The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are here. Athlete versus athlete. Country versus country. BMW and NASCAR versus Ferrari versus McLaren? This is where the rubber meets the road. Scratch that. This is where the blades meet the ice. OK, that was too easy.
Imagine flying into a turn at 90 mph at a force of 5G in a 375-pound sled. That’s a G-force equitable to those seen in Formula One race cars under maximum braking and in hard turns. Race car forces? Enter the race car engineers.
The United States tabbed BMW for the two-man bobsled and Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project (headed by Geoff Bodine of NASCAR fame) for the four-man bobsled. Great Britain brings McLaren. Italy brings Ferrari. The mission? Find speed and stability for a human-powered bullet train. The plan? Get light, limit flex, go low and refine the aero.
Its been 78 years since the U.S. won gold in the two-man bobsled. For Sochi, BMW came to the rescue with design and materials. 69 virtual designs were rounded down to the production sled. Using the same superstrong carbon fiber as in the latest BMW automobiles, the base sled is much lighter than the 375-pound limit. To play within the rules, just like in road racing, the engineers go ‘center and low’ with weight additions.
The four-man U.S. team was in a 62-year gold drought until Geoff Bodine and Bo-Dyn Racing took over the reigns. Gold returned in 2010 and they’re seeking a repeat this winter. Both the two and four-man U.S. teams are gold contenders.
Across the Atlantic, McLaren and Ferrari’s technical wizards have formed the two and four-man sleds for, respectively, Great Britain and Italy. Game on! With F1 and NASCAR in the off-season, this is our version of Mansell versus Senna versus Schumacher versus…Bodine? Sure! Bobsledding action runs from February 16 to February 23. With full respect to the competition, go USA!