Wednesday, 08 July 2015 06:00

Track through 50 countries

Written by 
The 1.5km test track replicates 100 potholes and surfaces from 50 countries. The 1.5km test track replicates 100 potholes and surfaces from 50 countries.

We all know it’s easy to make money selling cars: get a clever geek to design something using CAD, build it, sell lots, bank the money and live the life of Riley with a bevy of dusky maidens, or toy-boys, in the Cayman Islands. Yeah right!

In reality the lifespan of a car is seven-eleven years, so on the day you drive that new model out of a dealer’s showroom some clever geek is working on a new model that will take four-six years to develop.

As well as creating a new look, incorporating the latest engines and transmissions and paying homage to the newest audio visual technologies, designers are having to pay special attention to handling and comfort as customers become increasingly more critical of these areas.

Once a design has been engineered, pre-production vehicles are handed to test engineers for final refinement, and testing. The Ford test facility at Lommel in Belgium is a good example.

Here a 1.5km test track replicates 100 different potholes and surfaces from 50 countries – speed bumps that can wreck suspensions if taken too quickly, cobblestones from Paris streets, typical Asian monsoon-swept roads with deep ruts, un-made roads that wreck wheel rims and burst tyres….

The diary of a test driver at this facility must include regular visits to an osteopath during the development of a new vehicle. They typically cover 5000 laps of the 1.5km test track during a development cycle, and encounter potholes up to 14cm deep, and at speeds of up to 70km/h. In six months of testing at the Lommel facility they can replicate 10 years of hard driving, or abuse, while using $1.4 million dollars of hi-tech equipment to record their findings.

So next time you hit a pothole on the Desert Road and shake your bones, give a thought for the man from Ford who has probably driven through a replica of the same hole 5000 times – and does it for a living. – Mark Daniel


More like this

Raptor for fun, not work

The Ford Ranger Raptor is not the truck you buy for heavy work; payload and towing capacity are significantly less than a standard Ranger or any other working-clothes ute. But that's not the point.

Ranger soon on the prowl

Having dominated the ute market for the last three years, Ford NZ says it will launch its 2019 Ranger in October.

Raptor will make you a stand-out

The Ford Ranger ute has been remarkably successful since its launch, but until now, wanabee Ranger owners who wanted to stand out were largely limited to the Wildtrak models or some localised customisation.


» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Milk on tap

The days of cafes getting milk in plastic bottles may be numbered if two young Dunedin entrepreneurs have their way.

Behind the eight ball

Global animal health company DSM says it has a product that can help reduce emissions from cows by up to…

» Connect with Dairy News