The project gained momentum in 2014 when Camber Ridge secured financial backing from Teton Capital LLC of Jackson, Wyoming, according to James Cuttino, CEO of Camber Ridge who also is a former director of the North Carolina Motorsports and Automotive Research Centre.
“Our approach is to combine the best features of traditional laboratory testing with the best features of proving ground testing, such that tire measurements are both repeatable and accurate,” Cuttino said.
“We understand that today’s passenger car, heavy truck and military vehicle designers are faced with big challenges – mostly related to regulatory compliance and complex on-board systems – both of which demand accurate simulation during the product development stage.”
These simulations, he said, must be fed with accurate information if engineers hope to improve driveability on wet roads, reduce fuel consumption and deliver emergency manoeuvring capability.
“At the heart of it all is the tire, the only connection between a car and the road — so our aim is to give engineers access to the best possible information about tires.”
The test carriage will accommodate tires up to 34 inches in outside diameter, according to the company, and will be able to induce steering and camber-angle changes on the fly as well as lateral forces. The company anticipates being able to have up to four modules in use at any one time to maximize its use of the track.
Camber Ridge chose an asphalt mix that it categorizes as “mid-range” in terms of its coefficient of friction, according to Peter Shepler, vice president, director of sales and business development. The pavement will undergo “burnishing” to stabilize the surface, and the company will conduct calibration tests on a regular basis with control tires to ensure repeatability.
The carriage and measuring module were designed in-house and thus include proprietary technology, Shepler said.
Initially testing will be conducted on dry reference surfaces at controlled ambient temperatures, Camber Ridge said, but the facility is being designed for phased introductions of additional paved surfaces, wet surface testing and other controlled conditions. The track is banked at 1 degree to allow for consistent water depth.
Camber Ridge also has laid a single asphalt strip the length of the building which will serve as a linear friction facility. In addition, there’s plenty of space within the structure for other, smaller test sites and for storage of customers’ tires.
The company expects to attract business from vehicle and tire makers and government agencies.
David Sokol, CEO and chairman of Teton Capital, added: “Since tires are such an important influence on how cars drive and behave, I believe this could eventually create a paradigm shift in the way modern cars and roadways are designed.”
Teton Capital is a private equity firm with a history of investing in automotive-related industries, as well as banking and consumer products.
Cuttino holds advanced degrees in engineering from Clemson University and North Carolina State University. He worked for Michelin from 1987-1990 and also has been a professor at the University of Alabama and University of North Carolina-Charlotte.