Smithers Winter Test Center celebrates 50th anniversary

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The Smithers Winter Test Center in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the USA has celebrated the 50th anniversary of its opening in 1973. The 324ha site with harsh winter conditions is used by the automotive and tire sectors to test technology and products.

Winter testing operations began in Raco, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, after Smithers acquired Compliance Testing Incorporated. The Smithers Winter Test Center is situated on an ex-United States government airfield that was built in 1940. It benefits from a triangle of runways, each about 1.6km long and 91m wide.

“The start of our relationship with the Forest Service was a real turning point in Smithers history,” said Sean Connolly, the company’s director of test track operations. “Taking over the site meant we could dramatically increase our testing capabilities and provide many more services to our valued clients.”

Since opening 50 years ago, Smithers has continually made investments to upgrade the site to meet new needs and requirements. The three original runways have been altered to enable specialized surface testing, including split mu, alternating ice and asphalt and packed-snow handling tests. Additional handling courses, ice and snow circles, ice pads, hills and other facilities have been added to support testing programs.

“We’re constantly striving to add modern amenities based on changes to the automotive industry and what our clients need,” added Connolly. “Providing our clients with what they need is the most important factor in every decision we make regarding site expansion.”

Recent investments at the Smithers Winter Test Center include two test freezers for on-site cold soak testing of vehicles and components, a ChargePoint Express 250 DC fast-charging station and additional on-site power upgrades. Other investments include a new event center, a newly constructed off-road vehicle course with ditches, slopes and off-camber sections, and further upgrades to existing facilities.

“The automotive industry is changing every year. Our clients’ technologies are pushing the envelope. Meeting their needs has always been the primary driver of growth and expansion at the Smithers Winter Test Center and all our other testing facilities around the globe,” explained Jim Popio, PhD, vice president of the Smithers Materials Science and Engineering division. “I’m eager to see what the next 50 years will bring, for us and for our clients.”

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After spending six years working as a mechanic for various motorsport and high-end performance car companies, Callum joined UKi Media & Events in February 2020 as an assistant editor. In this role he uses his vast practical knowledge and passion for automotive to produce informative news pieces for multiple vehicle-related sectors. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKi Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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