Toyota building mini Nurburgring in Japan
Briefly the world's largest car company during Volkswagen's dieselgate emissions scandal revelations, Toyota is working harder than ever to reclaim the top spot it covets so greatly, and the latest news from Japan indicates that it is investing heavily to do so. According to Nikkei Asian Review, Toyota spent US$21.7 billion on R&D in the last financial year, up 40 percent on five years ago.
The Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit in the Eifel forests of Germany is generally regarded as the most demanding circuit in the world, with any car's lap time of the 20.832-km (12.94-mi) circuit inversely proportional to its sporting prowess.
Essentially, a car's Nurburgring lap time is the ultimate benchmark for a performance car, with much more credibility with sporting drivers than dyno power, 0-100 km/h times, standing quarter miles or top speed, because it encompasses all sporting aspects into one convenient figure. You cannot fudge a lap time of the Nurbugring's potent mix of corners, elevation changes and challenges of every automotive ilk.
For the last two decades we've been reporting on the Nurburgring lap times of road cars to keep our readership informed of the latest and fastest. Car companies recognize the high regard with which performance on the track is held and Toyota has traditionally tested all its sports cars there and it built one of its major European performance centers near the track more than a decade ago.
Despite still testing all its cars there, however, it is now recreating 5.3 km (3.9 mi) of identical sections of the Nurburgring track into a circuit it is building in the mountains in Japan. Though that is much less than the total 22.8-km (14.2-mi) Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit, the choice of corners incorporated into the new circuit is based on those which best challenge the stability, balance, braking and cornering of a vehicle at speed.
If that's not impressive enough, the min-Nurburgring is one of just 11 racetracks it is building on a new 650-hectare (1,606-acre) site near Nagoya that will encompass many previous and disparate R&D centers with many new facilities. The total expenditure planned for the R&D complex is expected to be around $2.8 billion.
The 11 tracks will reproduce a variety of driving conditions so that Toyota can test its future vehicles as comprehensively as possible. The new test area is expected to be fully operational in 2023, at which point it will have 3,300 employees, with plans to eventually increase the workforce to 3,850.