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Pirelli Campo Prove Pneumatici (Vizzola Ticino)

During a recent trip to Pirelli's facilities in Europe, several members of the Tire Rack team had the opportunity to visit their Vizzola proving grounds. Nestled in the Ticino River Valley about a 30-mile drive from central Milan, Vizzola is one of the world's most advanced testing centers used to evaluate tire comfort and performance on cars, trucks and motorcycles. Opened in 1969, Vizzola serves Pirelli and its Original Equipment customers as they fine-tune prototype tires and vehicles long before they go into production.

One of Vizzola's landmarks is its 80-foot tall control tower. The tower's top-floor meeting room and rooftop observatory offer the ability to see every inch of the Vizzola track and watch all of its activities.

Vizzola features a network of straight, twisting and circular tracks, many of which can be wetted to simulate weather conditions ranging from a light drizzle to heavy rain. Vizzola's multiple test courses provide the opportunity to test noise and ride comfort as well as wet traction, handling and hydroplaning resistance.

No visit to Vizzola would be complete without driving a few laps in the wet. Pirelli provided a BMW 5 series sedan equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission and P7 Cinturato Ultra High Performance Summer tires.

With sprinklers providing a steady source of water, we began our familiarization laps being chauffeured by one of Pirelli's test drivers. Our test route was essentially a 1.5-mile road course (complete with FIA curbing in the corners) that uses a central straight to connect the eastern and western edges of the track. Each lap included two trips over Vizzola's humpback mound that offered enough rapid elevation change to load the tires as the suspension was compressed going uphill followed by unloading the tires when the vehicle crests the mound and begins its descent.

The length of the Vizzola course and the fact our route used the same straights and selected corners multiple times in different combinations during a lap required our full concentration. The humpback mound proved to be a bit like a rollercoaster and we quickly learned it took a smooth application of throttle to minimize wheelspin and deliberate steering input to flow into the next corner.

While our experience at Vizzola gave us more respect for Pirelli tire development and its test drivers, it also confirmed why test drivers spend months learning the nuances of a track and confirmed the advantage of a driver who is a member of the one thousand lap club on any road/test course. Now we want to go back for our next 990 laps.

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