Racetracks are great. Every circuit has its own distinct character and set of challenges, which test the mettle of the driver in a specific way. There’s no getting away from the fact, though, that a racetrack is just that. Designed for racing, with clean racing lines, plenty of run-off and a layout which aims to be vaguely spectator-friendly. I pain with broad strokes, here.
What a racetrack can’t necessarily do is test a car. What you really need for that is a Proving Ground. There are examples of these wonderful establishments all over the world; but one is particularly close to my heart. That place is Millbrook, in Bedfordshire, England; and I wish I could play there a lot more frequently than I can.
You’ll all recognize Millbrook, or bits of it, anyway, from regular appearances on Top Gear, or any other motoring program who’s production budget could be stretched far enough to hire it. Or from the Aston Martin roll sequence in Casino Royale, filmed on these premises.
Basically, if there’s something you want to test on your car, there’s a way of testing it at Millbrook. If you’ve got a 42 tonne truck and trailer and you want to test it on gradients up to 26%? Step this way. If you’re looking to perfect the ride quality on your new luxo-barge, might I point Sir in the direction of the 0.9mile Belgian Block Pave loop with angled depressions? There’s also a 137 metre steering pad, a whole range of noise-generating surfaces for interior sound tests, and if you feel the need, the need for speed, get yourself down to the two-mile banked circle with its 100mph “Hands off” speed. It really has everything.