Extreme acceleration, masses of torque, high speeds even through tight corners, drifts and jumps – as exclusive tyre supplier to the spectacular new Extreme E race series, Continental is probably facing the toughest challenge that motorsport has ever conjured up for a set of tyres. Providing the headline act in Extreme E is the ODYSSEY 21 electric SUV. From April 3, 2021, this eye-catching machine will be taking professional motor racing to the remotest corners of the globe. At 440 cm long, 230 cm wide and standing 186 cm tall, it is not all that different from a conventional SUV. A 300 cm wheelbase sounds perfectly normal too. But that’s where the similarity ends. Because with a peak output of 550 hp, this Spark Racing Technology-built vehicle is a genuine powerhouse – particularly as it tips the scales at just 1,650 kilos. By way of comparison, the average Dakar Rally car will deliver around 300 hp and weigh upwards of 2,000 kilos. So the impressive acceleration figures come as no surprise: Powered by its two electric motors, the Extreme E racer sprints from 0-100 km/h in just 4.5 seconds. Added to which, this e-SUV can take 55-degree inclines smoothly in its stride. To put down that much power reliably onto all manner of surfaces in different climate zones, all the teams in the new off-road series are placing their trust in the CrossContact Extreme E tyre, specially developed for these races by Extreme E Founding Partner Continental.
This competition tyre delivers maximum stability and resilience under the very toughest conditions – like those in the Amazon rainforest or on the glaciers of Patagonia – and goes beyond any passenger tyre that Continental has manufactured in the past. It all begins with an impressive physical presence: On the sidewall it says 37 X 12.5 R 17, which means the tyre is 37 inches in diameter, 12.5 inches wide, and for a 17-inch wheel. “The tread pattern has been optimized to enable the tyre to provide top performance on all kinds of terrain,” explains Anuj Jain, tyre development engineer with Continental. “With this tyre we arrived at a very good compromise – a product that takes account of the various surfaces and local and climate-related requirements, the necessary reliability under race conditions, and the key topic of sustainability. It’s an exceptionally capable, one-size-fits-all solution.”
Among other things, that meant developing a special tread compound, while the pattern features the ideal combination of traction ribs and pockets to provide maximum grip over any terrain. “Additionally, this tyre has an all-new off-shoulder design that forms a robust link between tread and sidewall,” says Anuj Jain. “And to complete the picture we also reinforced the casing.” The eye-catching coloured sidewall design is produced in a further developed post-cure process.
Given that there are no suitable challenges for the exceptional performance delivered by the CrossContact Extreme E tyre in everyday motoring, Continental is ruling out any possibility of these extreme sports products becoming available from dealers. But anyone hoping for future technology transfer from track to road will be pleased to know that the high-end series-built counterpart to this racing tyre is already available. As Anuj Jain explains: “For the development of the Extreme E tyre, we first analysed the maximum performance and resilience of a number of proven high-performance products before deciding to use the Continental CrossContact series as a point of reference as we took the process forward. The challenge from a technical angle was then to adapt the tread pattern, sidewall and construction to the challenging demands of the very different Extreme E locations.”
And indeed, the sporty CrossContact family in its various guises for on and off-road use in summer and winter brings together all Continental’s exceptional expertise in the SUV segment. With its different on/off-road ratios, what the various models all have in common is a technical focus on superb dry and wet braking, as well as on delivering outstanding handling, even under maximum load and at extremely high speeds. CrossContact tyres are available for up to 23-inch rims, in widths of up to 315 millimetres, and approved for speeds of up to 300 km/h.
Continental is a Premium Partner of the Extreme E series. The technology company is equipping all the vehicles involved in the races with tyres for the diverse and very demanding conditions that they will encounter.
The 2021 season at a glance:
AlUla, Saudi Arabia - April 3/4
Dakar, Senegal - May 29/30
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland - August 28/29
Santarem, Brazil - October 23/24
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego - December 11/12