Bridgestone, a global leader in tyres and rubber providing solutions for safe and sustainable mobility, has launched a new Wet Handling Track at its European Proving Ground (EUPG) based near Rome, Italy, investing approximately €3M in the project. The new track, designed in a virtual environment ahead of construction, provides the ability to test premium tyres in varied weather conditions to ensure optimal wet performance.
To further refine the requirements for maximum testing capabilities at the Wet Handling Track, Bridgestone worked in collaboration with partners, including both new EV players and traditional vehicle manufacturers. Analysing feedback and data collected from vehicle manufacturers and EUPG drivers, as well as creating virtual simulations and taking a modular approach with separate areas of design and development – such as the new surface, enhanced layout and more efficient water management – helped Bridgestone to create the state-of-the-art facility.
A successful project rooted in virtual development and close collaboration
The surface of the track was designed in association with Pisa University, incorporating carefully selected aggregates that are more resilient to wear. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to consistency over time, helping to deliver constant friction and enhanced grip levels that make it easier to evaluate the overall performance of tyres.
The track’s cutting-edge layout results in a number of 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
- More evident longitudinal accelerations than the original layout (acceleration & braking)
Combined, the results from the Track allow Bridgestone to develop and test premium tyres that match the requirements and demands of customers.
Through virtual development, which uses track simulations to test and fine tune the design before construction began, the project offered significant advantages by providing the possibility to evaluate in advance different scenarios and then select the best possible configuration. Virtual development also offered significant sustainability benefits, since the process allows for a more efficient use of resources. In addition, a new water system utilising 6km of piping can move water back to a 4-million litre reservoir, helping to recycle up to 90 per cent of water and further reducing the environmental impact of the new facility.
Safety and new features fundamental to new track
Safety at the Wet Handling Track is high on the agenda, with Argex – a clay material – placed in run-off areas helping to reduce stopping distances where most necessary.
The realisation of the new Wet Handling Track gave also the opportunity to improve the entire EUPG security management, with the introduction of a new EUPG Safety Management System.
The new system allows for fully digital and automated control of the tracks at the facility: test drivers can be 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 by registered permissions, along with virtual gates to help manage specific areas.
The bigger picture for Bridgestone
Bridgestone’s European R&D Centre and Proving Ground forms the focal point of product and solution development in the region. As one of the most advanced proving grounds in the tyre world, it is designed specifically for testing tyres and is engineered with state-of-the-art equipment. Various specific materials and combinations provide a wide range of surfaces, representative of most road conditions in Europe, and Bridgestone’s proprietary Virtual Tyre Development technology was also developed there.
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. And while safety is of the utmost importance to us as a business, sustainability is too – that’s why we are continually evolving our processes to reduce resource consumption in order to have a more positive effect on people and planet.”