Nardò Ring – Nardò, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Nardò, Italy

Nardò Ring

This high-speed test track is popular with car manufacturers, speed freaks and orbiting astronauts. 

The Nardò Ring is a 7.8-mile-long (12.5 km) high-speed test track in Nardò, Italy. With its circular design and banked lanes, it allows for the testing of cars at “neutral speeds” at which the driver doesn’t need to turn the wheel, as if driving in a straight lane.

The Pista di prova di Nardò della Fiat, as it was originally called, was built by Fiat in 1975. Porsche Engineering purchased the track in 2012, renaming it the Nardò Technical Center. But pretty much everyone still calls this high-speed test track the Nardò Ring.

Squarely located in the heel of Italy’s “boot,” the 1,730-acre testing site has a range of facilities including a 3.8-mile handling circuit, special surface tracks, and noise tracks. But the highlight is the perfectly circular high-speed track, a 2.45-mile-wide ring with a series of banked lanes covering a distance of 7.8 miles.

The banking allows cars to reach the so-called “neutral speed” at which they can drive along the banked circuit without turning the wheels, effectively driving in a straight line. At Nardò, this is achieved at different speeds in each of its four car/motorcycle lanes. The neutral speed in Lane 1, for example, is 62 mph (100 km/h), rising to 149 mph (240 km/h) in outer Lane 4.

If anyone wants to test a car at speeds higher than 149 mph, they have to book the whole track for an exclusive session – and be prepared to steer. Such was the case when the Koenigsegg CCR won the world speed record for production cars at the Nardò Ring (before later being beaten by the Bugatti Veyron). It reached a top speed of 242 mph, with the steering wheel held at a 30-degree angle.

Much of the land inside the Nardò Ring is occupied by farmland, with farmers entering via a series of underpasses beneath the circuit. And the circuit itself cuts quite a path through the fields, creating a striking visual feature from space. Astronauts have photographed the Nardò Ring on a few occasions, normally while traveling at about 5 miles per second, which makes even a Bugatti Veyron seem kind of slow.

Know Before You Go

The Nardò Ring (or more officially the Nardò Technical Center) is about 14 miles northwest of the town of Nardò in the southern Italian region of Apulia, in the Province of Lecce. You’ll need to contact the technical center in advance to arrange any potential visits.

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