Runway 5 is open for business.
Ford of Europe recently completed its new speed oval at the Lommel Proving Grounds in Belgium.
The original oval went into operation in 1965, but after 57 years of cars being tested and refined, it had to be retired. It was known as Runway 5 and was initially built with three lanes set at different angles, with an additional lane added in the 1990s. The latter lane was covered with asphalt and given a curved profile. However, times have changed, and Runway 5 was scheduled to receive a facelift.
Work started in earnest in 2022, with 4,000 trucks needed to remove the milled asphalt, bring in the new support material, then lay 41,000 tons of asphalt. And that was just to get the project started.
The new Runway 5 consists of two straights and two banked turns, and to get the parabolic angles (a parabola is a mirror-symmetrical U-shaped plane curve), the engineers required a special machine. There are only two in the world that could lay three strips of asphalt simultaneously and with the shape needed. In total, the oval is 2.6 miles long.
To make the project even harder, the finished surface is perfectly smooth. It has a complete absence of joints as it's used for development work and durability testing, with cars regularly lapping at over 124 mph.
According to Ford, the surface is three times more flat than before, and the width of the lanes has been adjusted for the development and testing of driver aids. Lane 5 of Runway 5 was designed so a car could run at a constant 104 mph without required steering input. Topping off the upgrade is a much-improved safety system in the form of improved exterior safety rails and cable barriers.
The project is part of a $25 million investment into Lommel Proving Grounds. It will be used to test new EVs and help develop infrastructure for electric vehicles. Around 300 Ford Lommel Proving Ground staff members were present at the recent opening.
The first car round the track was a Ford Mustang Mach-E GT.