12 March 2022
A converted 1.6-mile abandoned railway tunnel in the United Kingdom is now a supercar test track.
According to a New Civil Engineer article on the project, part of the former Great Central Main Line, the Catesby Tunnel will soon become a 24/7 testing facility for engineering firm Aero Research Partners.
According to the Catesby Tunnel website, the tunnel’s owners haven’t announced what companies might use the facility.
Stepnell and Tarmac led on the project to convert the Catesby Tunnel in Northamptonshire; the facility opened to the public in November 2021. With the capability for 24/7 testing in all weather conditions, the Catesby Tunnel expects to attract the world’s largest automotive manufacturers.
The tunnel was completed in 1897 and was closed in 1966 when the line closed. After lying abandoned and flooded for over 50 years, after proposals to reopen it as the rail line fell through, planning was granted in 2017 to convert the tunnel into an aerodynamic test facility for supercars and race cars.
Part of that conversion involved racetrack-spec asphalt, including the same stone used to pave the Silverstone, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi tracks that host Formula One Grands Prix.
The advantage of a tunnel test track; cars can be driven at significant speeds in an enclosed space unaffected by weather. That creates repeatable conditions, unlike outdoor testing, where weather changes can affect results such as speed, acceleration, braking and ride comfort, aeroacoustics, and engine emissions.
The idea isn’t unprecedented; Pennsylvania’s Laurel Hill Tunnel was utilised by Chip Ganassi Racing for aerodynamic testing of race cars beginning in the early 2000s.