Jamie Whincup recently travelled to Arizona and penned his adventure of driving the Komatsu 960E to dump truck the latest model in the Komatsu dump truck range
In one section huge iron ruts are built into the ground that would swallow a car. The Komatsus drive over them and engineers test how much the chassis is able to stretch without causing any damage.
We arrived on a Saturday, but engineers were still at work, running countless kilometers with a 960E chock full of rocks which weigh about 330 tonnes.
I was lucky enough to drive an empty 960E test truck which had already been worked pretty hard.
Our host Don Lindell was soon encouraging me to push it a bit harder and have some fun in a wide open area. It is a strange sensation because this rig is worth about $7 million, which is more than anything I've ever raced.
Don assures me it is ok to drive the 960E hard, because after all, this is a test truck and Komatsu engineers spend a lot of time trying to break them.
That way, they find out about any weaknesses before they get out to a mine site.Komatsu push
the trucks to the limit, including abusing the brakes to the point they catch on fire (but still, amazingly, work).
It's like our V8 Supercar testing program, you push as hard as you can so you find about any problems before the race weekend.
Truck failures in a mine can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity which can be devastating to an operation's bottom line.
It's much like a failure in a V8 Supercar, which can ruin your championship chances.
Mechanical failures are very rare in our Team Vodafone Commodores, but that doesn't happen by chance. Just as is the case with the Komatsu dump trucks, it is due to hard work and harsh testing.
When we turned up at the testing centre there would have to have been about eight full-sized trucks lined up outside the maintenance centre. It was an amazing sight as you really get an impression of how big these things really are when you stand next to one, let alone eight.
When you consider how much money is tied up in these trucks you get an idea of how seriously Komatsu takes it testing program.
I did my bit for the test process during my drive and ran the 960E harder than I thought it could ever be driven.
I know it sounds unbelievable but Don and I drifted it. I came hooking down, threw it into a bit of a skando flick and locked the rears with an electronic brake.
Now, that might just sound like fun but I can say it's all part of the test program.