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(Clacton, U.K./Tyres & Accessories) Continental AG’s decision to launch the third variation of its popular SportContact reflects the increasing importance of high performance products in its portfolio.

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And when you consider that Continental experts predict that 16 per cent of the replacement market will be made up of W-, Y- and Z-rated products by 2009, you can see why.

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Continental has developed the new ContiSportContact 3 with the car manufacturers and drivers of sporty vehicles in mind. Consequently, shorter braking distances, enhanced handling characteristics and improved driving safety on wet roads are said to be the new tyre’s main benefits. The Continental range also includes a different tread pattern option both for high-powered rear wheel drive cars and for customising requirements. The ContiSportContact 3 is available now.

In addition to high-speed stability, motorists also expect safety on both wet and dry roads. The motor industry places similar demands on the tyres it tests before awarding coveted OE contracts. Continental says it has succeeded in improving the driving characteristics of the ContiSportContact 3 by up to 6% compared with its predecessor. As far as cost is concerned, the ContiSportContact 3 will be positioned at the same price level as its predecessor.

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In 2005 Continental sold 4.1 million sports tyres into the European OE market. And this is one area in particular where Continental sees further opportunities for growth as a supplier to car manufacturers. Popular vehicles made by Audi (A6), BMW (5 Series) and Mercedes (E-Class) are already on Continental’s SportContact list. An optional tyre fitment specifically developed for rear axle use on high-powered rear wheel drive sports cars takes account of the special requirements of Porsche, AMG-Mercedes, BMW M-Series and similar super sports cars.

Continental sees positive opportunities to expand its leading position in Europe, not only through the traditional replacement business, but also by co-operating with car customisers. The company has therefore included 10 30- and 25-series tyre options in sizes between 19 and 21 inches in its initial range, specifically to meet the requirements of customers in the car customising sector.

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Continental is optimistic about the sales potential of the new ContiSportContact 3, despite the low growth rates in the automotive sector. One reason for this outlook is the high acceptance level of Continental sports tyres in the field of OE. Also, the performance of newly-registered cars is constantly improving and high-powered vehicles – fitted with the right tyres – are still extremely popular, both with vehicle manufacturers and with motorists.

According to the manufacturer, the new ContiSportContact 3 promises “even shorter braking distances, extra grip for better handling, plus an asymmetrical tread pattern designed to further enhance the driving characteristics of sports cars.” Before production had even started, this tyre is reported to have obtained approval from Audi and will now be fitted to the TT, A6 and its RS4 sports cars. Continental has alternative tread patterns available for high-powered rear wheel drive sports cars and extremely powerful customised vehicles.

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The new asymmetrical ribbed tread pattern ContiSportContact 3 is designed to be more advantageous than a lugged type. According to the company, the forces occurring during braking are more evenly distributed and can therefore be transmitted more efficiently. Furthermore, the fine sipes in the tread ribs have been designed in such a way that the tread elements support each other and distribute the braking forces across the entire tread rib, not just across the edge of the tread rib as was previously the case. As a result, braking distances have been reduced versus the previous model.

The tyre developers also say that the redesigned tread pattern allows the product to achieve a high level of grip during handling. During cornering the outer side of the tyre in particular is subjected to maximum forces, so the ribbed tread pattern is designed to offer the largest possible contact area. This provides safety when making sharp manoeuvres, gives grip for fast cornering, and ensures additional steering stability at high speeds. The tread ribs are designed to deform only minimally, so that the ground contact patch remains constant, even when taking bends at speed.

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In addition to featuring a modified tread pattern the new tyre also uses a new silica compound for better wet performance. For high-powered rear wheel drive sports cars Continental engineers have designed a special tread pattern, which features a double rib in the tread centre, with a Y-shaped groove separating the two ribs. This design further enhances driving stability during high-speed cornering and on the straight. A further tread pattern is available for extremely powerful customised vehicles. To provide these high-performance vehicles with maximum grip, this tread pattern features larger tread lugs and even more tread rubber.

Since production of the ContiSportContact range began in 1995, the tyres have received over 200 OE approvals from the automotive industry, and sales of over 31.7 million units. Some 12.9 million of these sports tyres have been sold by tyre retailers.

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The original asymmetrical ContiSportContact was based on a modernised version of the company’s CZ 91 summer tyre from the first ContiSportContact product line. According to the manufacturer the number of OE contracts the ContiSportContact received make it “one of the most successful tyres the Original Equipment sector has ever known.” Virtually all well-known European vehicle manufacturers and several Japanese makes fit tyres from the ContiSportContact range to their cars. The ‘old’ ContiSportContact 2 will continue to be available in a wide range of sizes, not least because of the many existing orders placed by vehicle manufacturers, which still need to be met.

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A growing number of fast, high-powered cars, including sports cars, are fitted with summer tyres approved for speeds over 240 km/h (150 mph). In fact, tyres in this category accounted for 12% of the demand for summer tyres across Europe in 2005 – and the trend continuing to go upwards. The experts at Continental anticipate that by 2009 the proportion of these tyres will increase to 16% across Europe.

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