In a remote area in Italy’s boot, there’s a giant 12.5-kilometer ring of sloped track owned by the Nard Dog himself, called the Nardo Ring. Setting that inexcusable “The Office” joke aside, the Nardo Ring is actually owned by Porsche and is used to test some of the fastest cars in the world, having been used to set a number of speed records over the years.
Notably, the Koenigsegg CCR set a speed record of 38787 km/hr in February 2005. But that wasn’t the fastest ever set on the track, in 1979, the Mercedes Benz C1 hit 403.98 km/hr.
The Nardo Ring is a 12.5 kilometer (7.8 mile) long high-speed test track that is shaped as a perfect circle. Named after the nearby urban center of Nardò, the testing ring was built in 1975. While the current track is owned by Porsche, it was originally built by Fiat. Even with this changing of hands between manufacturers over the years, the impressive track has always been open to any manufacturer needing a place to test high-speeds.
Thanks to its location in southern Italy, it hardly ever rains there so the track is generally open 363 days per year running 3 shifts per day.
Getting into the engineering of the track more specifically, this 7.8-mile long track has four concentric lanes for cars and motorcycles totaling 52 ft (16m) wide. Setting the track apart from your normal roadway, the track is sloped about 8%, though the actual angle varies by lane as the track has a parabolic slope to allow for different speeds to be compensated for. This slope allows for the centrifugal force of the car to be compensated by the low parabolic profile of the track, giving the drivers the ability to drive in a straight line at a neutral while staying on a circular track.
Breaking down the physics for a second, when the car is on a sloped track, part of the normal force which acts perpendicular to the road surface is in the X, or horizontal, direction. This force vector acts as a centripetal force pull the car inward against the centrifugal force of the car due to its speed.
If cars are taken over about 240 km/h or 149 mph, then drivers do start having to turn the vehicle’s wheels as the slipping of the tires overcomes the ability for the track to keep the car parallel. For example, when the Koenigsegg CCR that we mentioned before setting the record, the driver had to keep the wheel locked at a 30˚ angle just to stay in the same relative position on the track.
While the CCR’s speed record has been beaten now by the Veyron and the Koenigsegg Agera RS on other tracks, the CCR’s record is now simply the Nardo Rings official record for a production car.
Each lane has a neutral speed that allows for this straight handling experience.
Lane 1, being the inner ring, has a neutral speed of 100 km/hr (62 mph), lane 2’s is 140 km/hr (87 mph), lane 3’s is 190 km/hr (118 mph), and lane 4’s is 240 km/hr (149 mph).
Under regular circumstances, cars are limited to a maximum speed of 149 mph, but special permission can be requested if a user wants to try to set a new record. Even at these high speeds, there has only been one fatality on the track in it’s entire history.
Notably, in automotive culture, the Nardo Ring has been featured in the Top Gear season 18 opener as well as a previous episode of the series in 1992 where the Jaguar XJ220 was driven to verify it’s top speed.
While the Nardo Ring track is the most notable part of the track, there are other tracks inside of the ring as well as farmland.
As testing cars race around the ring, local farmers grow vegetables inside on the spare land. They get access to their fields in a series of underpasses going under the ring track.
In total, there are 8 official tracks at the Nardo Ring being:
- The Ring
- The Dynamic Track
- The Noise Track
- The Handling Track
- The White Road Tracks
- Special Pavement Tracks
- Off-Road Tracks
- Other miscellaneous testing zones
All of these tracks combine to make the Nardo Technical Center Run by Porsche Engineering. While the banked round nature of the Nardo Ring isn’t unique, it’s by far the largest in the world. The 5 km long Opel test track in Dudenhofen Germany is similar and the 3.2 kilometers long Millbrook proving Ground in the UK are the Nardo’s closest competitors.
So that’s how Andy from the office made his way into owning a world-class ringed circuit track named after him that is now owned by Porsche.