The Nardò Ring is a 12.5 km long high speed circular test track located in a remote area on the heel of Italy’s “boot,” 50 kilometers east of the naval port of Taranto. The Ring is named after the urban center of Nardò, situated 22 kilometers to the southeast. The Ring was originally built by Fiat in 1975 and is currently owned by the German car manufacturer Porsche, although the facilities have always been open to all automotive manufacturers right from the start. And thanks to the unique rain-free South Italian climate, the track operates 363 days per year, on three shifts, seven days a week.
The most striking feature of Nardo Ring is that the lanes are banked all the way around and is inclined at such an angle so as to compensate the centrifugal force produced, thus reducing the amount of active steering needed by the drivers. The Ring has four lanes and each lane has a so-called neutral speed at which one can drive without even turning the wheel. Essentially, cars can drive in a continuous straight line and yet always end up at the starting place. This allows cars to attain speed in excess of 240 km/h.
The inner most track, Lane 1, has a neutral speed of 100 km/h, followed by Lane 2 that has a neutral speed of 140 km/h. Lane 3 is pegged at 190 km/h while the outermost Lane 4 has a neutral speed of 240 km/h. 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.
As test cars and prototypes zoom around in the Ring, local farmers grow vegetables inside. These farmers gain access to their fields through the Ring via a series of underpasses. Several unused race tracks wind through these fields within the southern section of the Ring.
Nardò Ring is not unique, but by far the largest. Similar test tracks with banked lanes exist elsewhere, such as the 5km Opel test track in Dudenhofen in Germany, and the 3.2 km Millbrook Proving Ground in U.K.
Satellite image of Nardo Ring.
The BMW Alpina B5 at Nardo Ring. Photo credit
An Audi R8, a Mercedes SLS, and Porsche 911 Turbo at Nardo Ring. Photo credit
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