and the ability to drive in either direction; more combined accelerations than the original layout; and more evident longitudinal accelerations than the original layout (acceleration and braking).
The designers of the wet-handling track used virtual tools for its development, including track simulations to test different scenarios and fine-tune the configuration before construction began. Bridgestone also invested in a new water system, with 6km of pipes that can move water back to a 4-million litre reservoir, helping to recycle up to 90% of water and further reducing the environmental impact of the facility.
Of course, safety is a key consideration for a wet-handling track, so Argex was specified for the run-off areas – a clay material that helps to reduce stopping distances.
Bridgestone also decided to improve the entire EUPG security management of the facility, with the introduction of a new EUPG Safety Management System, which allows for fully digital and automated control of the tracks. Test drivers can be kept informed in real time with safety prevention warnings, which are also shown on a screen through visual dashboards and enforced with automatic voice messages, to ensure they can focus fully on driving, while still receiving crucial safety information. Other new features include digital access to all tracks at the facility via registered permissions, along with virtual gates to help manage specific areas.
Emilio Tiberio, COO & CTO of Bridgestone EMIA commented, “Bridgestone is one of the leading investors in Research & Development in the industry and our state-of-the-art testing facilities are a substantial part of the company’s ongoing commitment to innovation. By providing our customers and partners with different testing environments, including new road surfaces and conditions, we’re able to better address the seasonal effects on tyre grip level, which ultimately improves safety for drivers.”