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Copyright Google Maps & AutoExpressMet de verspreiding van spionagegadgets die zelfs 007 in verlegenheid brengen (lees smartphones, wi-fi en mobiele e-mail) mag het niet verwonderen dat niets nog veilig is voor het alziende oog van de burgerjournalistiek. Digitale reporters zeulen tegenwoordig laptops mee om het geschoten wild ter plaatse te bereiden en met één klik naar Timboektoe te versassen. Dat er voor de autowereld geen uitzondering gemaakt wordt, bewijst de proliferatie van de autopaparazzo. Dat de constructeurs zich daarom achter torenhoge hekken en kilometers prikkeldraad verbergen ook. Maar volstaan die middeleeuwse technieken anno 2007 nog wel?

In een notendop: neen. Maar enkel en alleen omdat Silicon Valley er op één of andere manier in geslaagd is om spionagesatellieten voor jan en alleman te installeren. Ik heb het natuurlijk over Google Earth, het elektronische speeltje dat recent door het sensatieblad AutoExpress ondervraagd werd naar een tiental locaties waar zelfs Daniel Craig niet met een wegwerptoestel van het Kruidvat zou binnenraken. Volledig in de geest van Web 2.0, CGM en weet-ik-wat-nog-allemaal zie ik er dan ook geen graten in om me bij de copy-paste-generatie te voegen en een overzicht van ‘s werelds geheime testfaciliteiten aan te bieden. Control-C in de aanslag.

Millbrook Proving Ground, Verenigd Koninkrijk

Millbrook Proving Ground is a vehicle testing centre located at Milbrook in Bedfordshire, England. One of the largest vehicle testing centres in Europe, it is near to the M1 and Milton Keynes.

Modelled on the Milford Proving Ground operated by General Motors in Michigan, USA, Millbrook was opened in the 1960s by the GM subsidiary Vauxhall. Due to the geographical needs of a full testing centre, including both hills and flat land, the traditional choice of a former RAF airfield was ruled out and many sites around the UK were surveyed before the location at Millbrook was decided upon, especially due to having the benefit of being close to Vauxhall’s production site at Luton.

[Meer info op Wikipedia]

Balocco – Fiat Auto Proving Ground, Italië (eigenaar: FIAT)

The Balocco Proving Grounds facilities were established in the 1960’s to provide the test tracks for the development of the new Alfa Romeo cars, initially consisting of a 2,000,000 sq.m of road surfaces divided into speedways, special roads and off-road tracks.

Today the surface area of the test tracks exceeds 5,000,000 sq.m in total with a combined length 65km of test tracks encompassing a very wide range of road types.

The facilities are used extensively by the FIAT Group (including FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati and Ferrari) for the testing and certification of new vehicles and for the organisation of sporting events on behalf of manfacturers of cars, trucks and motorcycles from around the globe.

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DaimlerChrysler Proving Ground, Arizona, USA (eigenaar: DaimlerChrysler)

Nestled at the foot of the Hualapai Mountains, the 3800 acre Arizona Proving Ground is one of America’s premier vehicle test facilities.

Designed to meet a wide range of test requirements, for a wide range of vehicles, the Arizona Proving Ground sees millions of test miles each year! Based about 120 miles southeast of Las Vegas in Yucca Arizona, the Proving Ground is situated between the cities of Kingman and Lake Havasu.

The Arizona Proving Ground is an expansive facility with more than 50 miles of concrete and earthen surfaces that are continuously maintained. With elevations from 500 to 6500 feet above sea level, varied terrain and temperatures ranging from 30 to 120 degrees, APG provides a wide spectrum of vehicle testing conditions.

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Nardò, Italië (eigenaar: Pirelli)

The ring located in Nardò is used as a test track for high speeds. At 12.5 km (just under 7.8 miles) and perfectly round, it is banked at such a degree that a driver often need not turn the wheel while driving. In essence, the driver drives as if in a straight line. Some extremely fast cars do require the steering wheel to be turned for example the Koenigsegg CCR which set a speed record for a production car at the Nardò Ring with the wheel at 30°. This record has since been beaten by the Bugatti Veyron, however the CCR holds the speed record for the Ring.

