F1 makers meet bobsleigh need for speed

AFP| Updated: Feb 23, 2014, 15:35 PM IST

Rosa Khutor: In the desperate search for the fractions of a second that separate winners from losers, Olympic bobsleigh teams are harnessing the cutting-edge technology of Formula One.

The British team have a tie-up with F1 giants McLaren and British defence company BAE Systems, Marussia helps the Russians, while the Italian team can call on Ferrari`s know-how.

British four-man pilot John Jackson said the idea came from McLaren Applied Technologies, a division of McLaren, which signed a deal with British bobsleigh chiefs in 2010 to provide access to the company`s testing facilities and scientific expertise.

"We`ve been doing a lot of work this year in the BAE wind tunnel and had the F1 McLaren racing team working alongside us, and we`ve made changes to the bob aerodynamics and the chassis as a result of it," Jackson, 36, said.

"We are hoping that just a little one-percent improvement here and there will make all the difference."

Jackson, a sergeant in the Royal Marines Commandos, said the hundredths of seconds they managed to shave off their time by using the BAE wind tunnel could be the difference between success and failure in a tight competition.

"When it comes to the Winter Olympics you need a bit of luck with the right conditions," he said. "But there`s a lot of things you can do to make your own luck.

"If you can get the right equipment and four good runners you have a chance but anything you can do to get something that can give you an edge, you need to do if you want to win a medal."

When US pilot Steven Holcomb could only manage sixth place in the two-man event at the Vancouver Games, he decided to seek help in developing a sled that would give him an extra edge.

The combined talents of the US team and the BMW North America design department have come up with a new, carbon fibre two-man sled that has been described as the fastest in the world. The US women`s bobsleigh team also has one of the new sleds.

The 33-year-old Holcomb, who won bronze in the two-man event at Sochi and also pilots USA-1 in the four-man competition, called the BMW the "best machine".

"They`re passionate and want to make sure they have the best machine on the hill," said Holcomb, who won this season`s World Cup two-man overall title. "And it`s obvious that BMW indeed has the best machine on the hill."

"BMW came through with a two-man sled that was radically different," Holcomb added.

"There has been a bit of controversy about it but we`ve stayed within the rules. What`s great about it is that it has a lot of adjustability."

The four-man team, which Holcomb piloted to victory at the 2010 Vancouver Games, has a tie-up with the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, founded by former NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine.