What's in a name? In the case of Continental Tire, quite a lot. The company's ContiSport Contact 2, initially launched in 2001, is considered among the best performance tires in the world. As a result, Continental continues to be a respected and trusted player within the high-performance segment. Designed to balance dry-and-wet weather performance with good ride and quiet running characteristics, it's no coincidence the tires are found as standard equipment on many of the world's finest marques, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and others. Two of our test mules, including a VW Phaeton and a Porsche Carrera, also proudly wear the CSC2.

This same type of quality branding and universal appeal can be said about custom wheel maker Giovanna, whose distinctive line of alloy wheels is recognized around the world. Sharing a common goal, the two companies recently united for an exclusive offering. Enter the Continental ContiSportContact 2 Giovanna edition, the first special-edition tire in Continental history. ec was invited to participate in a special launch of the tire, which called for a lengthy European itinerary and various modes of transport. Think Plains, Trains and Automobiles and you get the picture. In lieu of John Candy, my travel partners were Paul Tecci, Continental brand manager for North America (and mastermind behind the special-edition tire), and Fernando Guzman, marketing director for Wholesale Tire and Wheel (WTW), parent to Giovanna.

Our various stops included Continental's corporate headquarters in Hanover, Germany, its nearby R&D/manufacturing facility in Stoecken and finally the ContiDrom, Continental's awe-inspiring proving grounds in Jeversen, Germany. And since the launch coincided with the Frankfurt Auto Show, we made the rounds there as well.

After a comprehensive product analysis and technical overview, as well as a briefing of Continental's history and its vast product lines and market segments, we were swept away for a personal factory tour to witness the production of the CSC2 Giovanna edition tire first- hand. Watching sheets of raw rubber transform into the makings of a tire was as enlightening as it was entertaining. The lengthy process blends a mix of elements, each enhancing performance in a particular area. Sulfur links give the compound stiffness for good handling and the ability to withstand high temperatures and loads. Stress-reactive links give flexibility for wet and dry grip. A series of various layered material is then interwoven, chopped, spun and bound, continuing along myriad conveyers and related machinery. The finished product, Giovanna logo and all, appeared at the end of the cycle in a bloom of smoke. The whole procedure is quite amazing.

As impressive as the factory was, nothing could prepare us for our road test evaluation at the world famous ContiDrom. For those who aren't familiar with the facility, it is Continental AG's most modern test course and serves as a model for other proving grounds worldwide. It offers a number of varied tracks and test surfaces, including a 1.74-mile high-speed oval with a 58-degree bank. This massive cement wall allows maximum track speeds of 170 to 185 mph and we would do our best to push its limits. A number of cars were on hand for testing, including a Porsche 997 C4S, a few Audis, including a prototype Audi (C6) RS6 (which we were not allowed to photograph) and various 3, 5 and 7 Series BMWs.

Conditions the next morning were dry and cold enough to allow us to enjoy the warm confines of a heated cabin. It was also clear until dark clouds eventually moved in, leading to afternoon showers. Nevertheless, testing continued, providing me an even better appreciation for the rubber spinning beneath.

An aggressive looking tire, the tread pattern on the CSC2 Giovanna edition is asymmetrical, not directional. It resembles a Formula One tire with its five wide, longitudinal grooves. Continental's modeling revealed that a continuous rib provides smoother, more even contact pressure under braking and acceleration forces than individual tread blocks. The grooves provide excellent water evacuation characteristics for hydroplaning resistance. The shoulder tread blocks on both sides of the tire are tied together, giving greater rigidity for quicker, more predictable handling and reduced noise. The tire also makes use of Continental's "Bionic" strategy both in its compound and molding technology. The term Bionic refers to a special elasticity feature engineered into the tire that allows the tread to widen as much as 10% during heavy braking, enabling the vehicle to come to a complete stop quickly and more safely. It also helps maintain a maximum contact patch under extreme cornering.

On a dry surface, the CSC2 Giovanna edition behaved exceptionally, providing grip at least commensurate with the capabilities of the chassis they were mounted on. The ride was predictable and inspired confidence when set in a turn, even at higher slip angles. The result was ultimately fantastically precise steering response.

Driving an autocross set up on a flooded skidpad, the tires were truly amazing. Even in the deep water covering the skidpad, one could turn off traction control and drive at a level that would be about seven-tenths in the dry. When the tires did begin to slide, breakaway was smooth and easy to recover from. I was also impressed with the tire's wet braking ability, allowing me to brake later and harder than I had ever experienced in wet conditions.

Easily the most memorable aspect of our testing, though, was at high speed. You just don't walk away from riding the wall at ContiDrom without feeling a rewarding sense of accomplishment. The magnitude of g-forces pressed against your body while your vehicle seemingly defies the laws of physics is simply mind-blowing. What we found was impressive traction and phenomenal top-end cornering stability. Grip at speed was simply sensational. Lap after lap, the tires continued to impress in every respect. Reduced noise and measurable comfort, naturally, are also part of the equation, and the CSC2 Giovanna edition ranked high in these areas too. Naturally, they won't be the quietest or cushiest tires on the street, but considering their proven performance capabilities, one can't really complain. Where some tires offer performance at the sacrifice of comfort, these are designed to excel in both areas.

