Last November, BMW DesignworksUSA announced that it was in the process of designing a new state-of-the-art two-man bobsled for the US Bobsled Team. At the time, only a vague teaser sketch of the sled was available. Now that one of the prototypes has been raced, however, we get to see some actual photos – and the thing looks pretty sharp. Its performance is also promising.
BMW Group’s Stacy Morris told us that two prototype sleds have been built so far. “The first prototype won't race, it was our first step in studying the aerodynamics of a bobsled,” she said. “The second prototype just started racing ... Once we have more experience and data from racing this second prototype, we plan to make tweaks and build a production sled before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.”
That second sled was raced for the first time last Saturday (Jan. 19), by the US Men’s Bobsled Team at the FIBT World Cup in Igls, Austria. It was originally slated to make its debut at a later date, but apparently the team was eager to see how it would perform.
They ended up placing 14th out of 30 teams – a decent placing, given that they had no practice runs in that sled on that track, and it was their first time competing in the new rig.
The carbon fiber-bodied sled was designed using BWW’s Efficient Dynamics principles, which are usually used for developing lighter, faster, more fuel-efficient cars. One of the results is a unique “weight distribution to achieve an optimized balance of the regulations’ mandated sled weight,” in which the shell is unusually light and the center of gravity is very low and centralized.
As the team discovered last weekend, the sled is also narrower than what they’re used to. This resulted in team member Steven Holcomb getting his feet tangled in the driving ropes upon entry, which caused the sled to veer to one side and hit the wall – adding half a second to their run time.
It’s all part of the learning process, though, which Holcomb hopes will pay off at their next race in St. Moritz, Switzerland. “I wanted to race it, because we only get six training runs in St. Moritz,” he said. “I wanted the extra runs in the sled, because it’ll take a little time to figure it out. I don’t know any sled project that comes out of the box and wins, so we knew we might have to lose before we can win.”