The US bobsled team has not earned a gold medal since 1936, and to rectify that, the team has turned to ‘ze Germans– specifically to engineers at BMW. Since 2012, BMW has been working with the US bobsled team on a sled that will shave a few seconds off their time through aerodynamics.
What BMW brings to the table is the kind of wind testing R&D that helps the automaker design cars. A four-man bobsled is limited to only weighing 859.8 pounds, and on the mile-long course, it can reach speeds of 90 mph.
According to Discovery, the computer-aided design helps, but real-world testing is a must for BMW’s creative director of global design, Michael Scully. “You need to take every opportunity to get on the bobsled track because it’s such a changeable environment.” Explained Scully, “The sled is going through so many different positions as it goes down the track, it’s almost impossible to simulate.”
In addition to a new, more aerodynamic front end, the BMW team reduced overhangs, to keep the center of gravity farther to the middle. The team also designed an entirely new steering system for the sled and used a fully carbon fiber body that shaves 50 pounds off the traditional sled. BMW has completed six two-man sleds that it has provided the US team. But the Americans do not have sole ownership over the technology, and if Team USA wins in Sochi, others can approach BMW.
Meanwhile, Ferrari is acting a little more patriotic, and has designed a bobsled for its hometown Italian bobsled team.
So what’s next? Audi Quattro skis? A luge designed by Lotus? Only time will tell.