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  • Writer's pictureNATALIA SOUSA

Simulating 10 Years of a Cars Life in Under Five Months with Durability Testing.

UK Luxury sports car manufacturer McLaren utilises teams globally to ensure their vehicles last a lifetime, and the all-new 750s recently conducted durability testing at Parcmotor Castellolí in Spain. The 4.1-kilometre circuit, not far from Barcelona, provides a range of testing scenarios from winding uphill and plunging down again, then crossing over itself in a figure-of-eight. With warp-speed straights, dizzying descents and heart-in-mouth braking zones, it's the ultimate automotive workout.

Durability testing at racetrack in barcelona parcmotor

Laura De Chiara is the 750s Durability Project Manager, it's Laura's job to make sure every part of the 750S lasts, from the tiniest spring to the pop-up wing. "We're simulating 10 years of the car's life in under five months," she says. "We use the car in all the ways that a customer will use their car – from the road to racetracks like this."

But how do you compress ten years of a car's life into such a short timeframe? Every commute, every backroad blast, every weekend away and track day, all the millions of corners, crests, lumps and bumps in the road. They all have to be recreated and accounted for, mile-by-mile, blow-by-blow. "We study how a typical customer uses their car," says Laura. "How many mountain miles, city miles, countryside miles or circuit use. We also acquire and analyse data from our own development cars – using special instrumentation and loggers. We call this the Real Duty Cycle, or RDC. The key is to simulate that use, and accelerate it."

engineer from mclaren checking car ahead of durability testing

That means giving the car a hard time in a short time. "This test car will do over 60,000km in four-to-five months across the full spectrum of usage," says Laura. "Castelloli is great for recreating fatigue on brakes, engine and transmission – there's high mechanical stress and big forces at a place like this. So it's perfect for testing thermal behaviour in the engine bay, the powertrain and exhaust."

The 750S features a massive range of all-new components, all of which must be put to work before the car is signed off. Even evolutionary parts need to be tested in this new context. "With more power comes more heat, different stresses and different behaviours," says Laura. "We're testing an all-new car, so it has its very own programme."

"Durability is just one aspect," she says. "We have a big list of tests the car and components have to pass, and there's a team for every attribute." These include NVH, aerodynamics, driving dynamics, driveability and safety. In addition, different locations are used for other attributes. For example, the desert ensures materials resist extreme sunlight and temperatures. This can also be simulated in climatic chambers, along with differing humidity levels.

"We have two cars dedicated to durability testing," says Laura. "One is undergoing bench tests – on a rig that simulates loads and moves the wheels and suspension, running 24/7. The other one is here, doing real-life miles." And it's a sleepless schedule – this car works three shifts per day, from dawn until after dark. So it's hard work for the drivers too, who must deliver consistent lap times, lap after lap. "But they aren't robots," says Laura. "Their senses are important – they record everything they see, hear and feel. After every session they fill out a run sheet, and we analyse every single cycle."

So after all of this, is there a Eureka moment where everything is signed off and ready for the road? "Everything we do is planned from the start… since before the car existed," says Laura. "Components are tested virtually and durability is designed-in. We also have a baseline from many years of making high-performance cars. This is really the final test – the culmination of everything, and where it all comes together in the car."

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