The first episodes of FCA What’s Behind showed vehicles being tested in arctic temperatures in Arjeplog, Sweden, and scorching heat in Upington, South Africa. In the third episode, FCA opens the doors to its Balocco Proving Ground, one of the largest testing centers in the world. It covers roughly 6 square kilometers in north-western Italy, located halfway between Turin and Milan in the countryside near Vercelli. Opened in 1962 by Alfa Romeo, over the years the center has continued to grow, both in terms of test tracks and facilities.
From competition to everyday cars
The original project included a main track, the current Misto Alfa Romeo, which was inspired by circuits used in the Formula 1 World Championship. It incorporates replicas of the main curve from the Monza circuit – known today as 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 models – for which the track had been specifically designed – took place in parallel with the activities of Autodelta, the Alfa Romeo racing department. In fact, numerous Alfa Romeo race cars were developed at Balocco, which then went on to triumph at some of the most prestigious international circuits.
Ten years in just five months
Today the center boasts a total of 26 different tracks, measuring 80 kilometers in length, with more than 50 different kinds of surfacing. In addition to the Misto Alfa Romeo, all the tracks necessary for complete vehicle development – from high-speed to off-road to low-grip – are here. There are many various types of climate cells, water crossings, workshops, warehouses, 8 fuel pumps and multiple car washes. The fully-equipped facilities and and personnel at the Balocco Proving Ground 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.
A major center of activity for FCA
In addition to reliability and durability testing, Balocco is used, above all, for 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, performance is measured…and comparison tests and benchmarking activities are carried out. Balocco is also a prestigious venue for driving courses, vehicle reveals and international events.