The Nardò Ring, originally known as Pista di prova di Nardò della Fiat (Fiat's Nardò test track) when it was built in 1975, is a high speed test track located at more than 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) north-west of the town of Nardò, Italy, in the southern region of Apulia, in the province of Lecce. It was acquired by Porsche Engineering in 2012 from its former owners, Prototipo SpA. Porsche now call the site Nardò Technical Center.
The track is 12.5 kilometres (7.8 mi) long and is round, has four lanes for cars and motorcycles totaling 16 metres (52 ft) in width and has a separate inner ring for trucks at a width of 9 metres (30 ft). In the cars/motorcycle ring the lanes are banked at such a degree that a driver in the outer most lane doesn't need to turn the wheel while driving at speeds of up to 240 km/h (149 mph). In essence, at the so-called neutral speed which is different for the four lanes, one can drive as if in a straight lane. However extremely fast cars still require the steering wheel to be turned when going faster than the maximum neutral speed. For example the Koenigsegg CCR which set a speed record for a production car at the Nardò Ring did so with the steering wheel at a 30° angle. This speed record has since been beaten by the Bugatti Veyron at Volkswagen Group's private Ehra-Lessien straight line test track in Germany, and hence the CCR only holds the speed record for the Nardò Ring. In the process of fighting a turn as needed when going faster than the neutral speed quite a bit of potential top speed is lost and hence a fast car will go faster in a straight line than what is possible on the Nardó Ring. Even at the neutral speed, in a banked turn a car runs a bit heavier than it would in a straight line, since the downforce created by the banking increases the rolling resistance on the tires. There has been one fatality at the ring.
The neutral speed for the four car/motorcycle lanes are respectively:
- Lane 1 – 100 km/h (62 mph)
- Lane 2 – 140 km/h (87 mph)
- Lane 3 – 190 km/h (118 mph)
- Lane 4 – 240 km/h (149 mph)
During regular weekly working activity the maximum speed allowed on the circular track is 240 km/h (149 mph). Higher speeds are only allowed at times when a client gets the track for its exclusive use.
The neutral speed for the truck ring is between 80 km/h (50 mph) and 140 km/h (87 mph) over the width of the track, highest in the outer most part of the lane.
The plant also includes other tracks; the most important is 6.222 km handling circuit, completely inside the circular one. It is characterized by a long main straight and sixteen curves of different radius and variable lateral slope. It can provide useful results for durability, reliability, vehicle dynamics and tire tests of both cars and motorbikes.
The track was featured in British TV series Top Gear in the series 18 opener, when Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May drove in a Lamborghini Aventador, a Noble M600 and a McLaren MP4-12C, respectively, to see who could reach the highest speed. The track had previously been featured in a 1992 episode of the show when footage of the Jaguar XJ220 been driven by Martin Brundle was shown as the car's top speed was tested.
Record set on the Nardò Ring
- On May 5 1979 for the first time a car break the 400 km/h, the Mercedes-Benz C111-IV reached a speed of 403.978 km/h, establishing the Italian speed record. The car was able to complete a full ring lap in 1 minute and 57 seconds
- In 1980 the Volkswagen ARVW set the speed record for a diesel car reaching a speed of 362.07 km/h
- In 1982 a Porsche 928 S sets the 24-hour speed record, covering 6,033 kilometers at an average speed of 251.4 km/h (156.2 mph)
- In 1993 a Porsche 928 GTS beats the previous record covering in 24 hours 6.377,25 km at an average speed of 265.72 km/h (165.11 mph)
- On July 2 1994 a Bugatti EB110GT sets a speed record for a methane-powered car, with road homologation, reaching a speed of 344.7 km/h (214.2 mph)
- In 1994 the Bertone Z.E.R. managed to set the speed record for an electric car on 1 km by driving it at an average speed of 303.977 km/h (188.883 mph) 
- On February 23 2002 a Volkswagen W12 also known as Volkswagen Nardò took the world record for all speed classes over 24 hours covering a distance of 7,740.576 kilometres (4,809.8 mi) at an average speed of 322.891 km/h (200.6 mph)
- On February 28 2005 a Koenigsegg CCR, driven by Loris Bicocchi, set the speed record for a production car at 388 km/h (241 mph)
Loris Bicocchi accident in the Bugatti Veyron prototype
During one of the first secret speed tests on a Bugatti Veyron prototype, driven by Loris Bicocchi, one of the wheels exploded carring the fender with it. The fender raised and brought the front hood with it which collapsed and smashed the windshield causing the car to lose control and slamming into the guard rail at a speed of 398 km/h.
Although the car had broken brakes, Loris managed to save himself with only minor injuries by braking the car by crawling on the guard rail.
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