45 Years of Contidrom – Almost Two Million Tires Tested Since 1967
Continental's main testing facility for passenger car, commercial vehicle, and motorbike tires
90 tire testing staff
Numerous test options on a wide range of road surfaces
Hanover/Jeversen, October 2012. The Contidrom is Continental's main testing center. Opened in 1967, it initially consisted of the high-speed oval with two test straights. To assess under test conditions increasing demands on tires, more and more tracks were added over the years. Further testing centers have also been established – including Arvidsjaur in northern Sweden, Idiada in Spain, and Wanaka in New Zealand. At other tracks around the world, including in the US and Japan, Continental test engineers perform tests to check that tires originating from the Development department in Hanover meet the requirements of end users and vehicle manufacturers. The tests include subjective and objective tests. Subjective tests are all those that do not involve measurement technology, while objective tests make use of measuring devices that either supply the data or offer considerable support for the findings. The Contidrom currently has a staff of 90, ranging from test engineers to tire installers.
The opening of the Contidrom caused a small sensation back in 1967. The tire manufacturer Continental built its very own test track in the idyllic Lüneburger Heath, the reasons being that the braking and swerving tests previously carried out in public transport, at airports, and on cordoned-off roads needed to be concentrated at one location, the road surfaces all needed to comply with the same test standard, and increasing speeds also needed to be simulated in the driving tests. The most common vehicle in the 1960s was still the VW Beetle, but the number of cars with high horsepower was on the rise. The Opel Kapitän, Ford 20 m, and Mercedes-Benz W 108/109, each with a capacity of up to 3 l, generated a need for tires that could not only allow for heavier cars, but also cope with speeds of up to 200 km/h – factors that also placed new demands on driving behavior.
Spectacular – the high-speed oval
Construction of the new facility began with the oval, which remains an impressive sight to this day. Some 2.8 km long and with a 58-degree angle steep turn, it enables maximum speeds of up to 180 km/h without side forces. To the amazement of visitors, drivers can take their hands off the steering wheel on the 900-meter-long steep turns even when driving at such high speeds. However, the test course on both straight lines is the most important element for tire testing. High-speed braking and handling tests can be performed here on asphalt, concrete, or cobblestone surfaces, as well as on surfaces covered with water. The maximum speed on the oval is just over 250 km/h, which means that even today's high-tech tires for sports cars can still be put through their paces here. If even higher speeds are required, however, this means a trip to one of the other test tracks such as Nardò, Italy, where speeds as high as 400 km/h are permitted. Nevertheless, the oval on the heath remains a high-class, tried-and-tested tire testing site to this day.
The "small handling course" – in reality, not so small
The current 1,800-meter-long "small handling course" – actually the wet handling course – was the first ever course to be tailored exclusively to the car's movement in critical situations. Completed in 1972, it contains several 90-degree angle curves, including a notorious "dog tail curve", which forces drivers to really step on the brakes. The entire course can be uniformly sprayed with water by means of a sprinkling system. Today, the course is mainly used by the subjective driving testers, who assess the car's steering response and driving stability on wet roads, although motorbike tire development tests often take place here as well.
The "large handling course" with cornering at 160 km/h
The first tests took place on the large dry-handling course in the summer of 1995. With a length of 3.8 kilometers and a width of between 7 and 10 meters, the course allows for speeds of well over 160 km/h. The new course was designed for testing vehicles with much more powerful engines and modern chassis in critical situations. A link road allows testers to travel between the oval and the large handling course. A link is also provided between the biggest curves to allow the study of other driving dynamics. Thanks to the fact that it allows such high speeds, the course is not only popular among the test engineers, but also attracts frequent visitors from the trade publications, who carry out their tire and vehicle tests here. Film crews are particularly enthusiastic about the spectacular curve maneuver, which makes for good TV sequences.
The off-road course – up hill and down dale
The Contidrom has featured an off-road course since 2003. With various gradients, an axial twist track, a steep incline track, and a water basin, it is ideal for testing SUVs, SAVs, and MPVs. Despite being relatively small (just 600 meters in length), it offers plenty of options for testing tires of an off-road nature. More extensive tests are carried out at the Continental test track in Uvalde, Texas, which offers even more possibilities and more spacious tracks for evaluating 4x4 tires.
The circles – testing tires to the limits of their traction
The two differently sized circles are primarily used for tire testing on wet roads. One of the circles, which has a diameter of 200 meters, is mainly used to simulate aquaplaning during cornering. The other is fitted with different road surfaces that can be sprayed with water. Both scenarios are critical for any driver in real-life situations, which is why they must constitute a particular focus of tire development.
