Brian Joss – Tyres are the critical point of contact between your car and the road, and are responsible for transmitting the vehicle’s acceleration, braking and steering inputs to the road surface.
The selection of the components and rubber compounds that go into a tyre, along with the quality of the production process, is what shapes its performance and determines its life span.
On dry surfaces, the grip is primarily down to the right rubber compound, with the design of the tread pattern being a secondary consideration. In the wet, the situation is reversed, with the right tread pattern being the crucial aspect in order to effectively disperse water and keep the tyre in contact with the road.
Tyres with low rolling resistance are the most energy-efficient. This means less power, and therefore less fuel, is required to move the vehicle forward. However, a zero rolling resistance would mean having a tyre that offers very little cornering grip or braking ability, and poor ride quality.
The fine art of tyre development lies in finding a harmonious balance between the desired improvements in one characteristic and those opposed to it, ultimately attaining the best possible compromise between the conflicting interests of wet and dry grip, durability, noise and rolling resistance. On occasion, one of these parameters is given precedence over another to suit the desired performance characteristics of the vehicle application.
Continental’s SportContact 6 ultra-high-performance tyre, for example, prioritises exceptional grip and steering responsiveness for high-powered sportscars. It uses the tyre manufacturer’s cuttingedge Black Chili tyre compound, a reinforced construction with Aralon 350 synthetic fibre, and a specially designed Force Vectoring tread pattern developed to maximise cornering grip.
The PremiumContact 6, by comparison, is developed to provide outstanding wet and dry braking performance, sure-footed handling and uncompromising safety, while the EcoContact range is oriented towards low rolling resistance, fuel economy, reduced noise and enhanced mileage.
All Continental innovations have to pass an intense testing regime before going into production, and each new tyre has to complete exhaustive testing at its main test site, Contidrom in Germany.
A total of 140 000 tyres are tested every year in all types of driving conditions. Typically, Continental test drivers amass a mileage that would see them circling the globe 500 times. Critical real-world driving scenarios such as wet and dry handling, wet and dry braking, aquaplaning, noise levels and rolling resistance are thoroughly tested during tyre development.
CAPTION: Testing time: Continental tyres undergo rigorous testing at its Contidrom facility in Germany before being put into production. Picture: Quickpicv