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Aerodynamic testing tunnel to launch this summer

22 February 2021

The Catesby Tunnel, which will turn a Victorian railway tunnel in Northamptonshire into full-scale aerodynamic testing facility, is nearing completion.

The multi-million pound tunnel is set to open this summer and will house a 2.7 km long, purpose-built, straight road test track, allowing an extensive range of vehicle assessment studies to be carried out on full-scale vehicles.

Capable of providing accurate and affordable full-scale aerodynamic and performance data, the tunnel is being developed by Brackley-based Aero Research Partners. TotalSim, an expert in Computational Fluid Dynamics, is one of the two partners involved.

The project, which commenced in 2017, carries echoes of the famed Laurel Hill facility in the US. Top secret for a long time, the former railway tunnel in Pennsylvania has been used by Chip Ganassi Racing to hone its racecars in a controlled environment.

Based on similar principles, Catesby Tunnel’s sealed, underground working section ensures there is no wind and minimal temperature changes and therefore provides a controlled environment for assured repeatable testing.

The ultra-smooth Tarmac surface will be incredibly flat due to the stringent specifications. The tunnel will be fitted with automated turntables at either end to allow for return testing.

The intention is for it to become the new standard for vehicle development and the testing of aerodynamic performance, cooling, aeroacoustics, emission and dirt deposition. As such, it will inevitably interest motorsport companies, as well as automotive manufacturers.

The new facility is a re-development of a disused railway tunnel which was once part of the Great Central Railway. Built as a double width tunnel and one of the longest disused tunnels of the Victorian era, Catesby’s long straight and constant gradient provides ideal testing conditions

“We are all very excited to be opening the doors to Catesby Tunnel later this year,” said Rob Lewis, Director at Aero Research Partners. “The tunnel’s infrastructure lends itself perfectly to providing an unrivalled vehicle testing facility where real cars can be tested on a real road in consistent conditions.

“It has been a huge collaborative effort and we hope to welcome customers from the UK, Europe and worldwide to take advantage of our unique facility.”

Read about it in our latest issue here.

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