Topcon puts racetracks in podium position
Regular monitoring and maintenance is an essential practice when it comes to roads and highways to ensure the safety of road users.
However, it’s on the racetrack that level surfaces can make a real difference to drivers’ safety, as well as their performance. To ensure a smooth ride, with no bumps or safety risks from potential aquaplaning across standing water, it’s vital that racetracks are regularly resurfaced to maintain structural standards and prolong their lifecycle.
However, with race events scheduled throughout the year, there are rarely any significant gaps for project managers to allocate time for refurbishment. This means tight turnaround times when it comes to completing the job, which can bring added stress for those managing projects. Helpfully, advancements in new technology are transforming paving projects in terms of precision and efficiency, which is critical when you consider the safety implications for drivers.
By using comprehensive, fast and accurate equipment, that combines the scanning, milling and paving processes, it’s possible to efficiently create safer and smoother surfaces that will stand the test of time. These are all factors that are of paramount importance in the motorsport world, where time is most definitely money.
Sjoerd Stoové, Team Manager of 3D Paving for Professional Services at Topcon Positioning Group, knows how a smooth racetrack resurfacing can be achieved quickly and cost-effectively, with his team recently working on projects at Silverstone and Circuit Zolder.
On Your Marks…
Silverstone, the illustrious British F1 circuit, required a first-class resurfacing in the lead-up to its eagerly anticipated 2019 Grand Prix and MotoGP races. With just a couple of weeks to completely replace the track’s surface, it was clear that if the team were to succeed on time, they would need to use a paving solution that utilised cutting-edge technology in order to maximise efficiencies.
In 2020, Circuit Zolder in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, found itself in a similar situation. With fifteen years having passed since its last fresh asphalt layer, it was time to reinvigorate the track, and ensure both the safety and comfort of its competitors. The contractors tasked with its redevelopment also met challenges; with ten bends and three chicanes, the undulating course is far from straightforward.
Breaking New Ground
In both instances, Topcon’s innovative SmoothRide system was utilised. SmoothRide enables all aspects of the resurfacing – scanning, design, milling and paving – to be handled by one singular solution, ensuring everything is consistent and providing improved efficiency.
Discussing the nature of racetracks, Stoové said: “Racetracks are completely different from other roads – it’s very specialized work. This is mainly because on a normal road there are separate lanes, but on a racetrack the ideal racking line changes constantly from left to right.
With Silverstone, there also needed to be two ‘crowns’ in the road, which were not always in the same spot, and there were very tight corners requiring quick camber changes over short distances.”
The level of precision afforded is vital when it comes to a racetrack, as even the slightest miscalculation can become highly dangerous. SmoothRide’s 3D scan data was converted into a 3D digital terrain model (DTM) using Topcon’s MAGNET Collage software, with the model being used to inform the new design.
Topcon’s RD-MC Machine Control system also removed the need for surveyors to spend days on the track staking out milling depths. Sensors on the machine are used to pinpoint the current depth of the milling drum on both sides. The machine then reacts accordingly. Stoové explained: “This way, the new design is executed to millimetre accuracy, leaving the surface both extremely smooth and a perfect cross section.”
A smooth track is not only important for driver safety, but performance too. At Silverstone, the track redevelopment has reduced lap times by 2 seconds, helping the track to maintain its reputation as one of the most prestigious tracks in Formula 1.
Formula 3 racing driver James Roe Jr explains: “As a driver, the smoother a surface, the more consistent it is. This allows us to push the boundaries much more, leading to much faster lap times and better racing for the fans to watch.”
Roe adds, “Motorsports and technology companies like Topcon are both grounded in the power of data. As a driver, everything that takes place in the car, from the minute the power switch is turned on, is recorded and used to refine performance for the next race by our race engineers.”
Racing drivers rely on data and technological innovation to shave milliseconds off of their lap times. By embracing the same approach through Topcon solutions, racetrack redevelopment can take place with greater efficiency, accuracy and profitability, while raising the standard of the spectacle on display.