After a day of tours and testing, we boarded a high-speed train to Frankfurt, at which time I learned that the Continental-Giovanna partnership started more than a year ago. Tecci had the plan to partner with a North American based company in order to conduct some strategic marketing initiatives, but had yet to identify the right partner. After sharing promotional success cross marketing each company's product line at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) in 2004, Tecci approached Diko Sulahian (president of WTW) with the idea of a special edition tire. Plans were set into motion to develop a special edition tire worthy of the brand names Continental and Giovanna. Less than twelve months after the idea was presented, the Continental ContiSportContact 2 Giovanna edition will be formally introduced at SEMA 2005.

"We are very pleased to work with a company like Giovanna," said Tecci. "What we will do at SEMA with the introduction of this very special edition tire is an industry first, as well as a sign of the innovation and leadership you can expect from both companies."

"We understand the niche marketplace and recognized a need for a high performance tire with larger, special fitments," said Sulahian. "This unique venture with Continental allowed us to meet that demand, while maintaining market exclusivity, quality and performance."

The tire will be initially offered in a 22-inch diameter with the purchase of any like-sized Giovanna wheel, as well as separately via Continental and Giovanna dealers. Initial sizing will include 265/30-22 and 295/25-22 and the tire will carry a Z speed rating, meaning they are rated by the European Tire and Rim Technical Organization (ETRTO) for speeds over 300 km/h or 186.4mph.

About Continental

Continental was founded in Hannover, Germany in 1871. Manufacturing then included soft rubber products, rubberized fabrics, solid tires for carriages and bicycles. Today, Continental Corporation is a worldwide operation. With the integration of Continental Teves, the company has advanced to the first tier of automotive components suppliers. In addition to tires, Continental is a leading supplier of brake systems, chassis components, vehicle electronics and technical elastomers. More than 81,000 employees work within the Continental empire, comprised of Continental Passenger and Light Truck tire, Continental Commercial tire, Continental Automotive Systems and ContiTech, with divisions in 36 countries. Continental Tire North America (CTNA, formerly Continental General Tire) is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., and a subsidiary of Continental AG.

CTNA currently has 7,000 employees throughout its six North American manufacturing facilities. These plants produce one third of the Continental Corporations total passenger and commercial tires, which is comprised primarily of original and replacement equipment throughout its various market segments. Original equipment customers include BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and other premium marques. Since the inception of its widely popular ContiSportContact in 1995, Continental has become a leading brand for those seeking quality, ultra-high-performance tires.

Continental Tire in North America sees this market split into three categories: summer, all-season and winter tires, which account for 35%, 61% and 4%, respectively, of the North American UHP market. Continental's strategy is to cover each segment of the market with a directed product. The company claims that, years ago, it developed the first dedicated winter tire and now covers that area of the ultra-high-performance segment with the ContiWinterContact TS810S. The ultra-high performance category includes the ContiExtremeContact, ContiSportContact 2 and now the ContiSportContact 2 Giovanna edition.

To help you understand Continental's vast market appeal and presence, the company is the number one tire maker in Germany, number two in Europe and number four in the world. Perhaps even more impressive, Continental has equipped more than 90 million passenger cars. That's enough tires to circle the globe more than five times over.

About Giovanna

Giovanna Wheels, established only eight short years ago, has grown into a respected heavyweight within the automotive aftermarket. As part of the Wholesale Tire and Wheel (WTW) Corporation, the company, with headquarters in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is noted for its broad line of image-driven custom wheels and a range of specialized fitments.

Founded in 1997 by Diko Sulahian, the company offers a number of unique cast alloy wheel lines, including Giovanna, Gianelle Designs, G-Racing, DBL G and GFG. Giovanna, the company's original flagship wheel is credited for many industry firsts, including the first one-piece wheel offered in 20-, 22-, 23-, 24- and 26-inch diameters. Created as a complimentary line to Giovanna, Gianelle supports the same image and fitments with alternate stylish designs. The G-Racing and DBL-G lines are specifically designed for niche markets, featuring original designs and multiple fitments for their respective target categories.

In 2002, the company expanded into the premium wheel market with its high-end sister line, GFG Forged Modular Wheels. Designed for higher profile vehicles, this hand assembled three-piece wheel is offered in a variety of styles and sizes. Its forged modular construction also enables myriad custom fitments, including pin-drive applications, as in the case of the 20-inch wheels mounted on the company's Ferrari Enzo.

All WTW wheel lines are designed in-house at the company's 85,000 square foot facility, where it operates a work force of 50 employees. For optimal wheel production, the company employs manufacturing faculties around the world from the United States to Italy. Unlike gravity casting, all of the company's one-piece alloy wheels are manufactured using a low pressure casting process, ensuring a better quality casting and superior finish.

Combined, each of the lines amount to more than 45 unique styles, including wheels with staggered lips and various special finishes. It is good to note that each of the wheels also are specifically engineered for O.E. fitment and designed to clear larger aftermarket calipers without the use of spacers. The addition of the Continental ContiSportContact Giovanna edition tire line ideally compliments the company's already impressive product portfolio and further defines its place as a leader in the burgeoning wheel and tire marketplace.

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