The games have begun. The twenty-second Winter Olympic Games officially kicked off with the opening ceremony on Friday night, and now athletes from around the world are competing in various events, most of which revolve around sliding. But sliding can be scientific, and who better to make it so than BMW?
Team USA has not won a gold medal in the two-man bobsled event since 1936. They picked up a gold in the four-man event in Vancouver, but the two-man team is seemingly cursed. The people who organize the team think that the curse is technological. Other countries have been racing on high-tech sleds for years, while the US has lagged behind. Sleds used by American athletes in other events, such as the luge and skeleton were more than ten years old. However, the sled used in the 2010 four-man gold medal run was new and designed by the Exa Corporation, an aerodynamics engineering powerhouse.
The goal for the new two-man sled was speed, and BMW Group Designworks USA pulled out all the stops when engineering it. We’re talking computer-assisted 3D modeling, fluid dynamics, wind-tunnel testing (with the athletes in the prototype), and test runs. Lots and lots of test runs. The head of the design project, Mike Scully, actually went for a run with Steven Holcumb, the sled’s pilot. It was necessary for him to appreciate the amount of force and vibration that the occupants endure when they’re hurtling downhill.
Production of the new sled finished in October of last year. BMW succeeded in creating a lighter sled with a more strategic weight distribution. The sled incorporates intelligent lightweight materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar, and was actually so light on one design that it violated Olympic regulations. That weight was added back in a way that reduced drag and improves the athlete’s chances.
Also, if you think it’s odd that a German-based group like BMW is helping with the US bobsled, well, the Germans’ sled is designed by Ferrari.
You can watch the video above to hear more about how the two-man team prepared for Sochi in, or read about it in the article on CBS News. Coverage of the bobsled events is slated for this coming weekend, and Holcumb’s team is favored to win gold, so be sure to tune in to the NBC networks. All of us at Leith BMW will be pulling hard for Team USA.