As a kid growing up in Canada, Richard Woodroffe, project manager at the Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds, played with toy cars and dreamed of one day designing cars for an auto company. “But I didn’t know how to get there,” he says.
Woodroffe took an automotive service-related job out of college, then got into racing, and finally moved to Toyota to begin working as a vehicle dynamics engineer. For the past 25 years, he has worked at the Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds, putting prototypes and competitor cars through their paces and developing the site for all sorts of endurance and testing. He began evaluating late-gen Supras and then worked his way up to testing high-performance vehicles like the Toyota FT86 and Lexus RCF.
“I’ve seen a lot of different vehicles come through this facility, from Celicas to RCFs and LFAs, and I’ve had the opportunity to provide my feedback to the Japanese engineers on how well those cars performed in the US market at high speeds.”
As manager at TAPG, overseeing operations of the entire facility, Woodroffe ensures the site meets the needs of drivers testing vehicles in all conditions. Currently, the proving ground encompasses nearly 12,000 acres of land, with 60-lane miles of paved track, a 10-mile oval, a ride and handling course, and numerous high- and low-speed dirt tracks.
“When we first built the proving ground in 1993,” he recalls, “we had everything we needed, so there wasn’t a lot of expansion. Every few years, we’d find we were missing one surface or one type of road and we’d add it. In 2016, we built an 80,000m² vehicle dynamics area and that was a huge contribution to the facility and a big improvement in our capabilities.”