In April, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced that they would be featuring a new web series giving the public a behind the scenes look at the development testing for its vehicles. The “What’s Behind” series has already taken us to the arctic temperatures of Arjeplog, Sweden and the scorching heat of Upington, South Africa. This month, the web series is showing us a peek into the Balocco Proving Grounds, in Balocco, Italy.
The Balocco Proving Grounds is one of the largest testing centers in the world. It covers roughly 6 square kilometers (or 2.3 square miles) in north-western Italy, located halfway between Turin and Milan in the countryside near Vercelli. The facility opened in 1962 by Alfa Romeo and over the years the Balocco Proving Grounds has grown, in both terms of the number of test tracks and testing facilities on the grounds.
The original layout of the Balocco Proving Grounds included the main test track, which is properly named the Alfa Romeo Track. The Alfa Romeo Track was inspired by the tracks used in the Formula 1 World Championship. It incorporates replicas of the main curve from the Monza circuit (the Biassono curve), as well as the first of Monza’s two Lesmo curves, and the Hugenholtzbocht hairpin from the Zandvoort circuit in Holland.
In the past, testing of production vehicles took place along with the activities of Autodelta, the Alfa Romeo Racing department. Numerous, Alfa Romeo race cars were developed at Balocco.
Today, the Balocco Proving Grounds makes up a total of 26 different tracks, measuring 80 kilometers (or almost 50 miles) in length, with more than 50 different kinds of surfacing. In addition to the Alfa Romeo Track, all the tracks necessary to complete vehicle development, from high-speed to off-road testing are available on the grounds. There are many various types of climate cells, water crossings, workshops, warehouses, as well as eight fuel pumps and multiple car washes located on the grounds.
The fully-equipped facilities and personnel at the Balocco Proving Grounds are operational twenty-four hours a day conducting some 200,000 hours of tests every year. The significant added value of a fully-equipped center such as Balocco is its ability to condense the equivalent of ten years of a vehicle’s life in terms of, for example, wear and tear on brakes, suspensions and mechanical parts, into just five months of measured tests and simulations.
In addition to reliability and durability testing, Balocco is also used for the development of new projects when testing moves from 3D computer designs to physical prototypes. Technical solutions are then analyzed and evaluated. Vehicle systems are fine-tuned and performance is measured in comparison tests and benchmarking activities.
Balocco Proving Grounds Image Gallery: