Breaking Ground at KymiRing
The new “traffic city” seeks to revolutionize the way we look at motorsports, driver training and vehicle system testing.
It’s one bumpy ride down KymiRing main track – in fact, taking notes soon proves impossible.
But it’s not the speed that is causing the pen to err: it’s the sizeable gravel on the track surface. As consultant Pekka Sorvali is giving the grand tour of the race track to come, one can see the huge project gradually taking shape. Destia, an alliance model partner in the venture, started construction of the track in June. Taking a journalist out for a spin on the last day of August, Sorvali comments that Destia and its subcontractors have made great progress over the summer.
“The speed of construction has been amazing,” he comments, adding that a year from now the track will be nice and smooth with asphalt already on it.
The upcoming hi-tech complex for motorsports consists of about 4.7 km of internationally-classified race track, which will also include a rallycross track. In addition, the complex will have a karting track and motocross, speedway and enduro tracks. In addition to organizing the races themselves, the idea is that at KymiRing one is able to comprehensively practice different motorsports in the same compact area.
Over the summer, as heavy machinery started making a world-class track in Tillola, Finland, KymiRing also secured a contract that is very significant for its future success. In July it was announced by MotoGP series promotor Dorna that KymiRing will host a MotoGP competition in 2019 – or 2018, even, if everything goes according to the plan.
As Dorna and FIM (Federation of International Motorcycling) are bringing the world’s premier motorcycle races to Finland, the international exposure will be quite impressive. After all, the MotoGP circuit reaches over 270 million TV viewers every year and can attract even hundreds of thousands of spectators to the races.
“The signing of the MotoGP contract is the single biggest thing that has happened yet,” says Sorvali. Still, what is being created here goes well beyond a race track and some competitions.
“KymiRing will be Northern Europe’s leading driving instruction, traffic safety and motorsports centre which will bring something new and exciting to the table,” says Sorvali.
The owners of KymiRing are AKK Sports Oy, Suomen Moottoriliitto ry, A-Ahlström Oy and the Municipality of Iitti. The cost estimate for the entire project is around € 25 million.
Practice Makes Perfect
For instance, KymiRing’s world-class Driving Training Centre will feature a versatile practice track, on which driving training for heavy goods vehicles and emergency and defense forces vehicles can be carried out. Sorvali points out that Finland’s biggest army garrison, Vekaranjärvi, is nearby and the military is itching to use the new training services.
Of course, driving practice for purely civilian traffic vehicles is in the cards as well. KymiRing has partnered up with the Austrian expert Test & Training International in the designing of the driving training center track and services.
“Test & Training International is in charge of the overall track design and they have 25 years of international experience in the design and construction of driving training centers,” says Sorvali.
Get the Data
In the training center, the participants have ample opportunity to make mistakes in a perfectly safe environment – with smart traffic technology handy to collect data from each performance.
“This way one will be able analyze what went right and what went wrong on each run”, Sorvali says.
The Test & Training System comprises a modular system of multipurpose training tracks. This means, for instance, that hydraulic kickplates are in place to force oversteering, and obstacles – both mechanic and water – try to give the driver a hard time by popping up from seemingly nowhere.
Bringing all these elements together in a successful fashion would hardly be possible without some know-how from inside a driver’s helmet. Timo Pohjola has competed around the world driving both cars and motorbikes – as well as served in organizing capacity in international competitions. He says that there is no real benchmark for what KymiRing is attempting to do – the concept is that unique.
“In the early 2000’s, the International Automobile Federation FIA put out new guidelines for motor sport centers which placed a lot of emphasis on road safety issues. KymiRing is the first realization of those guidelines globally,” Pohjola says. In addition, both FIA and FIM participated in the financing of the KymiRing master plan.
Pohjola talks about an entire “ecosystem” which will spring forth from KymiRing: it’s a natural platform for ambitious research & development that will one day – hopefully – contribute to building the smart traffic solutions of the future.
One of KymiRing’s development partner’s is VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. Matti Kutila from VTT foresees that smart traffic solutions will make for smoother traffic flows and a plethora of new connected car services. The physical road infrastructure will be mirrored by a digital infrastructure that will add a new dimension to traffic as we know it.
“For instance, traffic congestion should be less severe due to automation which eliminates errors made by human drivers. Moreover, increasing automation makes travelling more comfortable.”
But what does the Digital Age bode for KymiRing, then? Kutila believes that KymiRing is a great place to really test, for example, the new robot cars before they hit the road in earnest. Validation of the autonomous vehicle functions is crucial due to safety and security reasons.
“For the Finnish ICT and electronics sector, KymiRing provides a great arena to seek out both new solutions and growth,” he adds.
Come One, Come All
Timo Pohjola points out that KymiRing will be an “open platform” for all interested parties. Previously, it has been customary for major car manufacturers to set up shop in Lapland, for instance, and run testing that is off-limits to everyone else. Pohjola believes that KymiRing provides a solid alternative for this.
“There are automotive players nearby in St. Petersburg, for example, that can benefit from our services.”
The KymiRing project has come a long way from its humble origins in early 1990’s, when the idea surfaced for the first time. Over the years, the project has had its ups and downs, but Pohjola looks at the creation of the first business plan of KymiRing in 2007 as the real breakthrough in the venture.
“At the time, we tested the business plan with stakeholders and got great feedback. As a consequence, we became confident that this could, indeed, be done.”
Looking at the toil of the massive machines on site, both Sorvali and Pohjola are clearly satisfied that the actual construction is finally underway. Furthermore, the building effort is expected to last for years to come, since the master plan calls for various additional construction – such as a hotel and a business park – thus paving the way for a true “traffic city”.
“We feel that the themes relating to movement and transportation are rising very strongly around the world right now and KymiRing reflects and enhances that trend,” Pohjola says.
International Business in Kymenlaakso (IBIK) has supported KymiRing.
Where is KymiRing?
KymiRing is situated at Tillola in the municipality of Iitti, right on the border of City of Kouvola, just north of Highway 12.