‘This is where the complete vehicle gets together because the body engineering and the chassis is done in Merkenich, Germany, and the engine development is done in Dunton in the UK.
‘Lommel is huge. We have this one route, we call it the handling road – it’s very bendy. Then we have an outer durability road, a big loop around Lommel, which we use for ride development. Lommel is important, especially on cars like the Fiesta ST, where vehicle dynamics is key.’
(Other manufacturers head to locations such as Germany’s Contidrom tyre-testing facility for similar testing procedures.)
‘Nardò, in southern Italy, allows us to do high speeds and warm-temperature testing. Plus we have certain criteria we have to fulfil on the test track with performance cars. In theory, we could do that in Lommel, but there is a lot of traffic, a lot of people as well, so we don’t want to bring other people into danger.’ (The Papenburg proving ground in Germany also offers high-speed handling facilities that are used by other manufacturers.)
‘We have used North America in the past, but the logistics of getting in and out is expensive. It’s not difficult, just expensive. So, for cold-weather testing, with ice and snow, we use Rovaniemi. It’s easy and it has everything.’ (If Europe has a mild winter, some manufacturers will air-freight cars, at huge expense, to New Zealand for their cold-weather testing.)
‘We do some verification work with prototypes in England on public roads close to Dunton, our development centre. There are very nice country roads around Dunton. What else is different in the UK? Obviously the cambered roads, so we need to look at torque-steer, overtaking, that kind of stuff. We have to try it in the UK.’
‘The Nürburgring is it’s very, very long, so you can go at a high speed. It’s also very bendy and up and down, then you have a long straight, so there’s something very special about this long circuit.’
‘We have to do long-distance trips, so that you spend lots of time with a vehicle. Normally you get in and out, in and out, and everything is OK. If you sit for a longer time in the car, you come up with different things you don’t like. Like ride behaviour: it gets annoying if it’s too hard for long.’