In Mireval, near Sète, the Goodyear circuit celebrates its 40th anniversary at full speed

In Mireval, near Sète, the Goodyear circuit celebrates its 40th anniversary at full speed

Le circuit du centre de test de Goodyear a 40 ans cette année. DR

Propriété du fabricant de pneus, le circuit d’essai de Mireval a fêté ses 40 ans vendredi 17 mai.

Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini… No, it was not in the vicinity of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes that a few lucky people were able to admire, and take laps around the track, these prestigious vehicles. But it was this Friday, May 17 in Gardiole, not on the forest tracks but on the asphalt ribbon of the Goodyear test circuit which has been rolling its ribbons on the heights of Mireval for 40 years now.

An ideal site for developing tires

2024 marks, in fact, the anniversary of the purchase, in 1984, by the tire manufacturer, of a former circuit intended to accommodate Formula 1 (read by elsewhere).

In Mireval, near Sète, the Goodyear circuit celebrates its 40th anniversary at full speed

The Karland circuit before the manufacturer bought it in 1984. DR

For a simple reason. The company, based in Luxembourg, was looking for a warm place to develop and test its summer tires in particular. "The climate being what it is up there, and as the brand was already working a little with the old circuit, it was not difficult to find the motivation to bring teams to stay here", as a former director of the site, invited for this fortieth anniversary, recounted on Friday, scanning the panorama stretching from La Grande-Motte to the Pyrenees.

A competitor from Castellet

Four years after the inauguration of the Castellet circuit in 1970, an investor, Mr. Vallière, decided to create a competing circuit to run Formula 1 cars with a sea view. former F1 driver, Jean-Pierre Beltoise to draw curves on the foothills of the Gardiole. The current track is the original one (improved in terms of safety). The site was then called Karland. But it will never be able to make the investor's dream come true and will be content to host local events. Until Goodyear bought it in 1984. In its history, the circuit has still hosted F1 cars for tests like the Jordan Peugeot team.
For the record, the Mireval site, difficult to access for curious journalists, had been the scene of the confirmation test – after modification – of the first A classes which, before that, had not been # 39;had not passed the so-called bayonet test. Which caused quite a scandal. 

Go to the tire limit

"It’was just a ribbon of asphalt with no clearance, said Rémy Granier, the&rsquo ;current director. Now, the testers are in the best safety conditions, especially since we have just redone the entire surface". These pilots are, in fact, not here to laugh. "When we receive a batch of tires, they have to undergo a whole battery of tests", explained the site boss. Generally speaking, the specialized press judges them on around fifteen criteria, Goodyear sets 50. To summarize, the test drivers go to the tire's ultimate limit, while analyzing its behavior, on classic cars or other cars loaded with sensors.

Unique proposals in Europe

To do this, there is the HPC (high performance circuit) where the rubber undergoes strong accelerations, tight turns and other braking to estimate its resistance and durability. But that’s not all. Since its installation in Mireval, the manufacturer has created special spaces which make them a rarity in Europe. "This is why the builders themselves come test their vehicles", revealed Rémy Granier.

The Mireval circuit in figures

50: this is the number of employees who are continuously on site between test pilots, engineers and administrative services.

80: this is the percentage of suppliers from the region who work with the manufacturer on the Mireval site.

15,000: this is the number of tests carried out each year on the circuit attached to the slopes of the Gardiole.

265 :this is, in kilometers per hour, the top speed reached at the end of the straight line.

3.3: this is the number of kilometers of the HPC circuit.

1.7: this is the distance, in kilometers, of the continuously watered circuit.

0.7: in centimeters, the thickness of the water on the small circuit.

1984: year of the circuit's purchase by Goodyear.

4,000: the number of visitors to the site per year, mainly builders and specialist journalists.

There is the famous small circuit nestled inside the large one, created in collaboration with the University of Montpellier, which is sloping and whose surface is covered with an equal quantity of water. water (recovered and reinjected, as for all parts requiring water). Ideal for testing the grip of a tire and/or the behavior of a car.

Definitely a good day at Goodyear

The site also offers a round circuit where a car turns faster and faster on a wet track. Or the one where a car goes, at high speed, from dry to wet to test aquaplaning. All with different surfaces (asphalt, cobblestones, concrete) because the tires tortured here (or on the circuits of Brussels or Texas) are supposed to be able to work effectively on all the roads in the world. Away from the main circuit, there is even a track for off-road testing. That’s saying something. Without forgetting the place reserved for capturing the rolling sound of the tire, those measuring the braking distance on a dry road or on a wet road or even the one intended to evaluate the comfort of the tire on increasingly thick obstacles.

In Mireval, near Sète, the Goodyear circuit celebrates its 40th anniversary at full speed

Laps in prestigious cars this Friday. FREE MIDI – PHILIPPE MALRIC
So many places that around a hundred guests (customers and local suppliers) were able to discover from this very secret place. Before climbing into the seats of the legendary cars to discover the entire circuit. For them, certainly, a good day at Goodyear.

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