Whilst I am extremely passionate about road safety, it wasn’t until recent years that my intrigue for tyre construction and technology increased and receiving an invitation to the launch of Continental’s SportContact 6 tyre made my day! That probably sounds odd to many readers but I’m that gal who believes we can reduce road fatalities drastically if all motorists became more vigilant about tyre safety. As drivers we are more conscious of other safety features within our cars such as the braking system, airbag, safety belts and sensors which help monitor movement around our cars. That’s all very good and well but what we mustn’t forget is that none of systems and aids are effective in preventing accidents or minimising accidents if our tyres are not in good nick!
The business session of the launch of Continental’s newest tyre offering, the SportContact 6 shed light on the tyre manufacturer’s commitment to the advancement of tyre technology. Here are three major milestones designers at Continental have developed in making the SportContact 6 a vastly superior performer than even its predecessor, the Conti SportContact 5P, which won many awards as a technologically advanced tyre offering.
Black Chilli Technology: Continental’s technical wizards virtually reinvented the chemical composition of the tread strip, as well as the tread pattern and the tyre construction. Using Continental’s own patented Black Chilli technology which has special grip resins and optimum micro-flexibility, the rubber compound used for making the SportContact 6 was fine-tuned to closely mesh with the structure of the road surface. At the same time, fleeting atomic bonds in the contact patch which act like nanoscopic suction pads to ensure high adhesion were included. Together, these two factors work to provide maximum grip in all directions when braking, cornering and accelerating, regardless of whether the conditions are wet or dry.
Force Vectoring Technology: Another innovation within the SportContact 6 is Force Vectoring technology, designed for optimum force transmission. This involves using different tread elements for the inside, outside and centre of the tyre. Depending on the tyre size, three or four central ribs and the tyre’s inner shoulder are responsible for maximum transmission of the lateral forces, which also contributes to an improvement in the direct translation of steering commands to the road. As the forces acting on the tyre during cornering are greater on the outside than on the inside, the innovative rib edge design is asymmetrical, allowing for greater rib stability and enabling higher forces to be transferred.
When creating the outer shoulder, the tyre designers interlinked the various block elements into a larger macro block unit. Large tread blocks on the outside are connected to interlinked elements in a second row of blocks and this allows the tread blocks to provide mutual support during fast cornering, while transferring the high lateral forces with ease.
Aralon 350: The third significant development step is the use of a new reinforcing material, called Aralon 350, which was specially designed for the SportContact 6. This synthetic textile fibre, in which two yarns of high-strength aramid are twisted together with a yarn of flexible nylon, is embedded in the rubber. Located beneath the tread, this endless cap ply acts like an additional steel belt, providing extra stabilisation to help deal with the enormous centrifugal forces that act on the tyre at very high speeds.
As a bonus safety measure the SportContact 6 features an additional safety feature in the tread design. A new two-stage Ultra High Performance (UHP) tread wear indicator (TWI) allows the driver to see when the remaining tyre tread has reached a depth of 3,0 mm – Continental’s recommended replacement point in the interests of maximum safety. A further tread depth indicator emerges when the tyre has only 1,6 mm remaining, and must be replaced.
Without a doubt, tyres are the sole point of contact between the vehicle and the road. All forces transmitted to the road are put down via a footprint no bigger than the size of one’s palm. In a critical situation, it is the tyre that determines whether the vehicle can stop in time, or whether it stays safely on course through a corner. The increase in tyre technology wuch as that used in the development of the SportContact 6 is a critical component of driver safety. And even one is not technology minded I believe it is the responsibility of every road user to ensure that their tyres are up to the task of getting them back home with incident.