UPDATE: The orignal version of this article reported that the Lausitzring was to shut to racing at the end of this year. However, RacingCircuits.info has since learned that DEKRA intends to offer the circuit to racing promoters for hire, meaning that it may have a motorsport future after all. See our further report for information.
Germany's Eurospeedway Lausitz is set to be converted into Europe's largest automotive testing facility after being bought by testing firm DEKRA which is investing more than 30 million euros to create a research centre for driverless vehicle technology.
The site at Klettwitz, in the state of Brandenburg in Eastern Germany, will be taken over by in November.
After reconfiguration, the facility is expected to reopen to DEKRA clients in 2018, creating what the firm says will be the largest manufacturer-independent center for connected and automated driving in Europe.
"We are investing in roads and facilities for the comprehensive testing of automated driving functions. This will enable us, as a development and testing partner for the automotive industry, to set up very complex scenarios, for urban, non-urban or highway journeys, in a highly flexible way," said Clemens Klinke, a DEKRA board member and head of the Automotive business unit.
There will be two city routes, an overland route and a highway route on the existing test oval, along with several large asphalt areas, which are ideal for such tests. The infrastructure will also include all the necessary components for the integration of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
"Measuring equipment will include ultra-modern systems such as driving robots, self-propelled platforms, various soft targets and mobile traffic infrastructure installations, which we can use to test camera-, laser- and radar-based environment recognition systems," says Klinke.
DEKRA already has a technology centre immediately adjacent to the track, which it opened in 2003. This will be expanded to offer high-quality education and training courses in automated driving functions. Appropriate training will be given to up to 500 participants a day.
"The combination of connection and automation is a vital requirement for autonomous driving in the future. That is why our customers, especially in the automotive industry, need the necessary testing services from one provider. We will be able to provide this through the intensive cooperation of all the DEKRA locations and business units involved," said DEKRA CEO Stefan Kölbl.
The speedway's current owners, EuroSpeedway Verwaltungs GmbH, said that the deal had secured the long-term future of the facility, safeguarding jobs and bringing in new investment to the region.
"We are delighted that the next chapter of the Lausitzring will open on such a positive note", explains Josef Meier, Managing Director of EuroSpeedway Verwaltungs GmbH.. "After eight years, in which we have successfully operated and developed the Lausitzring, we were faced with the question of how to transform it into a long-term, sustainable concept, given the current investment needs. Together with DEKRA as a long-standing, reliable partner we have found what is, from our perspective, a good solution."
The Lausitzring opened in 2000 on the site of a former coal mine and is the only oval superspeedway in mainland Europe. Over the years it has hosted the DTM, World Superbikes, ADAC GT Masters, A1 Grand Prix and, most famously, the Champ Car World Series. It was the scene of Alex Zanardi's horrific accident in 2001 and his triumphant return to the cockpit in 2003, when he ran 13 laps in a modified car to complete the distance he was denied by his accident.