Bridgestone has announced the opening of a new wet handling track at its European proving ground near Rome after investing approximately EUR3m 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 refine the requirements for maximum testing capabilities at the new track, Bridgestone worked with customers, 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 create the facility.

The surface 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.

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 4m litre reservoir, helping to recycle up to 90% and further reducing the environmental impact of the new facility.

Safety was high on the agenda and Argex – a clay material – was placed in run-off areas helping to reduce stopping distances where most necessary.

A 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.