17 October 2019

The 500km/h Proving Ground

Proving grounds; elaborate top-secret test sites where vehicle makers test the mettle of their metal.

In a secret pocket of Germany, there is a proving ground like no other.

Designed to prove parts will perform and protect for a vehicles lifetime, the remit of proving ground engineers is to push the envelope. They drive cars and components as hard as possible, simulating several lifetimes of abuse to ensure components are fit for purpose.

Some proving grounds specialise. Rough roads, extreme weather simulations, corrosion testing, exhaustive regimens that push everything to the extreme.

Volkswagen AG’s Ehra-Lessien Proving Ground in Germany runs the full gamut of testing for the Wolfsburg firm. It has one critical difference. It pushes vehicles to near unbelievable speeds.

Built in 1965 during the Cold War, the location was under restricted airspace ensuring any concepts would be safe from prying eyes. On a near nine kilometre straight with long banked return roads, it offers the most extreme speed testing a paved road can offer.

The flawlessly smooth straight recently had it’s record speed reset. In August test driver Andy Wallace took a Bugatti Chiron to a blistering 490.95 km/h. 

Explore Ehra-Lessien on Google Maps below. While you’re there, spare a thought for the engineers and facilities dedicated to ensuring your vehicle, whether it a hyper sports car or a compact urban commuter, will perform and protect when you need it the most.

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