new purpose-built Wet Handling Circuit (WHC) at MIRA will spearhead research and
development of safer vehicles and technically advanced components. The £l-million circuit
has been specially designed to accommodate development of tyres, brakes, traction control,
vehicle handling, suspension and stability control.
It is the first wet handling circuit in Britain and
the first in Europe that is independent and readily available to the entire automotive
Five of MIRA's member companies Dunlop Tyres Ltd, Honda R&D (Europe), Jaguar Cars
Ltd, Nissan European Technology Centre and Rover Group played key roles in the planning
and provision of the new facility by investing financial support and becoming co-sponsors.
The circuit will be formally opened tomorrow (Wednesday 4 November 1998) by David
Powell, Chairman and Managing Director of Dunlop Tyres, assisted by Terumasa Doi,
Technical Director of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Dunlop's parent company. Dunlop has been
a significant partner in a number of MIRA's specialised circuits during the past 15 years.
The new circuit consists of 1.6kms (1 mile) of fully-wetted curves and straights. It
also incorporates MIRA's original Wet Cornering Circles opened nine years ago and in
almost constant use ever since.
More than 600 specially-designed low-arc swivelling water sprays completely soak the
new circuit, in a matter of minutes, irrespective of ambient weather conditions (although
the WHC is not designed to be used in severe frost or snow). The purpose of the
MIRA-designed low-arc sprays is to minimise the operation of screen wipers. Constant use
of wipers during prolonged periods of development driving can be distracting for drivers.
As with MIRA's other wet-grip surfaces, all water used in the irrigation of test tracks
is drained and recycled via a 1.98-million-gallon storage reservoir.
John Wood, Managing Director of MIRA, said:
"Construction of the new Wet Handling Circuit is an important step for MIRA, its
members and other customers. While the original Wet Cornering Circles provided the
automotive industry with a valuable development tool, the ever-changing requirements of
motorists, vehicle manufacturers and legislation have generated a strong need for a
fully-wetted handling circuit.
"With the support of our Members, and in particular Dunlop, Honda, Jaguar, NETC
and Rover, we have been able to meet that need with a comprehensive facility designed to
accommodate a wide range of vehicles.
'Its flexibility makes it suitable for developing not only existing everyday components
and systems but innovative and increasingly important new systems such as stability
Mr Wood said that by complementing MIRA's straight-line wet grip facility and its dry
handling circuits, the WHC contributed significantly to the company's world-class proving
ground facilities and services that are continuously developing.
For MIRA's Members and other customers, the new circuit provides a facility which more
than compares with those in Europe, and elsewhere in the world, owned by major tyre
companies. However, while many of these are available to vehicle manufacturers, it is not
always appropriate for them to evaluate a range of rival tyres on an individual tyre
But because MIRA is independent, its WHC is readily available to vehicle manufacturers,
tyre makers and component companies - effectively the entire automotive industry. What's
more, by using MIRA's new facility many customers will avoid the need to transport
vehicles - including sensitive prototypes - and teams of development engineers to overseas
MIRA itself will also be a major customer for the new circuit.
Graham Townsend, MIRA's Engineering Director, said:
"As a provider of engineering consultancy to the automotive industry, our Vehicle
Dynamics Department is involved daily with evaluation and development of components and
systems that affect the adhesion of the vehicle to the road, especially in wet conditions.
"The WHC and other proving ground tracks and circuits complement the extensive and
specialised laboratory facilities at MIRA enabling our Vehicle Dynamics Department to
provide a comprehensive service to vehicle manufacturers, tier-1 suppliers, vehicle
converters, fleet users and small component suppliers."
Mr Townsend said MIRA would, in addition, use the WHC as part of the practical training
provided in its unique specialist driver training programme. The programme, which is made
up of both driving and theory exercises, is designed to elevate skilled drivers and
engineers within the automotive industry to the ranks of top-flight engineering test
Work on the new WHC started in May and finished, on schedule, 21 weeks later. The
design and specification was compiled by MIRA's own Test Facilities Engineering Department
and the main contractor was Nottingham-based Ballast Wiltshire
During the weeks leading up to the formal opening, the circuit has been subjected to a
programme of wet and dry running in order to 'condition' the surface. Conditioning removes
excess bitumen from the surface aggregate and polishes the small stones to provide a
constant coefficient of friction or µ value.