Conti celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Contidrom this year. The test track just outside Hannover, Germany, which employees more than 100 employees, has become more and more important over the years, driving progress in tire development in conjunction with the company’s other R&D activities.
In all, Continental has tested some 1.3 million tires there since the facility first opened. The OEM’s future expansion plans include the implementation of an additional wet handling course, which is to be an identical replica of the existing one, in order to free up testing space on the current track.
From the outset, test engineers at the Contidrom have defined standards that are applied in Continental’s tire testing activities around the world, enabling findings to be uniformly interpreted and communicated within the company. Over the years they have repeatedly come up with new and pioneering test procedures.
Back in the mid-1970s for example, a driverless Type 8 Mercedes put in endless laps of the oval while completing a range of tests. Like today, however, these automated tests were no replacement for subjective evaluation and many tests still call for the presence of a test driver at the wheel.
Initially the facility comprised a high-speed 2.8km oval, which remains a central feature to this day. The other tracks, such as the 1.8km wet handling course and the 3.8km dry handling track were added during later expansion. In 2012 the tire maker opened the AIBA where up to 100,000 braking tests are conducted a year.
The original oval and the two handling tracks have since been joined by a number of other testing and measurement tracks. The year 1985 saw the advent of braking and aquaplaning tests on rail-guided tracks, while two circular tracks of different sizes are used primarily for evaluation in the wet. One circle is mainly used to simulate aquaplaning when cornering, while the other features different road surfaces that can be irrigated by sprinkler systems.
Another test conducted on a circular track assesses the safety reserves of a tire with a slow puncture. In this test a car or truck circles the track at 55km/h. In the course of each lap, the pressure in the tires is reduced by 1/10 bar, until the tire literally rolls off the rim.
In 2003 an off-road section was opened at the Contidrom. With its various gradients, an axial twist track, a steep incline and a water basin, the facility is ideal for testing off-road tires on 4WD vehicles.
Tire/road noise is measured and evaluated on the two acoustics tracks located well away from the other courses. Both exterior and interior noise levels are recorded on a number of standardized surfaces.