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Europe's First Independent Wet Handling Circiut

A 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.

The 8 metre wide straight designed for wet-surface lane-change manoeuvres, part of the new wet handling circuitIt is the first wet handling circuit in Britain and the first in Europe that is independent and readily available to the entire automotive industry.

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 control."

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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 manufacturer's circuit.

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 locations.

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 drivers.

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 value.

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CWN / Motoring / Newswire / MIRA / 03 Nov 98

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