Simanaitis Says

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THE ULTIMATE SLEDDING MACHINE

THIS TITLE sounds like a sister slogan of a Bavarian automaker, but it’s completely appropriate: BMW plays an important role in the U.S. Olympic Team’s two-man and two-woman bobsled competition about to take place in Sochi.

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Michael Scully of BMW DesignworksUSA shows an early foam mockup of the BMW bobsled design. Image by Brian van der Brug/The Los Angeles Times. See “Bobsled designer races to craft a U.S. winner,” in The Los Angeles Time, February 7, 2014; http://goo.gl/vOco3h.

Michael Scully is a creative director at BMW Group DesignworksUSA, in the Los Angeles suburb of Newbury Park, California. He’s also the designer of the latest thing in two-up bobsleds.

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A BMW two-woman bob gets its start. Two-person bobs have both men’s and women’s classes. Four-person bobs are men-only. Image by Dita Alangkara/AP, The Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2014.

A bobsled consists of a hull, frame, steering gear, front and rear axles and four steel runners. The BMW’s sleek hull is of carbon fiber; its shape, the culmination of extensive CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) analyses. Think digital wind tunnel.

The Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing sets out 69 pages of regulations (see  http://goo.gl/5UZlXL). By contrast, the 2014 Formula One Technical Regulations, including Engines, Energy Recovery Systems and all, occupy 88 pages.

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Dimensions of a two-person bobsleigh. Image from the Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing regulations, page 39.

These constraints didn’t faze Scully, who came up with a shape that’s decidedly less bullet-nosed with an even lower center of gravity than most existing designs. By the way, BMW isn’t the only automaker involved in the sport: The Italian bobsled team runs a Ferrari design; the Brits, one with McLaren involvement.

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A ride in this particular BMW is anything but Placid.

The two-person bobsled has a minimum weight of 170 kg (375 lb.), excluding ballast. A two-man bob has an all-up maximum weight of 390 kg (860 lb.); a two-woman bob runs at 340 kg (750 lb.). Ballast can be added to achieve these maximums. Hollow steel tubes filled with buckshot must be firmly bolted or clamped into place (i.e., no movable devices).

The driver steers the bob through a pair of D-rings connected by cable to the front axle. The maximum swivel angle is 12 degrees in either direction. Controlling a bob has been likened to reining a racehorse, not steering a car.

BMW provided the U.S. Olympic Team with six of these two-person designs. (Four-man bobs are built by Geoff Bodine of NASCAR fame.) The BMW bob has already proved its mettle in world competition. See the neat video at http://goo.gl/mbM9q4.

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To buy a trinket—and aid the cause—see http://goo.gl/bsaf0M.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Cory Butner are ranked among the top five drivers in the two-man event; Elena Myers and Jamie Greutel are ranked among the world’s top five drivers in two-woman bobs. All will be running Michael Scully’s BMW design at Sochi. The two-man competition runs February 15-17; the two-woman, February 18-19; the four-man bobs are among the concluding events at Sochi, February 22-23.

I know I’ll be watching. (I’ve previously stated my own passion on the matter; see http://wp.me/p2ETap-1ie.) ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014

One comment on “THE ULTIMATE SLEDDING MACHINE

  1. William Rabel
    February 10, 2014

    I’m rooting for the boobsled. 😉

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