Behind the scenes: A look at the Hanna Test Centre
November 1, 2010
HANNA, Alta. -"What's a nice oval like you doing in a place like this?" That was the question on this writer's mind upon driving through miserable weather from Calgary to the Hanna Test Centre, a 3.5-...
HANNA, Alta. -“What’s a nice oval like you doing in a place like this?” That was the question on this writer’s mind upon driving through miserable weather from Calgary to the Hanna Test Centre, a 3.5-km circuit large enough to qualify as a super speedway if one were to run Nascar or IndyCars on it.
You wouldn’t want to run such series on it, though; it’s only a single lane wide for the most part, which would make passing extremely difficult if not impossible. It has no grandstand, either, and no pit area large enough to facilitate a series of racing cars, let alone Big Rig racers.
In fact, if it weren’t for the nondescript and bumpy dirt road that, during the RCMP’s recent truck and trailer tests, was more like a bog than a road, you might never know it was there at all.
Hardly the stuff of track legend, this is. Yet there it lies in all its glory, about a half-hour southeast of Hanna, waiting patiently for customers.
It’s kind of like “Field of Dreams” in that they built it, and now they’re hoping people will come. And though there won’t be a lot of competitive racing there anytime soon, the folk behind the track see a lot of potential for what they say is the only oval test vehicle facility in western Canada. And it seems as if word is starting to get out.
“We were approached by the RCMP for this particular testing because they wanted a place where they could do it safely and in a controlled environment,” says Vladimir Panlilio of SAMAC Engineering, one of the track’s movers and shakers, “and where they can also demonstrate to the media and the industry the different types of systems in the trailers that are now plying the highways.”
Panlilio says he hopes the event will help the trucking industry realize the facility is there and that they can use it for training their drivers, testing rigs’ stability or doing fuel economy testing. “We built the facility for this purpose,” he says. We can provide a service whether it’s in compliance testing or reconstruction of vehicle rollovers -and isn’t strictly for trucks, it’s also available for cars, for reconstructionists who need to do a real-world recreation of an incident.”
And there are other applications. Panlilio says the track has been used by the University of Calgary solar car team to test their sun-powered car after they installed a new solar panel onto it.
He also sees the potential for government use for checking out road surfaces themselves. “We are hoping that if Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure wanted to do life-cycle research of aggregates they can purchase a section of the track and pave it with a particular aggregate the performance of which they may want to see.”
The track would be ideal for such research, he says, because the traffic to which the track will be subjected during the life-cycle testing can be controlled. Panlilio notes the concept is being used already by an oval facility in Alabama, “where stakeholders pave various sections of the oval track with whatever aggregate they want tested and then run a standardized rig around the track to see how well the aggregate works.”
Panlilio says the Hanna Test Centre’s oval was completed about a year ago. “We had a hard time getting contractors to come in during the boom times,” he says, “because they weren’t interested in doing only 3.5 kilometres of roadway.”
The anchor client, Panlilio says, is Innovative Vehicle Testing, the principal of which is also involved in the track itself.
“It’s one of a few companies that can do the compliance testing of service rigs in the oil and gas industry,” he says, “and there’s an area where they can do noise testing because the rigs have to comply with sound level guidelines about how much noise people can be subjected to.”
Another potential use for the facility, Panlilio says, is for importers of foreign vehicles -from China or other emerging countries that are now producing vehicles -to do barrier testing.
“We have equipment for doing actual crash testing of vehicles using a moveable barrier,” he says, “and soon we hope to have a rigid barrier testing as well.”
Isolated or not, the Hanna Test Facility is definitely open for business, and Panlilio hopes the recent RCMP tests will help get the message out that the virtually flat oval is ready to go.
“We’re looking for business,” he says.
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