Delivering the smoothest road surfaces

Roads and highways have to be monitored and maintained regularly to ensure they are safe for use, and surface smoothness is a key factor for road quality. However, for racetracks (and airport runways) surface smoothness is even more important for safety and performance
Measurement, Survey, Design & Software / May 26, 2021 2 mims Read
Advanced construction technology helps deliver surface smoothness for race circuits
Advanced construction technology helps deliver surface smoothness for race circuits

To ensure the smoothest ride possible, with zero bumps and no opportunity for dangerous aquaplaning due to standing water, racetracks have to be resurfaced periodically. This helps maintain structural integrity and extend their life cycle. But with race events often scheduled throughout the year, project managers and track operators can face tight time constraints in which to carry out improvement work.

One technology being used to help racetrack managers ensure that resurfacing projects are completed quickly without compromising on safety has been developed by Topcon Positioning. Advanced paving technologies from the firm have helped deliver smooth surfaces at key race circuits, including Silverstone in the UK, Circuit Zolder in Belgium and Le Castellet in France.

In recent years, new technology has helped take resurfacing projects in new directions in terms of the materials used, equipment employed and workflows followed – all of which are leading to increased speed and efficiency.  

Sjoerd Stoové, team manager 3D paving at Topcon, explained: “Our SmoothRide solution offers an accurate, precise and efficient way to resurface a road, which is vital when it comes to an application like a racetrack where even the slightest miscalculation or bump in the road can become dangerous.”

This is something James Roe, Formula 3 and Indy Pro 2000 racing driver, knows all too well. He said: “Professional drivers put their success and lives in the hands of two things – their car and the race conditions. Of course, skill is very important, but mechanics, the weather and the state of a track are all key factors when it comes to driving safely – and reaching your speed potential, too.” In fact, Topcon’s resurfacing of Silverstone in 2019 has improved drivers’ lap times by around two seconds, big numbers in the world of motorsport.

Speaking at the time, Stuart Pringle, managing director of Silverstone Circuits said: “Silverstone has always been a world-class circuit, but […] the newly laid surface is truly world-beating. I don’t believe there is a smoother finish on any racetrack anywhere in the world and that is thanks to the ground-breaking technology Topcon brought to the project.”

The technology from Topcon is used for precise milling control, providing a smooth base for resurfacing
The technology from Topcon is used for precise milling control, providing a smooth base for resurfacing

Topcon’s SmoothRide enables all aspects of the resurfacing – scanning, design, milling and paving – to be handled by one singular solution, ensuring everything is compatible and consistent for improved efficiency.

The first stage in the journey is scanning. Topcon’s RD-M1 is attached to a vehicle and collects a constant stream of data as it moves, quickly scanning miles of track and relaying precise surface conditions. This is all done without the need for extensive track closures, saving time and money.

Roe continued: “We need as much practice time on the track before a big race, so it’s crucial that any maintenance work is carried out efficiently.”

After scanning comes the design stage. Scan data is converted into a 3D digital terrain model (DTM) using Topcon’s MAGNET Collage software, with the model being used to inform the track’s new design.

Stoové added: “Our resurfacing software provides powerful information quickly, and files can be exported directly to milling and paving control systems. Traditionally, a surveyor would need to spend days on the track to stake out all the milling depths, and the crew on the machine would need to manually monitor numbers throughout the job. With SmoothRide, this is all taken care of more quickly.”

When it comes to milling, Topcon’s RD-MC Machine Control system uses GNSS positioning to calculate the difference between the existing surface and the new design at any given position, and therefore determine the desired milling depths. This ensures a seamless, smooth sub-base to be paved on reflects the 3D design perfectly, achieving a level of quality that would be virtually impossible using traditional methods. The technology also mitigates the need for surveyors to paint depth numbers on the asphalt or create stringlines to mill to, and reduces the number of lifts required to reach the finished paving design, saving hours of work.

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