The "rim roll-off circle" – where tires fly off the rims
What happens when a fully loaded vehicle with reduced tire pressure needs to swerve to avoid an obstacle? Simple: This considerably increases the strain on the outside curve of the tire. To get an idea of the potential strain, a passenger car or truck drives around the circuit at exactly 55 km/h. On every lap, the tire pressure is reduced by 1/10 bar until the tire flies off its rims. The results provide information about the tire's margin of safety when it experiences a gradual loss of air pressure.
The rail guided system – precisely on track
Braking and aquaplaning tests are carried out on the Contidrom's rail-guided system, which became operational back in 1985. The test vehicles are placed on the rail-guided system to reduce the influence of the different friction coefficients of the road surface during test drives. A braking track with concrete and asphalt surfaces and an aquaplaning pool are used in the different tests. The results of the braking tests are recorded and output on an in-car measuring device. The measurements are recorded for each of the different road surfaces. On the basis of predetermined factors such as vehicle speed and water depth, the aquaplaning test determines the point at which the car encounters more water than it can dissipate from the tire contact area, causing it to rise up on a thin film of water and lose contact with the road.
The acoustics tracks – driving on quiet tires
To make mobility as environmentally friendly as possible, tires need to offer both low rolling resistance and low noise characteristics. This characteristic is evaluated on two test courses, which are structured somewhat differently to the usual test tracks and are designed to record the tire and road noise. On standardized circuits, both exterior and interior measurements are taken. Vehicle engines, transmissions, and powertrains are also encapsulated so that only the rolling noise is measured. The tracks can be used to test the noise level of tires for passenger cars as well as trucks and buses.
Almost two million tires tested since 1967
Since it was first set up, the Contidrom has become an indispensable part of Continental's R&D department. Almost two million passenger car, truck, and motorbike tires have been tested here since 1967, but the requirements and testing volumes have become more extensive over the years. This is reason enough to have a fallback solution for the cold periods of the year. At the test track in Uvalde, Texas, which has been owned by the Continental Corporation brand General Tire since 1989, exact replicas of the small handling course, the large and small circles, and the rail-guided system have been built to make the test results transferrable and create comparable working conditions for the test engineers. Of course, not all tire tests are carried out exclusively at the Contidrom – for climatic reasons alone, genuine winter tire tests under typical conditions are not possible at the site. So for tests taking place between spring and late fall, the test engineers in Wietze-Jeversen travel around the world to scrutinize new tires as well as, increasingly, new chassis components produced by the Continental Automotive Systems division.
The new AIBA (Automated Indoor Braking Analyzer) is a new addition to the range of test facilities available. This will ensure that tires will continue to roll on the high-tech facilities at the Contidrom in idyllic Jeversen for years to come.
A popular venue for events
With its multitude of facilities, the Contidrom has always been a popular venue for events. The motorcycle rallies from the mid-1980s may now be a thing of the past, but safety forums and open house events are becoming more frequent features in the calendar. For example, the site hosted the unveiling of the sensational 30-meter car back in December 2000, which was showcased in a 600-meter long tent . The test car did an emergency stop from 100 km/h to a complete standstill in just under 30 meters, its expensive tires and customized chassis electronics shortening the braking distance by around 25%. The Contidrom, with its numerous facilities, is so much more than just a test track – it is a technological centerpiece of the Continental Corporation.
With sales of €30.5 billion in 2011, Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires, and technical elastomers, Continental contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also an expert partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently has approximately 169,000 employees in 46 countries.
As one of the world's leading tire manufacturers with more than 41,000 employees, the division achieved cumulative sales of more than €8.8 billion in 2011. Today, the Tire division has 22 production and development locations worldwide. The broad product range and continuous investments in R&D make a major contribution to cost-effective and ecologically efficient mobility.
Passenger and Light Truck Tires
Continental is one of the leading manufacturers of passenger and light truck tires in Europe and the world's fourth largest passenger tire manufacturer in the original equipment and replacement market. The product development focus of the Continental premium brand is to optimize all safety-relevant characteristics, while simultaneously minimizing rolling resistance.
Commercial Vehicle Tires
The Commercial Vehicle Tire business unit generated sales of more than €1.8 billion in 2011, making it one of the largest manufacturers of truck, bus, and industrial tires worldwide.
Continental's Tire division is an official sponsor of the German DFB Cup, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and UEFA EURO 2016TM in France.
Head of PR, Passenger/Light Truck Tires
Büttnerstrasse 25, 30165 Hanover, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0) 511 938 2615
Fax: +49 (0) 511 938 2455
Press Spokesman Passenger and Light Truck/Two-Wheel Tires
Büttnerstrasse 25, 30165 Hanover, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0) 511 938 2285
Fax: +49 (0) 511 938 2455