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Boxberg, Duitsland (eigenaar: Bosch)

The 94-hectare Boxberg site has 24 hectares of test tracks. The location is surrounded by an oval high-speed track 3 kilometres long. All the other test tracks are arranged inside this.

Brake tests can be carried out on the water- flooded brake-measurement tracks (BMS). The driving-dynamics area (FDF) is a flat circular area and is constructed of joint-free asphalt. To measure the noise of a passing vehicle, a noise-measurement track in accordance with DIN 10844:1994 is available. The vehicle’s handling in extreme cornering situations can be tested on the Handling Courses. The high-speed oval is provided with three lanes (width 3.75 m each), and a hard shoulder (width 3 m). The rough track is provided with nine different road surfaces and is suitable for speeds up to about 50 km/h. The uphill tracks are intended for the testing of traction control systems and for tests on downhill braking. In order to be able to perform µ-split tests, tiled areas are integrated in the 5, 10, 15, and 20% gradients. In the water chutes, vehicles and systems show how resistant they are to the intrusion of water. The water level in the chutes can be steplessly adjusted up to 1 metre.

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Idiada, Spanje (eigenaar: Applus Automotive Technology)

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Ceram, Frankrijk (eigenaar: Ceram/Pininfarina)

Situé à 40 kilomètres de Paris, dans un environnement préservé et confidentiel, les pistes et les équipes techniques du CERAM – Centre d’Essais et de Recherche Automobile de Mortefontaine – permettent la réalisation d’essais, d’actions de communication et de formation.
Membre du Groupe Pininfarina depuis 2003, le CERAM s’est spécialisé dans les essais de validation, la location de ses infrastructures et l’organisation d’évènements autour de l’automobile.

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Dearborn, USA (eigenaar: Ford)

The Dearborn Proving Ground was built on the site of Ford Airport in Dearborn, Michigan. The facility has just completed major reconstruction and renovations (2006), and is being renamed the Dearborn Development Center.

360 acres (146 ha) in Dearborn with approximately 25 miles (40 km) of test roads. First test track was laid in 1938 around Ford Airport runways. Actively used as an airport until June 1947. Tracks include two oval tracks at 2.8 miles (4.5 km) around, a straightaway nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) long, a ride and handling track 1.1 miles (1.8 km) around, two hills with 11 percent to 30 percent grades, a wet skidpad, and a variety of test surfaces for development of steering, brakes, NVH, ride and handling, powertrain, and durability. Test vehicles drive approximately 2 million miles (3 million kilometers) per year. Grounds include four wind tunnels, cold test rooms, Automotive Safety Center and Crash Barrier, Product Review Center and two vehicle service garages and offices. Approximately 800 employees. Gas station supplies specialty fuels for powertrain calibration and emissions certification.

[Meer info op Wikipedia]

Fiorano, Italië (eigenaar: Ferrari)

The Fiorano test track was built in 1972 close to the Maranello plant, Enzo Ferrari’s own brainchild. It is an experimental track where Ferrari racing and GT cars are tested. It is used by drivers for test and practice driving, and by mechanics and the racing team for training. An experimental track is very different from a racing circuit for at least two important reasons: the absence of spectators and the presence on the track of only one car at a time.

The test track stands beside two main roads, nos. 12 and 467. The complex fits into the natural environment without spoiling it and maintains “rural” features that were considered psychologically positive as opposed to a purely technical environment. The fact that average weather conditions in the foothills of the province of Modena tend to be good, means that the track can be used regularly.

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Ehra-Lessien, Duitsland (eigenaar VW Group)

The Ehra-Lessien, also known as Ehra, test track facility is located near Wolfsburg, Germany in the district Gifhorn, and is owned by Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG). It is located near to the headquarters of VAG.

The facility features a large variety of road surfaces and curves to test vehicles. More significantly, there is an unbroken straight of 9 km in length, on which the top speed of the very fastest of supercars may be determined. Most notably the Bugatti Veyron’s and (in 1997) the McLaren F1’s top speed were recorded along this straight.

[Info van Wikipedia]

All images courtesy Google Earth and 2006 DigitalGlobe, 2006 GeoContent