A new chassis dynamometer lab under construction in the paddock at Virginia International Raceway will take the Alton racing facility another step forward towards becoming a comprehensive motorsports testing facility.  The facility, which will cost an estimated $1 million, will be known as the VIPER dynamometer Lab.

It will be a component of the existing VIPER (Virginia Institute for Performance and Engineering Research) facility at VIR which houses an eight-post “shaker” rig for testing cars and will be operated by Old Dominion University.

Eric Koster, Director of Motorsport Operations, The Langley Full Scale Tunnel and the NASA wind tunnel that is operated by Old Dominion University, said the new chassis dynamometer lab will serve three different motorsport and automotive industry sectors. “This facility will serve as a commercial test facility for race teams, will support Old Dominion University’s research program from alternative fuels and as an engineering lab for the motorsports engineering curriculum conducted as part of the VIPER educational program,” Koster noted.

VIPER chassis dynamometer lab will house a Superflow Autodyne 30 chassis dynamometer that will accommodate inertia dynamometer testing up to 1,200 horsepower and wheel speeds up to 225 mph for two-wheel drive vehicles. The drive rollers can be separated for motorcycle testing. In addition the facility will house an instrumentation lab including instrumentation capable of recording on-track operational parameters such as in-cylinder combustion pressures and engine torque output along with various temperatures and pressures.

According to Koster, occupancy fees for the chassis dynamometer are projected to be $1,400 per day or $80 per run with standard instrumentation. Additional instrumentation charges will apply.
With the chassis dynamometer, the entire car is set on the machine. The machine will then measure how much horsepower the car is getting to the ground at the wheels. The car can be turned on the dynamometer, and the results can be seen and measured.

Koster pointed out that VIR, with its fabled racetrack and major spectator events, lodging, restaurant and other amenities, offers a great deal to visitors, businesses and racing teams. Tying in the education and research component and the additional commercial business that the new facility will bring with VIR’s existing programs and facilities, puts VIR on another level.

“Others are starting to look at that,” Koster said.

He added that VIR is a very unique facility “when you bring the research component with the educational program and the commercial attraction.”

VIR managing partner Connie Nyholm said she expects the facility, which will house a shop, classroom and office space, to be completed in December.

“Our goal is to have it open and the equipment installed and fully tested before February. February is our big NACAR test month. Both NASCAR and Grand-Am teams test here heavily in February. They both test here throughout the year, but they start their testing in February.”

Koster pointed out that the chassis dynamometer lab is a natural addition to the VIR facility. “We polled teams that test at VIR and asked what type of equipment they would like to see that would enable them to use VIR more,” explained Koster. “The teams said if they had access to a chassis dynamometer, they would come a day early, spend time working with the chassis dynamometer and spend the next day or two doing on-track testing.”

Educationally, Koster said that in addition to ODU and Virginia Tech and its Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, other institution including Patrick Henry Community College with its motorsports program, the Carlisle School International Motorsports Academy and the Halifax County Motorsports Academy could possibly become involved in the future. Koster said he has met with an individual in Halifax County to discuss the educational component of VIPER. “We met with one of the people from Halifax County,” Koster said. “We talked about collaborating a curriculum they should be teaching for courses down the road.” Nyholm said another component-a driving simulator-is being eyed for the VIPER program. She noted that more than $1 million in funding for that project will be sought through the Southside Economic Development Committee next month. “It’s going to tie in uniquely to the eight-post (“shaker”rig) so that you can use each of those pieces of equipment independently or concurrently, which really hasn’t been done before. That sets a higher bar in that no other test facility has that capability.”

Nyholm pointed out that the addition of a driver simulator will give the VIPER initiative a tremendous boost. “Once the driver simulator gets funded, which I see as a critical component to the VIPER capability, I think that will add even more to the distinction of VIPER as a unique testing lab compared to any of the other testing facilities around the country,” Nyholm said. “Clemson University has a huge initiative. A couple of universities out west have initiative, but I think VIPER stands to distinguish itself as unique, especially with the driver simulator.”

With the new chassis dynamometer lab and an anticipated addition of a driver simulator to the VIPER initiative, VIR is continuing on the fast track towards becoming a major player in motorsports and automotive industry testing.

“It’s certainly not on par with some of the manufacturer test centers, which are large transportation-type test centers, but as far as motorsports testing goes, that’s something we have aspired to for years since the VIPER initiative was conceived,” Nyholm said.

“We’ve seen quite a few people coming through because of the VIPER Lab and asking for tours and wanting to know about VIR and our testing availability and capability since VIPER has opened.”

“We have been highly acclaimed as a test track in a recent Car and Driver magazine article in which they did a follow-up to the first article comparing us very favorably to the Neurbergring in Germany,” she continued. “That really put us on the map. They use our Grand Course, which is the 4.2-mile course, and said finally in America there is a track worthy of benchmarking cars. Where previously everybody went to Germany to do their testing, we’re seeing more coming here to VIR.”