I think I know which winter Olympics event I’m most excited for, now that I know how much carbon fiber was used to create the new Team USA bobsleds! Popular car manufacturer BMW has created six new autoclave, carbon fiber sleds. With Ferrari building the Italians sleds, McLaren working with the British and the Japanese Formula 1 team helping them, it’s going to be a fierce competition.
BMW started as a Team USA sponsor, but the partnership quickly turned into more. According to Michael Sully, the creative director at BMW Group’s DesignWorksUS, he “first planned to look for ways to redesign the exterior of a two-man sled. But the project morphed into a complete vehicle-system overhaul, with a new chassis and cowling unit.” He even used some athletes, bringing them into the design studio to study the aerodynamics of them while in the sleds. The new sleds will replace the Bo-Dyn bobsleds designed in part by NASCAR veterans at Bodine racing.
Once the team collected enough data, they created a smaller, more narrow sled. Additionally they integrated high performance materials into the design and BMW utilized their high end carbon fiber laminating process to allow for a lighter, yet stronger exterior.
The final step, the last piece to the puzzle, was to start involving the bobsled teams. “You always hold your breath a little bit to see if it was truly usable,” Scully says of changes. “Our nose is significantly smaller and narrower, and it was a relief each time an athlete would get in and have no problem. I saw a pilot who had to be six foot four, at least, and said, ‘My God, he is never going to fit in this thing.’ I was terrified. He got in it and said he had never been more comfortable. I was truly relieved at that point.”
The United States has not won a gold medal for the two-person bobsled competition since 1936. Lets hope all the hard work and carbon fiber from BMW comes in handy this year in Sochi!